Half-smokes for all! Local leaders, foodies celebrate Ben’s Chili Bowl’s 65th anniversary

D.C. residents young and old came out to celebrate 65 years of chili dogs, burgers and all manner of good eats at the original Ben’s Chili Bowl location on U Street Tuesday afternoon.

The founding Ali family has welcomed people from all walks of life since 1958, and Tuesday, they showed their appreciation by feeding everyone who came — amid music, friendship and overall good vibes.

Co-founder Virginia Ali, who many of Tuesday’s guest speakers called the “matriarch of homegrown business” in D.C., said she has nothing but gratitude for the community.

Going on her 90th year, Ali said she’s served everyone from presidents to athletes to movie stars. Her approach is to “treat everybody the way you would want to be treated, and you won’t have a problem.”

But there was a lot of talk at Tuesday’s 65th anniversary about how Ben’s has also given back to the community and fed those with nothing when they had nowhere else to turn.

“I didn’t know I was giving back,” Ali said. “I was just doing what I love doing. I love people. I’m energized by people … so if that was giving back, then I guess I gave back.”

The constant refrain Tuesday was “65 years more!” with Ali saying her business isn’t slowing down anytime soon, even if she might need a breather.

Matt Kaufax

If there's an off-the-beaten-path type of attraction, person, or phenomenon in the DC area that you think more people should know about, Matt is your guy. As the features reporter for WTOP, he's always on the hunt for stories that provide a unique local flavor—a slice of life if you will.

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