Chili Bowls & Chocolate-Filled Cupcakes


The first time Ben and I visited his parents in DC last Spring, they had our entire fantastic vacation planned out for us, eager to show off their favorite spots in their new city. This time, however, they had nothing on the agenda for our week-long stint out here.

Say what?

Instead of creating an itinerary themselves, my in-laws thought it’d be fun to get the whole family involved in deciding what to do this week.


The day we got here, they set out 6 tiny boxes (one for each of us) that each contained 5 different activities to do in-and-around DC. Activities ranged anywhere from an hour at the shooting range (…) to dining at specific restaurants, visiting the capital to see the Christmas lights, wild cards, and much more.

We all picked a box, then chose 3 out of the 5 activities inside that we for sure wanted to do. Yesterday was our first day of hand-picked activities and it started with a stop at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Ben’s Dad had been before, but still chose it from his box, as he wanted to make sure the entire family experienced it firsthand.

(All pictures are from the USHMM website.)

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is free to the public and has over 900 artifacts, 70 videos and four theaters over three floors, covering three parts of the Holocaust:

  1. Nazi Assault, covering Hitler’s rise to power
  2. Final Solution, covering the mass murders of the Holocaust
  3. Last Chapter, covering the aftermath of the Holocaust


As you can imagine, each floor was even more heartbreaking than the next and, although I felt somber and sickened by the end, I’m so, so, so glad we went. I learned so many things about the Holocaust that I never knew, and feel an even greater urge to be more kind and tolerant in my everyday life.

So, GO if you ever get the chance. It’s a must-see for everyone in this world!

It was pouring rain when we left the museum – kind of fitting for the mood – but we all cheered up when we realized what was next on our agenda…

Gut bombs at Ben’s Chili Bowl!


Hand-picked by yours truly… ;)


Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC landmark. Established in 1958, it was one of the only business that remained open and helped restore the area after it was largely destroyed in the 1968 DC riots when Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated.

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Besides being a cornerstone of the community, Ben’s Chili Bowl has played host to a ton of famous people, including Bill Cosby, Nat King Cole, and even President Obama, whose photos eating Ben’s delicious menu cover every open inch of wall space.


From the moment we walked in, we knew were in for a treat. The line snaked all the way to the back of the restaurant, and we listened to everything from hip hop to 80’s pop music bump from the speakers throughout the restaurant as we waited in line to order.


None of us had a clue what to get, but there were signs everywhere advertising Ben’s famous Chili Half-Smoke. Seeing as how we were at Ben’s Chili Bowl, we decided to go with it and ordered 6 straightaway!


15 agonizing minutes later (we were starving) we found out exactly what a Chili Half Smoke was! A hot, snap-cased sausage nestled in a steamed, almost garlic tasting bun, smothered in Ben’s famous chili.


It was insane!


Salty, smoky, soft and snappy. We could not have been more happy.




Plus, we actually didn’t feel as bad as we were anticipating after devouring chili smothered sausages. Win! ;)


Just as we walked out and hopped into the car to head home, the rain stopped, the sky started to lighten, and a rainbow even made an appearance!


We were driving through Georgetown home (my favorite DC neighborhood – seriously obsessed) when off to the right we spied it…


Georgetown Cupcake!!!!


I was lucky enough to stop for a treat at DC-based Georgetown Cupcake the last time we were in DC, and had – honest to God – the best cupcake I’ve ever had in my life.


There was no way we were going to pass by without stopping.

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I hopped out of the car, surveyed the menu, and got 1/2 a dozen for the family to take home and enjoy after we made some room in our stomachs from the chili half smokes.


I mean!!


The abundance of cupcake flavors really tempted me – salted caramel, white chocolate peppermint and eggnog, oh my! – but in the end, I had to go with the tried and true…Lava Fudge.

“Valrhona chocolate cupcake with a rich fudge core topped with a vanilla icing with a fudge star drizzle”


I know! It’s the same one I got last time, but it was TOO good to pass up!


No regrets. ;)

Back to time with the fam! Hope you’re having a great week!


What’s more important, the cake or the icing?

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  1. Georgetown Cupcake is one of THE greatest cupcakeries I’ve ever been to.

