DC Council moves to rename part of U Street after Ben’s Chili Bowl

WASHINGTON — The landmark eatery Ben’s Chili Bowl will celebrate its 60th anniversary in August, and the D.C. Council is moving to rename the street in front of the restaurant.

The Ben’s Chili Bowl Way Designation Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2018, introduced Thursday, would rename the 1200 block of U Street Northwest as Ben’s Chili Bowl Way.

The council is already considering such legislation, but the bill introduced Thursday is an emergency designation “to ensure that the signage will be installed” before the 60th anniversary of Ben’s Chili Bowl Aug. 22.

There will be a public hearing on the nonemergency measure Monday, as well as five other proposed renamings:

  • To symbolically designate the 4900 block of Nannie Helens Burroughs Ave. Northeast as Mazie Washington Way;
  • To symbolically designate the area from the 200 block of 10th Street Southeast through the 100 block of 10th Street Northeast, between C Street Southeast and Constitution Avenue Northeast as Outlaw Way, after the late Pocahontas Outlaw;
  • To symbolically designate the unit block of Brandywine Street between First and South Capitol streets in Southeast as Rev. W.W. Flood Way;
  • To officially designate the area bounded by 11th, G, 12th and F streets, in Northeast, as Bruce Robey Way;
  • To officially designate the 2200 and 2300 blocks of Mount View Place Southeast as Hannah Hawkins Place.

In a resolution earlier this year, the council honored Ben’s and its owners and founders, Ben and Virginia Ali. Ben Ali died in 2009; the resolution quoted then-Mayor Adrian Fenty as calling the restaurant “one of the greatest treasures in the District of Columbia.”

Earlier this year, WTOP interviewed Virginia Ali about the history of the restaurant and the role it played during the 1968 riots that roiled the city.

(Video produced by Omama Altaleb)
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the year Ben Ali died.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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