Ben’s Chili Bowl remains a delicious historical landmark: A Taste of Chocolate

theGrio’s new series, “A Taste of Chocolate,” launches with a look at the iconic D.C. eatery Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Ben’s Chili Bowl, an iconic Black family-owned restaurant in the heart of Washington, D.C., has weathered riots, pandemic-related closures, and the passing of its namesake, Ben Ali, in 2009.

But after almost 65 years in business, Ben’s wife and sons have continued the eatery’s legacy as a go-to tourist destination, famous hangout, and prominent campaign stop for local and federal politicians alike. 

In the first episode of theGrio’s new series, “A Taste of Chocolate,” host Shernay Williams takes us inside Ben’s Chili Bowl to meet its matriarch, 89-year-old Virginia Ali. She and her eldest son, Sage, talk through the restaurant’s history and its legendary “half-smoke,” the hot dog-like spicy sausage that has become one of the signature dishes of the nation’s capital. 

Photo credit: Stephen Jones

“We’ve had the pleasure of serving presidents, judges, and professionals, and teachers, construction workers, everybody,” says Virginia Ali. 

In its early years, Ben’s Chili Bowl was frequented by Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as other civil rights leaders and entertainment greats. 

The original restaurant’s décor is still very similar to when it opened over six decades ago. Only now, its walls are filled with photos of some of its most famous guests.

Ben’s Chili Bowl is the first restaurant featured in theGrio’s “A Taste of Chocolate” series, which takes us on a culinary road trip to visit some of the most intriguing Black food and drink entrepreneurs in the Washington, D.C., area, historically known as “Chocolate City.” Each episode profiles a business owner’s entrepreneurial journey and takes viewers into the kitchen to taste their signature dishes. Watch our visit to the historic Ben’s Chili Bowl, above.

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