Ben’s Chili Bowl offering free Half Smokes to celebrate 65th anniversary

WTOP: Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a staple on D.C.’s U Street for more than six decades since it opened on Aug. 22, 1958. On Tuesday, the restaurant celebrates its 65th anniversary by giving out free meals.Starting at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22, visitors to the original 1213 U St. location in Northwest D.C. will have a choice of a free half smoke or a beef, turkey or veggie dog, along with a bag of chips and a soda or bottled water.“All of us at Ben’s are humbled by and thankful for the love and support we constantly receive from our guests and the city of Washington, D.C. as we continue to build upon the rich history of community service that Ben’s has been known for throughout the years,” Ben’s Chili Bowl said in a news release.The afternoon celebration will follow a noon news conference. In June, Ben’s announced that Giant Food grocery stores would begin carrying their products, and that they were planning to begin expanding beyond the D.C. region.The restaurant said Go-Go music, dignitaries and celebrities will also be on-site to celebrate the restaurant.

When Ben and Virginia Ali opened the U Street location on Black Broadway in 1958, it became a gathering spot for community members, activists and celebrities, such John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and more.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. frequented Ben’s around the time of his March on Washington and “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. When he was assassinated in 1968, the D.C. government asked Ben’s to stay open amid the ensuing riots to serve first responders and community members.In 2009, Barack Obama’s first D.C. public outing as president-elect was a visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl — his first stop in a long line of D.C. restaurant visits throughout his two terms as president.Ben’s Chili Bowl partnered with Lay’s and Pepsi to offer free meals at the U Street location Tuesday, which are limited to one a person and are available while supplies last.

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