Riding in the back seat of our friends’ SUV all I wanted was a cold beer and something to eat. We were all hot, tired and sweaty after a day of wandering the grounds of Mt. Vernon learning about rustication, the workings of the plantation, and how George Washington eventually suffocated to death at the age of 67. We crawled in later afternoon traffic through the suburban sprawl of Northern Virginia on our way to the Huntington Metro station. Our plan was to head to Alexandria and then find a place to eat on King Street.
Following a short train ride we arrived in Alexandria. With the sun setting behind the the towering George Washington Masonic National Memorial we walked up King Street. The kids complained they were tired and the ladies chirped that we needed to find someplace to eat, and soon. On the left a sign on the street announced the Hard Times Cafe was the last place to get a cold beer and a hot dog. We looked at the menu, nodded in agreement, and entered. We learned this was the original location, and had been dishing up comfort food since 1980.
A hostess led us up a narrow staircase and set our party of six at a simple wooden table. Our waitress arrived with menus, took our drink orders, and told us she would be right back with a chili sampler. She returned with beers, sodas, and selection of their chili. The Hard Times Cafe offers four kinds of chili: Texas, Cincinnati, Terlinga Red and Vegetarian. All were served as God intended, without beans. My favorites were the Terlinga Red, which had a spicy kick, and the Cincinnati style with its savory spices.
With our moods improved due the the chilly AC and cold beers we ordered Sante Fe eggrolls and tots covered in chili and cheese for the table. The egg rolls consisted of a fried tortillas stuffed with chicken, black beans, corn and melted Jack cheese. They were tasty, but the combination of tots covered in spicy chili and loads of melted cheddar cheese paired with a cold beer was better.
For our meals we all ordered Cincinnati chili served over spaghetti. I opted to have mine served four way; spaghetti, chili, cheese, and onions. The chili was meaty and I tasted cinnamon and cloves. It was delicious, filling, and everyone gave the food a thumbs up.
The Hard Times Cafe has 16 locations in Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland. The Alexandria location is located at 1404 King Street and is open Sun – Thurs 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Fri – Sat 11 a.m. – midnight. For more information check out the Hard Times Cafe online at hardtimes.com, Facebook, or call them at (703) 837-0050.
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