Ben’s Chili Bowl to Celebrate 60th Anniversary with Block Party, Tribute to Virginia Ali

Ben's Chili Bowl joined thousands of businesses nationwide on Feb. 16 to support the "Day Without Immigrants" demonstration in protest of the Trump administration's stance on immigration. (Travis Riddick/The Washington Informer)
Ben's Chili Bowl joined thousands of businesses nationwide on Feb. 16 to support the "Day Without Immigrants" demonstration in protest of the Trump administration's stance on immigration. (Travis Riddick/The Washington Informer)

Ben’s Chili Bowl in northwest D.C. has been a staple in the U Street community and the nation’s capital for 60 years, and the family who’s kept the iconic restaurant afloat all this time will celebrate in grand style with a block party and tribute to owner Virginia Ali, widow of the namesake founder.

The block party will take place at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22 outside the restaurant at 1213 U Street. The event will be followed with a 7:30 p.m. anniversary celebration gala, “A Tribute to Virginia Ali,” next door at the historic Lincoln Theater.

Tickets go on sale Aug. 1, with proceeds benefitting the Ben’s Chili Bowl Foundation, which aims to positively affect and provide service to the community.

“All of us at Ben’s are humbled by and thankful for the love and support we constantly receive from our guests and the city of Washington, D.C., as we continue to build upon the rich history of community service that Ben’s has been known for throughout the years,” the family said in a statement.

Visitors to D.C. have usually heard about Ben’s Chili Bowl long before their arrival. Many remember the news of President Barack Obama stopping by to enjoy a chili half-smoke.

The restaurant has been featured on TV shows such as “The Steve Harvey Show,” “The Daily Show,” “Man vs. Food,” “Oprah,” “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “CBS This Morning,” and “Larry King Live,” and has been profiled by countless other local, national and international shows, newspapers and magazines.

Ben’s Chili Bowl has also been seen in films like Russell Crowe’s “State of Play,” Denzel Washington’s “The Pelican Brief” and Don Cheadle’s “Talk to Me.”

Past visitors include Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Martin Luther King Jr. and many other luminaries. More recently, French President Sarkozy, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, members of the US Congress, and many other noteworthy political and sports figures have stopped by to sample the “world famous” Ben’s cuisine.

Other recent visitors include Dave Chappelle, Bruno Mars, Serena Williams, Taraji P. Henson, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, George Lopez, Terrence Howard, Jimmy Fallon, Usher, Bono, Nick Cannon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tyrese, Lance Gross, George Clinton, Chaka Khan, Joe Mantegna, Rachel Ray, Chris Tucker, Tommy Davidson, Pauly Shore, Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover.

In addition to being known as the place in D.C. where everyday people brush shoulders with celebrities, Ben’s Chili Bowl has also been honored with numerous awards and accolades, including the prestigious “America’s Classics” award from the James Beard Foundation.

In 2008, Ben and Virginia Ali were given a ceremonial key to the city by then-Mayor Adrian Fenty, and Ben’s was honored the following year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

Two years later, George Washington University enshrined Ben’s Chili Bowl’s historic papers, documents and photos in its Gelman Library, and all documents have been digitized for students and scholars throughout the world to examine.

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