Welcome to What I Miss Most, a recurring column in which writers wax poetic about the things from home that they found themselves yearning for upon moving to NYC (or the things from NYC they craved upon moving away from it). For an archive of previous What I Miss Most columns, click here.
On election night in 2008, I was in DC, working late at my first post-college “real” job editing press releases for run-of-the-mill government clients. With the race up in the air, I had prepped two different versions of the same release -- one that heralded in the historic event of an Obama presidency, and the other that glumly announced the dawn of an alternate universe where McCain & Palin won the White House.
I stayed at the desk until the odds had mounted so convincingly in Obama’s favor that the higher-ups decided to call it a night, even while swing states like Virginia hung in the balance. Straight from the office, I headed to Ben’s Chili Bowl.
As anyone from DC will tell you, Ben’s is a District institution, and has been pretty much since Trinidadian-born Ben Ali opened it in 1958. Like all institutions, it has its own ephemera, chief amongst which is a laminated, grease-caked piece of paper proclaiming, plainly: “Who eats free at Ben’s.”