The lasting legacy of a Trinidadian immigrant, Ben Ali and Wife Virginia, the iconic Ben's Chili Bowl restaurant


Another great immigrant success story in America

Ben's Chili Bowl is a historic restaurant located in Washington, D.C. It has a rich history that dates back to 1958 when Ben Ali, a Trinidadian immigrant, and his wife, Virginia Ali, opened the restaurant on U Street, an area known as the cultural heart of African American life in the city.

During the 1960s, a time of great social change and civil rights activism, Ben's Chili Bowl became a gathering place for activists, musicians, and locals alike. It provided a safe haven where people could enjoy good food and engage in discussions about politics, civil rights, and community issues.

One notable event in Ben's Chili Bowl's history occurred during the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many businesses along U Street were damaged or destroyed, but Ben's Chili Bowl remained open, providing food and shelter to those in need. The restaurant became a symbol of resilience and community during a turbulent time.

Over the years, Ben's Chili Bowl has continued to serve its famous chili half-smokes, hot dogs, and other comfort foods, attracting locals and tourists alike. It has expanded its menu and even opened additional locations, but the original restaurant on U Street remains a cherished landmark and a testament to the enduring spirit of the community it serves.

When you've been in a public serving business for over 65 years, in an iconic American city, you become an icon and everyone who is anyone must be seen at your place.