It's been more than half a century since Ben's Chili Bowl opened its doors along U Street NW.
Ben's Chili Bowl, a culinary and cultural institution on U Street NW, today celebrated 55 years in business. Mayor Vince Gray appeared alongside comedian Bill Cosby and Rev. Jessie Jackson to commemorate more than a half-century of half-smokes at the storied restaurant.
Rock stars, movie stars, presidents, and many a regular Washingtonian have stopped by the restaurant in its 55 years in business, and it has served as a backdrop for many movies. Still, the restaurant is a family affair, and matriarch Virginia Ali is thankful for the many years—and many patrons—that have gone by.
"This is a very meaningful day. This is 55 years serving the Washington community, and I love it. The community has been very supportive of us all these years, and we're just happy to be here and grateful for all our patrons," she said. "It's a wonderful community, and it has been since Day 1. It's even better now. The community has been there for us, so it's a win-win situation."
That grill at Ben's has never cooled, even during the District's darkest time, including the riots.
"Ben's stayed open during the entire period of time. They were not
bombed, they were not fireballed, they were not nothing, because this
community loves Ben's," said D.C. Council member Marion Barry.
At 10 a.m., Mayor Gray made an appearance to help celebrate the anniversary and to present Ali, her family and the restaurant's employees with a official proclamation. He was joined by Cosby, a long-time supporter and one of only two people who eat at the restaurant free of charge. The other is President Obama, who ate at the restaurant shortly after being elected in 2008.
"Some of you take your medication before you come in here," says Cosby.