The other night, my beloved hometown lost a great one. Ben Ali passed on. Ben, along with his wife Virginia, founded Ben's Chili Bowl in 1958.

Ben's has been an institution in Washington, DC ever since. Many feel that Barack Obama's visit last year put Ben's on the map, but I beg to differ. Homegrown folks, along with tourists who've done their homework, have paraded through Ben's for years. If you've never had a chili half smoke, do yourself a favor, trek over to the U Street corridor, and throw caution to the wind.

Ben's is one of those places where families of tourists sit next to businessmen with their ties tossed over their shoulders and everyone is digging in. In between are local, national, and international celebrities. Never be surprised at who's sitting next to you in Ben's. They are open nearly 24 hours a day, closing for only a few hours for cleaning and restocking.

Mr Ben was a good guy, as are his children, who've been running the place in recent years. I sure wish I could get there this weekend. RIP Mr Ali...

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