A full-bodied experience for the eyes, nose, ears, and tongue, the feel of Ben’s Next Door on the historic U St Corridor is warm, lively, modern, and chic. Known for its soul food menu, skilled bartenders and music support for independent and national artists, Ben’s Next Door is the upgraded cousin to the half smoke delicatessen styled Washington staple, Ben’s Chili Bowl. But Ben’s Next Door is different. On any given night its 53-foot bar is packed all the way to the door and the high tables are full of appetizers and buzzing conversation. What is different is what makes this place special, it’s the extra soul that makes you want to eat, drink and hear good music.
First and foremost, it is a restaurant and your taste palette it can satisfy. You can go every day of the week and have something from a different part of the South and still lick your fingers clean. We suggest you try the Shrimp Po’Boy or Shrimp & Grits from the Bayou South or the Braised Beef Ribs or Chicken & Waffles from the Deep South. There is always room for some fresh kale, sweet potatoes, or mac and cheese to round out that down home feel. But there’s still something missing.
Whether you came to watch the game (on one of their 9 LCD screens), or hang with your friends at a high table, there is one thing that everyone is doing, keeping the beat. Some are tapping their toes on the floor and their fingers on their glass. Others are nodding their heads and reciting lyrics unconsciously. Its contagious, from the time you are greeted by the host until the last sip of that drink, the music of Ben’s Next Door has you in a trance. “That’s my jam, I remember this.” “ Oh that’s that new Dub El and Sy Smith song.” “Who is this? I never heard them but I’m feeling this.” “Girl, you gotta get her CD when she performs here next time.”
In an effort to continue to bridge art and community, Ben’s Next Door has steadfastly built support for independent music artists by giving them various platforms for exposure. First, they play a host of underrated, independent superstars on their live feed daily at all the bars and eating areas. From anywhere in the place you can hear great music, at any time. Second, Ben’s Next Door has cultivated a live music experience every Tuesday to create an intimate, acoustic, free performance set for artists to reconnect with their fans.
“LIVE” @ Next Door presented by Remy Martin and hosted by Wes Felton, is a weekly live music session from your favorite independent artists. We had the pleasure to sit in on rising R&B/Soul vocalist Sol Zahran for his set last week and we were thoroughly amazed. Sol Zahran’s music choices, transitions and pitch were definitely to be rivaled, as they were clean, dynamic and smooth in all the right places. Accompanied by three strings, a sax (with spirited floor percussion by Snughie Stocks), and him playing the lead piano, Sol Zahran delivered a solid set of R&B/Soul classics, old and new. Follow him on twitter: @solzahran. My Remy Martin Sidecar from the bar added to the experience, as well as some BBQ wings and sweet potato fries.
Tonight, the featured artist is multi-talented, eclectic vocalist Veronique. Born and raised in Bethesda, MD and a lettered psychologist for various family and health organizations, her first love was music. From the tender age of 12, Veronique stayed busy by ministering music at her father’s church. Becoming an ordained minster of music, she continued to grow into a more versatile singer incorporating jazz, soul, R&B and eventually her heart, house and gospel house music. Signed to Backspin Musiq, she has two projects currently available online and awaiting a third in April 2013, Journeys. Did I also mention she’s working on her Doctorate of Public Administration? Come support this dynamic, bright woman tonight around 9:15pm. Check out her website for more info, http://veroniquemusiqonline.com.
Next week, we hear all the ladies should come out. With the drink special being a Remy Martin V Cosmopolitan, and the show starting around nine, this star’s voice will surely blow your mind. Bobby Roxx, Founder and CEO of ROCKTHEFLOW Radio quoted this singer as one of the best in the area. R&B crooner and vocal powerhouse Rayshun Lamarr will be performing live at Ben’s Next Door on January 29th. A skilled tenor, graduating from Duke Ellington School of The Arts and attending UARTS, Rayshun Lamarr is a part of the cover band Sound Connection, Konshens & His State of Mind and supporting vocalist for Tamika Love Jones. He is known most for his romantic ballad covers and groovy love songs, I’m sure this show will be for the lovers bringing in Valentine’s Day early. Follow him on facebook: Rayshun Lamarr.
Overall Ben’s Next Door is an awesome spot to be. Its warm staff, great menu, dynamic bar, eclectic sounds, live music shows and commitment to the community makes it a place to spend a few days out of your week. So take some time to slide down and check out their happy hour daily, “LIVE” Series every Tuesday, or any of their special activities, we promise you will be nodding your head, full of your fill of food and drink, and ready to come back next week. See all their happenings at http://www.bensnextdoor.com; we will be there for the next couple of Tuesdays. Talented vocal performances from Micah D. Robinson (Howard U., February 5th), Reesa Renee (Apollo Winner, TBA), Kia Bennett (Soul Songstress, February 26th), Maimouna Youssef (collaborative artist with The Roots and Cirius B, TBA) and former lead vocalist for Fertile Ground, Navasha Daya (March 5th).