Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ben's Chili Bowl 50th Anniversary | 50 Years as a Washington, D.C. Landmark,

Congratualtions Ben's Chili Bowl on a amazing 50 Years!

"Washington Post Article"

50 Years of Friends and Chili
By Jane Black
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 20, 2008; F03

It's hard for Nizam Ali to pick his favorite celebrity sighting at his family's restaurant. There was the day he got a call that U2's Bono would be arriving in 10 minutes. And the day Russell Crowe arrived to film a scene for the upcoming movie "State of Play."

What Ali likes best about Ben's Chili Bowl is that he never knows just whom he'll meet. "Sometimes you look up and you see Charles Rangel in line. One time you're on the phone and Chris Rock walks in," says Ali, one of the founders' three sons. "Sometimes it's someone from Hawaii or London who's heard about the place and made the effort to come in."
This week, Ben's celebrates its 50th anniversary with a block party, gala and concert, each designed to elicit memories. Bill Cosby, who has been coming to Ben's for 49 of its 50 years, will emcee a gala at the Lincoln Theatre on Thursday night that will also include Washington luminaries Roberta Flack and Dick Gregory. On Friday, a block party will follow a news conference featuring Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, restaurant founders Ben and Virginia Ali and others. On Sunday, there will be a free concert at the 9:30 club featuring EU, Trouble Funk, Mambo Sauce and other bands. A book, "Ben's Chili Bowl: 50 Years of a Washington, D.C., Landmark," which celebrates the Ali family and the U Street neighborhood, hit the shelves Monday. Nizam Ali is a co-author.

The Alis opened "the bowl" on Aug. 22, 1958. In the early 1960s, when U Street was considered "Black Broadway," it played host to the likes of Duke Ellington, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cosby. The restaurant survived the 1968 riots and the severe downturn that followed. Though Ben and Virginia are retired, almost everyone else in the Ali family still pitches in. The counter, booths and stools are all original, and the chili is still made from the same recipe.
Ali and his brother Kamal are committed to keeping Ben's true to its roots. But they are making changes. In October, they will open a bar next door to Ben's, tentatively named Next Door. The new space won't try to duplicate the experience at Ben's but will complement it, Ali says: "You'll be able to get a beer, and maybe you'll be able to get a salad, because you can't get a salad or liquor at Ben's."

And you will be able to get one of the famous half-smokes or chili dogs at the new 50-foot-long bar."We owe our 50 years to every customer that's come in and every person who's gone out of their way to spread the word about Ben's," Ali says. "It's a humbling feeling. It's taken the city to keep us here."

Ben’s 50th Anniversary Gala
“Sharing Memories of the Past 50 Years”
Thanks to our sponsors: COMCAST, SYSCO, XM Satellite Radio, Verizon, Toyota, Unifirst, Dade Paper, 360jmg, Industrial Bank of Washington, The Adams National Bank, BB&T, Fidelity, RAMW and many others.
Date: Thursday, August 21, 2008
Time: 8:00pm until!
Place: Historic Lincoln Theatre
Master of Ceremonies: Bill Cosby
Special Performance by: Roberta Flack
Program: Join us for a night filled with live music and entertainment as we celebrate and reminisce being part of the Shaw Community for 50 years.
Ticket Price: Free, but tickets are required for entry. Tickets will be given away free of charge randomly inside Ben’s Chili Bowl beginning Aug. 18th until all tickets have been dispersed.
Attire: Cocktail

50th Anniversary Press Conference & Block Party
Thanks to our sponsors: COMCAST, WKYS, WPGC, Radio One, Sysco, Washington City Paper, & Rita's.
Special thanks to Mayor Fenty and the D.C. Government
Date: Friday, August 22, 2008
Press Conference:
Time: 10:30AM
Place: On “U” Street in front of the Bowl
Program: Tribute from city officials, words from Ben & Virginia Ali, and many special guests!
Block Party:
Time: Immediately following the press conference until 2:00PM
Place: “U” Street between 12th and 13th Street
Program: A block party with celebrities, special guests, music, entertainment, activities for the kids, and more! Broadcasting live: The Russ Parr Morning Show and The Donnie Simpson Show.
Tickets: No tickets required. Free to the public. All ages welcome.

9:30 Club – Free Concert!
Sponsored by Coca-Cola Mid-Atlantic
Serving the D.C. area as its best live music venue for over 28 years, the 9:30 Club along with other “friends of Ben’s” are throwing a free concert for the community as we all come together to celebrate the decades of love and support that the D.C. family has shown to Ben’s Chili Bowl and the entire Ben’s Family.
Date: Sunday, August 24, 2008
Time: 2pm-10pm
Venue: 9:30 Club
Address: 815 V Street N.W.
Tickets: Not required. Free to the public. All ages welcome until capacity is reached.
Performances by: EU featuring Sugar Bear ● Trouble Funk ● Wes Felton & Friends ● Mambo Sauce ● Lady Pcoq & Poem-Cees ● V. Rich ● Pancake Mountain

For additional information and/or press credentials for all events, please contact Vida Ali via phone at (310) 859-4730 or via email at

Spread the Love…Buy the Book!
Ben's Chili Bowl: 50 Years of a Washington, D.C. Landmark is now available at Ben's Chili Bowl! Buy the book and get it signed by your favorite Ben’s staff member. Cost is $19.99 plus tax.
Also available wherever books are sold beginning Aug. 18th.

Ben's Chili Bowl
1213 U St.