Tuesday, June 10, 2008

D.C. represent!

Here’s one for the home folks.

Come August, a Washington institution will celebrate its 50th anniversary... Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Coincidentally, I just returned from Indiana, where I met a guy called “Punk Rock Don.” When Don found out I was from D.C., the first thing he asked me about was Ben’s Chili Bowl.

I never hung out at Ben’s. But back in the ’80s, I was one of a group of reporters who interviewed Bill Cosby inside the restaurant. Cosby is a famous fan; he used to take Camille there on dates.

Among others who’ve eaten at Ben’s Chili Bowl: Martin Luther King, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Marian Anderson, Dinah Washington, Miles Davis, Redd Foxx... on up to the new breed: Denzel Washington, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Chris Tucker, Dr. Dre, Allen Iverson, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton...

So I say “Happy Anniversary” to the Ali family.

Below is a 2½-minute video recently done by the U.S. government’s Voice of America service. If it doesn’t make you hungry for a half-smoke, there’s something wrong with you.


mynameismyname said...

I'm a D.C. boy, too, UBM.

PG Country represent! (Oxon Hill in the house).

Ben's Chili Bowl is legendary of course and a main tourist attraction.

It's actually disappointing that a few black-themed Hollywood films set in D.C. didn't feature the landmark (Chris Rock's abysmal "Head of State" and Kasi Lemmon's biopic of Petey Greene "Talk To Me").

But it's still legendary.

Ah ...D.C., my hometown ...memories.

(I sadly live in the very dull Connecticut now ...shudders).

Francisco said...

Yay! DC Chocolate City! Woot! I lived there for 4 years, (2 years in Anacostia, 2 years in DC) in what some people would consider the 'Ghetto' and lived there thru 9/11 as well. One of the unsung glories of DC is its cheap-but-great food. I ate at Ben's a couple of times and loved it. I miss the Crab cakes too. Also, gotta show some love for those 1000's of Chinese 'holes-in-the-wall' that are always open, always serving all sorts of food, and one could eat well for 5 bucks. Also, Go-Go Mondays at the clubs will go on forever! The stripclubs could use less rules, though ;)

Abbie said...

U Street is changing; I hope Ben's Chili Bowl lasts through the changes with its legendary status amid the condos, Starbucks, and yuppies.

I always loved that they served up vegetarian food right next to the meat.

eeaster said...

Francisco, you just gave all DC folk a shudder. "2 years in Anacostia, 2 years in DC"??!!

Anacostia is DC - more DC than the rest of it some would say.

Bay Radical said...

Mmmmm, Ben's! I'm West Coast all the way, but anytime I'm in DC I stop at the Chili Bowl. Once, when I was in town to protest the IMF, my comrades and I recovered from tear gas exposure at Ben's. We each got our bowls of spicy vegetarian with crackers and watched the news coverage of Police Chief Ramsey ordering the arrests of a few hundred friends on the TV there. Such fond memories!

Lola Gets said...

I grew up down the street from Bens. Didnt see the appeal of their food then, and I still dont. I cant stand their chili, and their fries taste like fried grease. Thats right, I said it! But they are a great meeting spot cause everyone knows where it is!


Francisco said...

To be honest, I was on PG county, a block away from 'the line' between DC and MD on the Anacostia side, but commonly referred by my peeps as Anacostia. I think Anacostia in the ancient language of the Redskins means 'Land of unsolved murders and weekly body dumps in the river'. Good times.

Undercover Black Man said...

Lola, speaking her mind! :^D

I can't vouch for the food... but the money shot in that video is at 1:50. Can't you just smell that?

With a name like "Ali," cooking up all that pork...

Lola Gets said...

Ok, Ive got a couple of things to add:

1) One of the owners of Bens is Nizam Ali and he is smoking hot. Ive been lusting over that man for over 5 years now, hes that smoking!


2) Im getting my volunteer on here at the African American Civil War Memorial Museum, which is located accross the street from Bens. The Director of the museum, Mr. Frank Smith, wanted me to mention that, and to invite all you dear readers to come check out our site,
and if youre in the neighborhood, come check out the museum and the memorial before you get your eat on at Bens!

And, if anyone...like the Undercover Black Man...would like to write about our wonderful museum, memorial and cause, then please feel free to do so!

(please excuse this shameless plug)


Lola Gets said...

Uh, wait, I forgot something...its the African American Civil War Memorial amd Museums 10th anniversary this July - yeaaaa!

Thanks again for allowing me to shamelessly plug the museum.


Francisco said...

Speaking of DC, have they rebuilt Eastern Market yet? I was sooo sad when I heard it had burned down. The food there was awesome and worldwide famous. I hanged around there almost every weekend.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

lola, Frank's still around? I remember that museum and the re-opening of the Lincoln were his pet projects back when U Street re-opened in '92.

Ben's has a helluva breakfast. Many a post-club night eating the chili dogs and chili-cheeseburger. A chocolate milkshake was the sheeitt after a little green leafy substance.

Undercover Black Man said...

Ben's has a helluva breakfast.

Time to name-check the Florida Avenue Grill. (Mmmm...scrapple!)

Lola Gets said...

Yep, Franks stil around and doesnt look like hes going anywhere either, lol. Now, Ive never had Bens breakfast...just never made it past there at that time. And Ive never tried the shakes either, but I did like their "slurpee" drink.

And Ive never been to the Florida Avenue Grill for breakfast either. Hmmm, maybe I need to weak up earlier in the morning...hmm....


fishesalot said...

...DC's own Florida Ave Grill, on the corner of Florida and 11th I think, ...down the street from Cardoza HS. The joint is the soul-food-palace of DC. Been eating there and at Ben's since the 60's.

Anyone remember the Booker-T, the Republic, and the Lincoln on U street in DC, ...or the Howard Theater??????

Also, lets not forget the Historic Fredrick Douglas House in old Anacostia.


Undercover Black Man said...

^ Remember the Miles Long sandwich shops??

fishesalot said...

...hell yeah, I used to tear up those Miles Long steak and cheese subs, and the fish sandwiches. How about Eddie Leonards, Shrimp Boat, and Marios Pizza, ...I used to hook school and hit those joints. Marios had the square slices, piled high with toppings - the best. Shrimp Boat was the spot for the seafood box - white cardboard, remember that!!


Anonymous said...

abbie said...
U Street is changing; I hope Ben's Chili Bowl lasts through the changes with its legendary status amid the condos, Starbucks, and yuppies.

Uh, abbie...
Are you saying that neighborhood is getting a little 'whiter' than you like? What a travesty when a nice neighborhood goes through stuff like that. Those darn white people.

fishesalot said...

To many Black Washingtonians, U Street will always be the "Black Broadway". There was a time where you could hop from club to club and in one night catch the likes of The Duke, Ella Fitzgerald, Loius Jordan, Cab Calloway, Armstrong, and many others performing. Yes sir, there's a lot of history there, ...be good to preserve it.

Hold on brother Ali, hold on.