Thursday, August 21, 2008

ben's chili bowl - a rare place

Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington is celebrating its 50th anniversary. A rarity for small businesses, especially where Ben's is located - it survived the 1968 riots and the downturn in that part of DC, and is going strong as the U Street corridor has revived.

Apart from having great chili dogs and other good cheap food, Ben's is interesting because it draws a real mixed crowd. For most of its time it was mostly blacks (as was the case at the Florida Avenue Grill, not far away) but as U Street has gentrified, others also eat there, ranging from movie and TV stars (Bill Cosby for one) to lawyers to street people.

Which makes Ben's a valuable example of a sadly-diminishing breed - public spaces where different classes of Americans mix.



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