    I’ve always wanted to go to the Holocaust Museum, despite how heartbreaking it is. It has such a history that is a good lesson for all.

  2. Baked and Wired are even better than GC! And they’re just down the street :D

    Also, Lavender Moon Cupcakery in Old Town Alexandria has my favorite cupcake ever:

  3. Ahh, speaking of cupcakes and D.C., you’ve GOT to visit Sticky Fingers Bakery while you’re there! They won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars (or something like that…).

  4. Bear 12.28.2011

    I am all about the cake. If you have a delicious cake the icing/frosting is just a bonus ;)

  5. I heart DC! I went to the Holocaust museum back when I was in like high school and even then I can remember being moved…

    DC cupcakes are high up on my list!

  6. Awesome! I can see why you’re mildly obsessed with that neighborhood. It’s gorgeous!

    The icing AND cake are equally important, but I like about a 1:1 ratio to keep things even : )

  7. i’m going to have to go with the cake! the icing is important, but if you don’t have a good base, you got nothin’.

    those chili dogs are ridiculous! my husband would die.

  8. Lesley 12.28.2011

    I’m not in love with Georgetown Cupcakes, but I’ve never tried the lava one – does look pretty yum! I’m going to second the Baked & Wired recommendation. Plus, they have lots of great things to try outside of cupcakes. Also, there is a Sprinkles in Georgetown now, and they make the best red velvet imo. Enjoy your time in DC! If you like all natural bath & body stuff I suggest checking out the LUSH store in Georgetown. They are a little pricey, but so worth it!

  9. Elizabeth 12.28.2011

    Thirding the baked and wired recommendation. I read this blog a lot (and love it- IGE is the the best!!!) but very seldom feel compelled to post- however, I knew I had to act in this situation to keep you from missing out on the true bliss that is Baked and Wired. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting to Baked and Wired ASAP. It is right down the street from Georgetown Cupcake, and I PROMISE, it is ABSOLUTE INSANITY. Trust a DC insider!!!

  10. Oh. my. word.

    Those cupcakes…

    I just. Don’t know what else to say. AH-mazing! I really, really want one rightnow!

  11. stood in line for 2 hours at Ben’s Chili Bowl and I would do it again! awesome!
    love all this history and free museums in DC.
    if you’re into flowers go to the National Arboretum. it’s beautiful.
    & I’ve been dying to try Georgetown Cupcake.

  12. ris 12.28.2011

    Those cupcakes look amazing! My mouth is watering as I read this and look at your pics!!

  13. Tonya 12.28.2011

    Count one more vote for baked and wired, I tried both last time I was in DC. My dad and I both agreed that baked and wired was our favorite and I heart cupcakes (friends joke I have never met one I could resist).

  14. kellyo 12.28.2011

    We went to that memorial our last trip to DC. That was almost 15 years ago and it still haunts me. Glad to you went.

  15. What a fun way to plan activities on a vacation. Cake all the way…. I could care less about the icing!

  16. Ashley 12.28.2011

    Those cupcakes look amazing! I am a total icing girl, it’s my favorite part of the cake! I always want the edge piece, because it has more icing! So, icing is my vote :).

    Sounds like a great day!

  17. Hol 12.28.2011

    Hi! I read your blog frequently, this is my first comment though :) I haaad to post after I saw you were in DC! I go to college there and had fun reading your post! Love it when blogs I read visit towns I know! I completely agree with your other commenters– you must try Baked & Wired! It’s kind of a funky, eclectic, coffee/tea/cupcake shop. The people working there are all super friendly and the atmosphere is really fun! Also if you need dinner recommendations, I think you’d LOVE Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom, it has lots of comfort food. Also, if you like Italian, Piccolo in g’town is really great and it’s a nice atmosphere too. Enjoy the rest of DC!!

  18. Chelsea 12.28.2011

    I was at that museum in high school 15+ years ago and still remember the smell of the shoes! All of those shoes! Have you tried Scratch Cupcakery in Cedar Falls? They don’t have a tv show, but they are much closer:) Sooo good! Next time you are in the area you must try them!

  19. I went to a Holocaust Memorial museum here in Michigan when I was in high school and it was incredibly heartbreaking, but I agree that everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime.

