In 1958, newlyweds Ben and Virginia Ali used $5,000 to begin renovating a building at 1213 U Street. Built in 1910, it first housed a silent movie house called the Minnehaha Theater. Later, Harry Beckley, one of D.C.’s first Black police detectives, converted it into a pool hall.

On August 22, 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl opened for business.

From the tumult of the late 60’s race riots to the tough times in the 70’s and 80’s and finally to the revitalization of the U Street Corridor beginning in the 90’s, Ben’s has seen it all. Bill Cosby and thousands of others attended our 45th anniversary in August 2003.

And just ten days before his inauguration on January 10, 2009, President-Elect Barack Obama visited and ate lunch here.

After a 50 plus year journey, business is booming and the Ben’s brand is red hot. Ben’s has also expanded by opening a new restaurant and bar called Ben's Next Door, in addition to outposts at Nationals Stadium and FedEx Field. In 2015, we opened our third location on H Street, NE, and one year later opened Ben's Upstairs located - you guessed it - upstairs from H Street.


Before or after you enjoy your meal with us, be sure to stop by our Visitor’s Center located conveniently next door! Just enter and walk up the staircase to the right of the Ben’s Chili Bowl entrance. The gift shop is located on the second floor above our full service restaurant Ben's Next Door. We have our popular t-shirts, aprons, Ben's history book, hats, photos, and many other items for sale. The shop is open from 11am to 6pm daily or you can order online.

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