Ben's Chili Bowl
Ben and Virginia Ali opened Ben's Chili Bowl shortly after they married in 1958. The restaurant is located at 1213 U Street, next to Lincoln Theatre, in the northwest corner of Washington, D.C. Ben's is widely known for its milkshakes, chili dogs, and half-smokes and has truly become a community staple. Much of the restaurant's interior decor is original to that of the 1950s. A number of celebrities and notable individuals, including Chris Tucker and President Barack Obama, have frequented the establishment.
Backstory and Context
U Street was widely known as "Black Broadway" during the time that segregation was an accepted practice in Washington, D.C. Notable jazz musicians such as Nat King Cole and Miles Davis often ate at Ben's when they performed at clubs on U Street.
The U Street Corridor was at the epicenter of the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The restaurant fed both police officers and activists alike after owner Ben Ali (at the request of activist Stokely Carmichael) applied to keep the establishment open past curfew. The scene become so tense at one point during the event that Ben wrote the words "Soul Brother" in soap across the storefront window in hopes of deterring angry mobs from damaging the eatery.
For additional information please see the restaurant's official webpage at http://benschilibowl.com/.