It's Been A While

It's Been A While

It's been a while since my last entry, so I guess I will just talk about what's been going on recently. The first thing that comes to mind is the weather. It has been crazy hot here in D.C. I didn't realize what a difference moving two hours south would make. I don't mind heat generally, but I have a 10-minute walk to the Metro and a fifteen-minute walk to work. In June I didn't mind so much, but in July has become the worst part of my day.


Last Wednesday we had class on U Street and it was a really wonderful experience. We had a private tour of the Lincoln Theater and then we ate dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl. I did not have any of the chili, but I heard from my classmates that it was absolutely delicious. Apparently it is one of the most well-known chili restaurants in the nation and has been on a variety of food-oriented television shows.


Ben's Chili Bowl


Chili is not the only reason Ben's Chili Bowl is famous; when the 1968 riots began in D.C. after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Ben's Chili bowl and the Lincoln theater were the only places left untouched by rioters and looters. The rioters, mostly blacks living in the U Street neighborhood, had a special reverence for the Lincoln Theater and Ben's Chili Bowl. Ben's Chili Bowl represents an African-American success story at a time of high racial discrimination and the Lincoln Theater provided a stage for hundreds of African-American entertainment icons. After the riots, Ben's Chili Bowl was the only restaurant still open -- everything else in the area had been destroyed or shut down by the government. Lines went out the door and down the street as people waited for hours for their chili. I learned all this from a speech delivered by a man named Mr. Brown. He spoke to our class, a Dutch family, and a group from Pennsylvania (my home state!) about the history of Ben's Chili Bowl. He told us that Bill Cosby was a frequent patron of Ben's Chili Bowl, he loves the Chili and he also had his first date with his wife there. Barack Obama has also eaten in Ben's Chili Bowl.


Pictures and paintings adorn the inside of the room we ate in, covering the walls like a giant collage. Ben's Chili Bowl is a family owned restaurant and there is a huge emphasis on family values, so many of the pictures on the wall were pictures of the family that started Ben's Chili Bowl, the Ali's.


The decor at Bens' Chili Bowl has not been changed since Cosby first ate there with his girlfriend which gives it this kind of campy quality; you sort of feel like you could be eating in a restaurant in the late sixties. It was great hearing about the 1968 riots, while I was sitting in a restaurant that made me feel like it still was 1968.


I really enjoyed my trip to U Street and I hope I can make it back sometime to actually have a meal at Ben's Chili Bowl.

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