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.