Crowds of people gathered, today, to celebrate the 55th year anniversary of Ben’s Chili Bowl, a well-known eatery in the nation’s capital. The restaurant was founded on August 22, 1958 by Ben Ali and fiancée, Virginia Rollins. It is recognized in the community for serving the best chili dogs, half-smokes, and milkshakes.
In honor of its celebration, one of America’s most loved and well- respected TV dads, Bill Cosby made a grand appearance. Mr. Cosby was a frequent patron of Ben's Chili Bowl while dating his current wife, Camille, years ago. With pleasure, he introduced some of the hardest working employees of the restaurant. A few of them had dedicated over 30 years of service to the eatery.
Also found in the midst of the assembly was Mayor Vincent Gray and Rev. Jesse Jackson, who shared congratulatory remarks. Though not in attendance, President and Michelle Obama sent their wishes via letter. They had visited the eatery in 2009 prior to the presidential inauguration and plan to dine again in the near future.
Other renowned guests who have visited the eatery over the years include: Denzel Washington, Chris Tucker, Paul Hewson (Bono), former Mayors Marion Barry, Adrian Fenty, and Anthony Williams. Also, scenes from top-notched movies such as Pelican Brief and State of Play were filmed at the restaurant.
Located within the Greater U Street District also called “Black Broadway”, jazz artists such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole would come to the restaurant after their performances at local clubs.
During the 1968 riots that occurred following Martin Luther King’s assassination, Ben’s Chili Bowl was a main attraction for black activists. In the late hours, the restaurant remained opened to feed the protesters, police officers and firemen serving the cause. Many businesses were destroyed; yet and still Ben’s Chili Bowl was one of the few places spared.
Just two days prior to the 50th year anniversary of the March on Washington, many are remembering Ben’s Chili Bowl as a mark in history. Ben Ali unfortunately passed away on October 7, 2009; however, his legacy is carried forth by the remaining members of his family.