Article Title: New Book Celebrates Ben's Chili Bowl's 50th Anniversary
Author: Sommer Mathis
Date: August 11th, 2008
We got a press release announcing that a new book, Ben's Chili Bowl: 50 Years of a Washington, D.C., Landmark, is now available for sale. Ben's is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. Mahaboob Ben Ali and his then-fiancée, Virginia Rollins, opened the hot dog and chili shop on U Street on August 22, 1958. Congratulations to the Ali family on all their achievements!
The book, written by journalist Tracey Gold Bennett and Ben's co-owner Nizam B. Ali, with a foreword by Bill Cosby, is available for $19.99 from Arcadia Publishing. With images and stories spanning the entire history of Ben's, it should make a nice keepsake for half smoke devotees.
A big anniversary party is planned on Aug. 22 at Ben's, featuring live music and a number of giveaways. There's also a free concert in the works at the 9:30 Club on Sunday, Aug. 24 from 2-10 p.m., with Trouble Funk, EU, Wes Felton and Friends, Mambo Sauce, Sage Infinity, V. Rich and Pancake Mountain on hand to celebrate 50 years of chili dogs.
Publication: The Washington Post
Article Title: 50 Years of Friends and Chili
Author: Jane Black
Publication Date: August 20th, 2008
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."