In the District: Ben’s Next Door

28 Mar

I imagine it’s hard to continue the reputation of a food spot that doubles as a cultural landmark. But I think that Ben’s Chili Bowl’s sister restaurant, Ben’s Next Door, does a pretty good job of that.

The friend and I decided to swing by Next Door after the concert to get some late-night dinner in our bellies. I ordered the Shrimp and White Grits while she ordered the Brined Fried Chicken.

Shrimp & grits

The dish doesn’t look like a big portion, but it came with more shrimp than what most other restaurants give. The grits had a slightly grainy texture, which I didn’t mind, but my friend pointed out that to many, creamier is better. Their cheesy flavor was subtle enough for the shrimp, which was sauteed in a light broth with white wine, garlic, shallots, saffron and tomato. The mixture was a nice spin on traditional shrimp and grits.

I managed to get a taste of the Brined Fried Chicken, which got a thumbs-up from my companion. It was well seasoned without being too salty, which is what I usually equate to anything “brined” (add “fried” to that and I just get apprehensive about my cholesterol). But the chicken was just right.

Chicken, sweet potato mash and kale

The sweet potato mash helped balance the salty/savory with some sweet. And the kale was excellent – it’s preparation seemed more like collard greens than just braised kale.

I enjoyed the food at Next Door so much that I reneged on my decision to avoid dessert that night and splurged on a slice of their Chocolate Coconut Pecan Pie (I’m afraid I finished it off before I snapped a photo of it). It immediately launched me into a sugar coma upon finishing it – it’s that sweet. But that and everything else at Ben’s Next Door was worth it; they definitely managed to take the local feel of Ben’s Chili Bowl and translate into warm, friendly spot that gives you a good helping of Southern-style taste.

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