21 August 2008
Dear Ben's : happy 50th anniversary!
For those of you NOT from DC, Ben's Chili Bowl is a local institution. Owned and operated by the Ali family since 1958 on U Street NW, Ben's has survived the 1968 riots after Dr. King's assassination, the crack epidemic of the 1980s that decimated the neighborhood, the construction of the U Street station on Metro's green line that made it nearly impossible to get into Ben's for years, and, more recently, changing neighborhood demographics. And it's still the same delightful greasy spoon where you can get a rockin' banana shake and a chili half-smoke at 3 am after a Friday night at the 9:30 club or Bohemian Caverns, all while listening to a lil' Trouble Funk on the jukebox.
I even have my own Ben's story. I had been a vegetarian for 10 years. I had lived in DC for 7 years. I had never been to Ben's. I had recently started lifting weights. My bod was crying out for a major infusion of protein. I was going to a double bill at the aforementioned 9:30 Club - Chuck Brown opening for James Brown. The Godfather of Go-Go and the Godfather of Soul, together for one night. It was time. Time for Ben's. Time for a half smoke. Time for my first animal flesh in 10 years. Oh yeah. Best meal of my life: chili half smoke, chili cheese fries, and a chocolate shake. It doesn't get more DC than that night. And I'll remember it forever.