By AFRO Staff

Halfsmokes, hot chili and warm smiles flooded the U Street corridor on Aug. 22 as the Ali family celebrated 65 years of ownership at the D.C. franchise, Ben’s Chili Bowl. The married couple Ben and Virginia Ali founded the restaurant in 1958 and have sown seeds in the community as a staple Black business that has outlasted riots, gentrification and growing violent crime.

“It’s an absolute honor to celebrate the Ali family and what they represent to Washington, D.C. and myself as a Black woman in business; they are a representation of what we can do to lead and create a change in our communities which is something I aspire to do as well,” said Danita Johnson, president of business operations at D.C. United who was in attendance at the ceremony. “They are a source of inspiration for the city.”

At the event, Ben’s Chili Bowl distributed free meals consisting of their signature halfsmoke, chips and water which many residents enjoyed. Popular DJ Rico “QuikSilva” Silva played music for the large audience and helped emcee as various organizations spoke words of encouragement to the Ali family.

Historic leaders in the Black community such as former president Barack Obama, Malcolm X and even Martin Luther King Jr. visited Ben’s on his trip to D.C. during the legendary March on Washington. Virginia still remembers his favorite to-go order, the chili cheeseburger. 

“Ben’s Chili Bowl is more than a restaurant. It is sewn into the fabric of Washington, D.C. for 65 delicious years! Ben’s has outlasted the politicians in the capital,” said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Alan Kensek. “Ben’s plays a crucial role in the culture of D.C. and will continue to show the test of time. Here’s wishing to see another 65 years. Congratulations on their well deserved milestone.”