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Wikipedia Description: Ben's Chili Bowl
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ben's Chili Bowl is a landmark restaurant in Washington, D.C., located at 1213 U Street, next to Lincoln Theatre, in the Shaw neighborhood of northwest D.C. It is known locally for its chili dogs, half-smokes, and milkshakes, and has been an integral part of the neighborhood's history since its founding in 1958. It was frequented by both police and protesters during the 1968 Washington, D.C. riots, and is regularly visited by celebrities such as Bill Cosby and Chris Tucker. The restaurant's founders have been inducted into the D.C. Hall of Fame.
Ben's Chili Bowl was founded in 1958 by husband and wife team Ben and Virginia Ali. The building they chose was that of Washington's first silent movie house, the Minnehaha, which was established in 1911. Most of the furniture in the restaurant is original to the 1950s. At the time, Washington was officially segregated, and U Street was known as "Black Broadway." Many jazz greats of the day, such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Nat King Cole, would stop by the restaurant when they performed at U Street clubs.
The U Street corridor was devastated by the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. During the riots black activist Stokely Carmichael, leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, asked Ben to keep his restaurant open and the Alis obtained permission to stay open past curfew. The restaurant fed both the police officers and firemen working to impose order on the neighborhood, as well as the black activists. The violence and arson reached such an extent that Ben wrote "Soul Brother" in soap on the front window in the hopes that it would stop the angry mobs. The destruction of so many businesses led to the flight of residents towards the suburbs and the economic decline of the neighborhood through the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. As the area became known for its drug addicts, Ben's Chili Bowl reduced its s ...More...
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2008_DC_Bens: DC -- U Street -- Ben's Chili Bowl (23 photos from 2008)
2007_DC_Bens: DC -- U Street -- Ben's Chili Bowl (1 photos from 2007)
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2020 photos: The year is too new to have anything to report. The Covid-19 disaster cut off most events here in DC after March 11 and even cut off going outside after awhile. Here's hoping honesty and integrity wins for a change this November.