Hard Times Cafe

Hard Times Cafe

It is finally warming up! It is time to dust off those grills and get ready for some backyard BBQ classic eats. In the spirit of spring time comfort foods, we recently visited Hard Times Cafe in Old Town Alexandria – best known for their delicious chili and burgers.

Hard Times Cafe has a number of locations in the Washington, DC area.  However, the Old Town Alexandria location is the original and has been serving up delicious chili since 1980. The cafe has soft lighting and dark wood features giving it a cozy feel. To begin your meal, Hard Times offers a free sample of the four distinct chilies – including a veggie option. This is a great feature because it gives you a chance to try all the chili because you choose your chili dish. You can order everything from chili macs, chili cheeseburgers, chili dogs, loaded chili fries or nachos, and even chili salads!  You can also just get a plain ‘ol bowl of chili if you don’t want all the frills.

Hard Times Cafe

For your non-chili loving friends, Hard Times has a variety of non-chili burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, wings, and salads. They also have a variety of big dinner plates including chicken, ribs, and fish. We were big fans of both the chili and the burgers – there are no bad selections on the meun.  One of friends who joined us for this trip said it was one of the best burgers he ever had!

As the name suggests, Hard Times Cafe is inspired by the Great Depression. “During the Great Depression chili parlors supplied an inexpensive and nourishing meal for million’s of Americans. A newspaper man at the time was quoted as saying that during those hard times chili saved more lives than the Red Cross. Meat rationing during WWII forced the closing of many chili parlors and although many restaurants today offer chili on their menus, few authentic chili parlors remain. The mission of the Hard Times is to maintain this unique American culinary institution,” the website explains.  Today, Hard Times Cafe is still living up to this reputation, serving good food without costing too much.

At a Glance

  • Good for: comfort food
  • Entrees start at $8
  • Locations in Alexandria, Rockville, Springfield, and Fredericksburg
  • Closest Metro (Alexandria): King Street (blue, yellow)

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