Ben’s Chili Bowl co-founder Ben Ali died 10/7 of congestive heart failure at age 82. “In a self-important city of steakhouses and expense accounts,” Ali “found fame and fortune with a chili-topped half-smoke.” His “unpretentious eatery” grew into a “down-home DC cultural touchstone,” the “most famous landmark on the city’s historic black corridor” that “brought together all races and classes, presidents and paupers, the locals and the tourists,” around a menu of chili dogs, cheese fries and milk shakes.
Comedian Bill Cosby “was perhaps its most famous regular,” and Pres. Obama and family joined him on the coveted list of customers who eat free after his ‘08 election. DC Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) mourned the loss of one of the “greatest treasures in the District of Columbia,” a man “who invested his life in a small business that weathered many storms and became the soul of a neighborhood and the pride of our city” (Jordan, Washington Times, 10/9).