Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thanks for the Half-Smoke (with Ben's Chili, Cheese and Onions) and the History

Though I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I would like to say thank you to Ben Ali, the founder of Ben's Chili Bowl, in the U Street Corridor of Washington. Mr. Ali passed away yesterday, and the legacy that he has left is one to be reckoned with. A simple restaurant established in 1958 in the old Minnehaha Theater became an institution and a symbol of perseverance, and it just so happened to serve really good food (I already said what I liked).

Stories are already being filed about Mr. Ali and his legacy (here, here, and here are just a few); there will be more to come, and he deserves every single accolade. Mr. Ali embodied the spirit and resiliance of Washington, the city, and we were lucky that he chose to make this city his home.

I extend my condolences to the Ali family, and may Mr. Ali rest in peace.


Anonymous said...

I like Ben's Chili Bowl, but just out of curiosity, why did he have to preserve? Why did he have to be resilient? My guess is that you are referring to the riots that devastated that part of the city and the general crime and decay that was left for decades after the riots? Who do you think is responsible for that crime?

hscfree said...

Why the smoke and mirrors? Just state the obvious. Black folks were responsible for that crime. Am I supposed to be afraid of saying that? Hardly. Ali is emblematic of those in Washington's black community that stands in the face of the crime and decay and keeps going. It is a shame that it was the case, but he hung in there, and that is praiseworthy.