Ben’s Chili Bowl isn’t exactly the first place you’d think to go for vegan fare. The home of the half smoke is first and foremost all about the meat. Even its salad is really just lettuce smothered in chili.
But that hasn’t stopped People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—the group that says “animals are not ours to eat”—from giving the restaurant an “A” in a national ranking of burger joints.
Ignoring the fact that Ben’s Chili Bowl isn’t actually a burger joint, PETA credits the restaurant’s multiple vegan options, which include a veggie hot dog, veggie chili, and yes, a veggie burger that uses Boca Original Vegan patties.
“Ben’s Chili Bowl is such a beloved landmark in the nation’s capital, a place that’s popular with important politicians and visiting dignitaries, so if they do something, it really makes a statement,” says PETA spokesperson Marisa Price, a 2015 grad of George Washington University and a self-proclaimed Ben’s Chili Bowl fan. While she’s now based in Los Angeles, she says “the DC office [of PETA] orders from Ben’s Chili Bowl all the time.”
Wendy’s managed a “B” in the ranking for piloting a black bean burger in limited locations. Burger King, Fuddruckers, and Shake Shack all rated a “C,” while Five Guys was bestowed a failing “F” grade. McDonald’s, with zero vegan options except for a side salad, got an F minus.
While Price calls eating meat “completely unnecessary,” she says it’s still worth it to PETA to recognize burger joints that are at least taking steps toward vegan options. “Boycotting restaurants simply because they also sell animal products sends a message to the owners of those restaurants that there’s not a market for vegan food, and that hurts animals,” Price says.
This is not the first time PETA has shown Ben’s some love. In 2014, it gave the restaurant’s airport location the “Best of Reagan Award.”