Chili Dog and Milk Shakes
Not many snack stands have their own Wikipedia entry. But the iconic Ben's Chili Bowl on Washington, DC's U Street -formerly known as “Black Broadway”, does.
Here, local cuisine meets African-American history, because Ben's has always been an important part of the neighborhood and was therefore never completely apolitical. But the location always maintained a reconciling role - during the riots of 1968, Ben's was a meeting place for black activists as well as police and firefighters. Over the years, the small place became so well known that it became a magnet for all kinds of big names from show business and politics: Literally hundreds of celebrities like Miles Davis, Bono and Barack Obama were among its guests. The restaurant's specialties include the chili dog and milk shakes. There was - and is - no alcohol being served at Ben's.
Trailer for the movie "Traveling While Black", which was shot at Ben's.
Nonetheless, in the 50s, Ben's was popular with jazz greats who came there after their shows in the surrounding clubs. In 2019, the restaurant was the backdrop for the Canadian-American virtual-real documentary film Traveling While Black
and thus once again played a role in the struggle of African-American activists for equal treatment and rights.
On the side wall of the building is our find from the world of television - on this wall, the television reporter and news anchor Jim Vance was masterfully depicted by the artist Aniekan Udofia, known for his large-format portraits. Vance, who can be seen alongside Muhammad Ali, Harriet Tubman, Michelle and Barack Obama, Prince and Roberta Flack, among others, was one of the first African-American news anchors ever for the NBC channel of the Washington, DC region, WRC-TV, and from 1989 on, together with Doreen Gentzler, he belonged to the longest acting TV anchor duo in the city. In 1976 he was named Washingtonian
Magazine's Washingtoner of the Year. And his favorite restaurant was of course Ben's Chili Bowl.
Jim Vance at the unveiling of the new mural in 2017, just a few weeks before he passed.