- Power Source: The Ali Tradition Since 1958 Ben's Chili Bowl has been a fixture in DC due to the founders commitment to solid values.
Since 1958 Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a fixture in DC due to the founders commitment to solid values.
By Adoria Doucette
Every major city has its cherished local establishments that have endured and enchanted residents and visitors for decades. Our local jewel is U St. based Ben’s Chili Bowl, founded by Ben & Virginia Ali in 1958. When the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his fashionable wife Carla Bruni visited the first family in the White House, they followed in the footsteps of countless celebrities dignitaries and everyday people who for decades made a stop to eat at Ben’s, one of DC’s most legendary eateries.
President Obama made a famous trip to Ben’s prior to his inauguration. Since that time Ben’s the gift shop and Bens Next Door has garnered a global reputation.
Since its founding, the location has witnessed all that the city has gone through, good and bad – while always keeping its doors open to consistently serve their world famous chili dogs, half smokes (Bill Cosby‘s favorite) and bowls of beef or veggie chili. Ben’s is a permanent fixture of Washington, D.C. culture and has been an anchor for the U Street corridor, with late night trips to Ben’s emerging as a rite of passage for all Howard University students over the decades. Bill Cosby met his wife Camile at Ben’s Chili Bowl when she was a student at Howard. Since then, Dr. & Mrs. Cosby have consistently patronized Ben’s.
Enterprising heirs of the Ben’s name, “Ben Jr.” Kamal Ali and his wife Sonya are skillfully utilizing the Ben’s brand by offering drop shipped nationwide service of their most famous food and souvenirs.
The Ali’s have also capitalized on the world-famous location and history of Ben’s Chili Bowl by opening Ben’s Next Door, a full service restaurant and bar located directly next door to Ben’s Chili Bowl. This establishment has quickly become an “it” location on U Street with excellent food and service. Next door boasts a friendly social scene, bar and restaurant that serves the absolutely most amazing grilled scallops with a seafood sauce that is worthy of 5 star status.
Power Source salutes the Ali family for nearly six generations of selfless service and contributions to the culture of Washington, D.C. and knows that 60 years from now, these two institutions will be just as cherished as they are today. As everyone enjoys the fruit of the founders labor, we must honor the memory of Ben Ali who passed away last year. The Alis have not just been a strong family to each other, they are a family to the community.