    The chili dogs…OMG, yes, please! I’m ready to drag the family to DC just for one of those and of course, a cupcake :)

  20. Christine 12.28.2011

    I am in LOVE with Ben’s Chili Bowl. So worth the wait, glad you experienced it!!!

  21. Holy cats those cupcakes look so good! Looks like you are having a great time! What are you doing on New Years?!?! Can I live through you – as my hubby has to work so I’ll be home watching Lion King with my girls for the 30th time. :)

  22. It’s so neat that you’re here in DC. It makes me grateful for where I live, that I’m able to experience these things all the time. DC really is a wonderful place to live.

    It’s also funny that you come here to visit your hubby’s family and I go to Iowa to visit my future-hubby’s family. Small world.

    Enjoy the rest of your time here in DC! You should go to Shirlington, Del Ray, or Old Town Alexandria if you’re looking for something non touristy to do.

  23. Oh, and you should try to go to Baked and Wired in Georgetown. Their cupcakes are 1000 times better than Georgetown Cupcake. Baked and Wired is FANTASTIC!

  24. Cindy 12.28.2011

    When I lived in DC, I went to Ben’s Chili Bowl a couple of times a week! My boyfriend at the time was the house bassist for HR-57, probably still is, and we used to get their veggie chili cheese fries because we didn’t eat meat and they were SO GOOD.

    Back then, I was just about the only white person who used to go in that place. My how times have changed!

  25. Gabby Bladdick 12.28.2011

    Have a great time in DC! I’ve only been there once and it’s one of my favorite cities! The holocaust museum was so sad, but I agree – I would recommend people see it. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  26. Alyssa 12.28.2011

    It needs to be the right marriage of the right amounts of both cake and frosting. For me, there’s nothing more disappointing than a cupcake with good flavor, but ends up being crumbly and dry. Also, and I don’t mean to sound this tightly wound, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and it’s called buttercream frosting. The right amount is delightful, but I’ve seen places really pack the stuff on there so that it overwelms the idea in itself of a little dessert. A moist cake complemented with just enough frosting to actually quite literally top it off is the way to go.

  27. Michelle B. 12.28.2011

    The whole trip looks amazing! My boyfriend has been begging me to go on a trip to Washington DC with him, and to be honest, I’ve been very resistant to the idea. I pictures us wandering around just staring at monuments every day. Looks like I might have to reevaluate :-)

    • Iowa Girl Eats 12.29.2011

      There is seriously soooo, so, so much to do here. I had absolutely no idea until I came last Spring (I hadn’t been here since grade school.)

  28. Your in-laws sound fun and thoughtful! I like all of your choices but I definitely would have added the shooting range in the mix of places to visit! I love shooting :)

    Ben’s chili sounds delish. And those cupcakes are gorgeous!!

  29. erica 12.29.2011

    i love both equally, but if the icing is bad, i’m very disappointed….so maybe it’s the icing for me?

  30. Kelly 12.29.2011

    Kristin! Ah! The purse – is that the one you featured in one of your Friday Favorites?! I love it!!

    • Iowa Girl Eats 12.29.2011

      It looks really similar to one I’ve featured in the past! I got it at Banana Republic!

  31. Love how you picked which activities to do! I’ve only been to DC on a class trip (YEARS ago), but it looks like I should consider going back!

    I think you need a balance of both! The cupcake has to be moist and I like icing but I don’t really care for the SUPER sweet stuff on some cakes (think giant sugary flowers). I like whipped icing! Now I want a cupcake!!!!

  32. The cake! The cake!

    I visited a Holocaust museum in Israel many years ago and felt the same way as you – heartbroken and sad but also very appreciative for the opportunity to go.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  33. Melissa 12.29.2011

    Wow, lots of rec’s for Baked & Wired! I’ll have to be on the hunt for that next time I’m in DC. I go there about once a month for work.

    The Holocaust Museum is a must see. I went in high school, but I’d love to go back. If you haven’t read Sarah’s Key, you should definitely pick it up. Sobering, but a GREAT story.

    • Iowa Girl Eats 12.29.2011

      I read that earlier this year and was really glad. It gave me an even better perspective on what happened.

