On Wednesday, July 23rd, Ben’s Chili Bowl celebrated the opening of the historic D.C. restaurant’s first ever airport location. “Ben’s Chili Bowl is an iconic part of Washington, D.C.’s rich culture,” said Jack Potter, President and CEO of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. “It is fitting to have Ben’s at the airport, welcoming travelers and giving them their first taste of the region.”
The Chuck Brown Band performed at the event in honor of the late, great Chuck Brown, another Washington, DC icon. Visitors to Washington, DC have usually heard about Ben’s Chili Bowl long before their arrival. Many remember the news of President Obama stopping by to enjoy a Chili Half Smoke. Ben’s has been seen on Man vs. Food, CNN, Oprah, Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Good Morning America, Larry the Cable Guy, Pauly Shore, The Daily Show, and countless other national and international shows. People often think of Bill Cosby when they think of Ben’s because he has been a longtime friend and Half Smoke aficionado.
Ben’s Chili Bowl has also been seen in films like Russell Crowe’s State of Play, Denzel Washington’s The Pelican Brief, and Don Cheadle’s Talk to Me. In the old days, guests included Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other luminaries. More recently, French President Sarkozy, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, members of the US Congress, and many other noteworthy political figures have stopped by to sample the world famous Ben’s cuisine. 21st Century pop culture icons including Chris Rock, Usher, Bono, Tyrese, Nick Cannon, Chris Tucker, Sara Jessica Parker, Serena Williams and others have also been seen on recent visits.
In addition to being known as the place in DC where everyday people brush shoulders with celebrities, Ben’s Chili Bowl has also been honored to receive numerous awards and accolades, including the prestigious “America’s Classics” award from the James Beard Foundation. In 2008, Ben and Virginia Ali were given the Key to the City by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, and in 2009 Ben’s was honored by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. In 2010, the George Washington University enshrined Ben’s Chili Bowl’s historic papers, documents and photos into its main Gelman Library, and all documents have been digitized for students and scholars throughout the world to examine. And in 2013, Ben’s won the Steve Harvey Golden Spatula Award for Best Chili in America.
In spite of all the world recognition and fame, local residents of DC, Maryland and Virginia know the real truth about Ben’s Chili Bowl, and that truth is simple. They know that Ben’s is first and foremost about FAMILY and COMMUNITY. For over 55 years, Ben’s has graciously served the people, and every guest has always been embraced as family. When segregation was still alive, Ben’s offered a peaceful gathering place and safe haven for ALL people, regardless of any differences in background or perspective. Society has grown and changed, but Ben’s remains the same and continues to celebrate people from all walks of life as they come together to eat, laugh, and discuss life as they see it. And now people are welcome to enjoy many more magical and memorable moments of food and fun at Ben’s Chili Bowl’s first airport location!
All Photos by Jason Morenz