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. The street (U Street) was then known nationally as “Black Broadway” and Washington D.C. was still segregated. But all were always welcome at Ben’s.
From the burning and looting of the 1968 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 and survived it all. Thousands attended our 50th anniversary celebration in August 2008 and our 60th in August 2018.
And just ten days before his inauguration on January 10, 2009, President-Elect Barack Obama visited and ate lunch here.
After a 61 plus year journey, the Ben’s brand is red hot and is a must-visit restaurant for anyone visiting Washington. Ben’s has also expanded by opening its first new restaurant and bar called Ben’s Next Door in 2008, in addition to outposts at the Nationals baseball Stadium and FedEx Field. In 2014, we opened our third location in Rosslyn, VA, and one year later opened a Ben’s Chili Bowl on H ST in NE and also at Reagan National Airport. Just recently we opened a Ben’s Chili Bowl at Capital One Arena.
The one constant we’ve had since 1958 has been the loyalty of our customers, and we listened when you said, “whatever you do, never change this place.” The counter, booths and stools are all original; the fresh homemade chili is still made with love, using the same secret recipe, and service and quality are guiding principles. To our customers and especially our regulars, we appreciate you and thank you for supporting Ben’s. To those reading this that have yet to come to Ben’s, we look forward to seeing you very soon!
This Business Supports “Minority Economic Development”