  34. sarah k 12.29.2011

    mmmm…you’re making me hungry! i HEART ben’s chili bowl. SOOOOOOO good! And how lucky are you to not have to wait in the 2-block line that normally snakes around G-town Cupcake?!? Jealous!

  35. Your in-laws method for agenda setting is fantastic! And, I love any day that includes cupcakes :) This looks like such fun!

  36. Sarah 12.29.2011

    That sounds like a great way to plan the itinerary for the week, there’s so much to see/do in the DC area, we want to plan a week/10-day trip sometime in the future to go back and really explore.

    Those cupcakes look divine, I definitely think that it’s equal importance cake vs. frosting. If you have awesome frosting and dry cake it’s bad, and if you have awesome cake and sickly sweet frosting it’s bad!

  37. Ji 12.29.2011

    Glad you liked Ben’s! I still like Detroit coneys more but the DC half-smoke is a close second! :) Other favorite DC/NoVa spots: Zaytinya, El Pollo Rico, Pho 75, Marvin’s, Honey Pig. I actually don’t think food is all that great in DC but those places are solid. Also agree with you on the Holocaust Museum. A must see. Have you been to the Newseum? Another must. Seeing the tree and menorah at the White House is also special. Have fun in DC!

  38. I’m glad you made it to the Holocaust museum, and I agree that it should be a must for everyone! I also love window shopping the Georgetown neighborhood!

  39. Ji 12.29.2011

    Oops and how could I forget Ray’s Hell Burger???

  40. Laura 12.29.2011

    Kristin, have you ever had a Sprinkles cupcake? I’ve never had a Georgetown cupcake, but the one I ate from Sprinkles was the best I’d ever had! I’d like to know how they compare! :)

  41. I was just in DC at the beginning of the month and also went to everything you did except Ben’s Chili Bowl! I had so much fun there, and the DC Cupcakes were so amazing, I brought home a dozen to share with family and friends! One of my favorite activities was the National Air and Space Museum where I watched the Hubble 3D Imax movie! Enjoy your trip!

  42. Anne Weber-Falk 12.29.2011


  43. Elizabeth 12.29.2011

    So jealous you went to DC cupcakes! I have always wanted to go there.

  44. Lauren 12.29.2011

    Gotta add in my vote for Baked and Wired. I am from DC and their cupcakes and amazing coffee are definitely my favorite in Gtown.

  45. OO I love the Georgetown Cupcake show on TLC! It’s good to hear that they are just as delicious in real life. :) I can’t choose – I think the right balance of cake and frosting is the most important.

  46. Cheryl 12.29.2011

    The hubs has a conference in D.C. in mid-May and we’re extending the trip. Can’t wait! I already checked and there are two fun runs the weekend we’ll be there. Whoo! The Holocaust Memorial Museum is already on the list of must sees. Now chili and cupcakes are on the list of must eats. Keep the ideas comin’!

  47. Ooh, I love your pics! Did you get a new camera? They just seem so crisp. Never been to DC, but I can’t wait to go someday. I’m much more a cake person than an icing person.

  48. Molly 12.29.2011

    LOVED Ben’s Chili Bowl!! The flavor of the chili was aaaaaahhhhhhmazing. We went on Saturday of our weekend trip this fall.. and then back again on Sunday. After we tried to go to We, The Pizza (also awesome) but they are closed on Sundays, my husband picked a round 2 of Ben’s for lunch. I tried to pick Georgetown Cupcake for my lunch… but alas, the line was so long and my stomach too hungry.

  49. Kelly 12.29.2011

    Another vote for baked and wired!! I work right up the street at the Kennedy Center and it’s pretty unanimous that B&W > GC (I know, you think it can’t get any better, but it CAN!). And next time you’re there, stop in to Paper Source right next door. It’s my favorite store of all time, a pinterest lover’s DREAM!

  50. Allison 12.30.2011

    Ahhh, welcome to DC! Not to be a total creeper, but the pic from your in-laws gym is in the same town that we live in! Drove right by there last night to hit up TJ’s :D Hope you’re enjoying your trip- looks like you are!

    P.S. Depends on the bakery, if the icing is good, then icing > cake…

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