33 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The most famous hotdog stand on U Street, and some would argue the world, has endured the test of time.

Ben's Chili Bowl is celebrating 55-years of service Thursday, August 22, 2013.

Bill Cosby joined Mayor Vincent Gray and the Ali family to celebrate the U Street institution.

Not much has changed through the decades and that's why people keep coming back.

"I really like their hot dogs, their chili, it's really nice," said one customer.

Ben and Virginia Ali opened Ben's Chili bowl during segregation. A decade later it would be one of the few left standing during the DC riots.

U Street was the booming black entertainment and business district. But the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior changed everything.

When every business around them was burning, Ben's kept their doors open. Virginia Ali, Owner says, "Our diversity speaks for itself even before integration we were welcoming everybody."

Councilman Marion Barry said, "During the riots they kept open, along with the flower shop and National Bank. All others were closed. They were never threatened or firebombed because people loved what they were trying to do."

Roach Brown remembers the restaurant being the hub for meetings during the civil rights movement.

"They would have lunches and bring kids from Howard University have session telling them about their rights and what their history was."

Barry says, "50 years later we have some of the same problems. We have more people in poverty as we did in 1963."

"We were open to everybody and we are today and sometimes, when I look around and see the diversity, I think the world should look more like Ben's Chili Bowl," saidVirginia Ali.

Ben Ali died several years ago, but the family, sons and their wives are carrying on the legacy.

33 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.wusa9.com/1lzDZTi