This summer, one of DC’s most beloved historic landmarks turns the big 5-0. Ben’s Chili Bowl isn’t a monument or a museum, but it might as well be. Ben and Virginia Ali opened “the Bowl” as newlyweds on August 22, 1958. At the time, its U Street location was in the middle of DC’s “Black Broadway,” and jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole were known to stop by for one of Ben’s famous chili dogs.
Ben and Virginia Ali have since retired, but the restaurant, now run by their sons Kamal and Nizam, is still a local favorite. On Thursday, August 21, Ben’s 50th Anniversary Gala will be hosted by another famous Chili Bowl regular: Bill Cosby. A sign inside the restaurant proclaims that he’s the only customer who eats for free.
From 8 to 10 PM, the free(!) gala will be held at another U Street landmark, the Lincoln Theatre (1215 U St., NW). The Alis want to give back to the community with live music and lots of food—including Ben’s chili dogs, of course. The following day, the true anniversary of Ben’s Chili Bowl will be celebrated with a festive block party on U Street.
Visit benschilibowl.com for more details.