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Outdoor Dining in DC

When warm weather descends on the nation’s capital, outdoor dining is key. Get the low-down on all kinds of alfresco experiences, from historic chili dog vendors to exotic food trucks or from patio lunches to restaurants with retractable rooftops.

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Opened by Ben and Virginia Ali in 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl draws hungry crowds from early in the morning until late at night. Ben’s stays open until 2 a.m. during the week and until 4 a.m. on weekends.

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Ben's Chili Bowl
Half-smokes and chili cheese fries are the stuff of DC legend. Get stuffed on ‘em here.

U Street Corridor’s popular Ben’s Chili Bowl, revered for its half-smokes and icy milkshakes, has been a down-home favorite since its 1958 opening. Ben’s has hosted many a celebrity, including Bill Cosby and Bono plus a who's who of presidents—including President Obama. The site is a history buff’s dream and was a safe haven from the 1968 race riots, serving food past curfew to those trying to restore order. If the weather's nice, get your eats to go and head to nearby Meridian Hill Park—with plenty of napkins in hand.

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Red Rocks Bistro on H Street
In the game of cooking Neapolitan-style pizzas, the establishment with the retractable roof wins.

With four Red Rocks locations throughout DC, the H Street outpost serves up its hand-crafted pizza pies under clear skies. You can bet that the wood-fired oven fills the space with that cozy, smoky smell, a good indicator of the authentic pies to come. Aside from ‘za, the restaurant offers up cured meats and cheeses, plus savory pasta dishes.