Bill Cosby, along with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mayor Vincent Gray, was on hand Thursday to celebrate the 55th anniversary of a Washington institution: Ben's Chili Bowl.
The venerable greasy spoon on U Street NW is famous for its half-smoke sausages smothered in chili.
"It's a long run. It's been an exciting, never, never boring 55 years," co-owner Virginia Ali said.
Since its opening in 1958, the restaurant has long been a significant gathering place for African-Americans in the city. Ben's has endured in its original location at 1213 U Street despite the ups and downs of the surrounding neighborhood, which is now thriving.
"I think because the ownership is kind...and they feed people, and they care for people," Civil Rights leader Rev. Jackson said. "I think it's an oasis in the desert."
Cosby, a longtime patron and booster of Ben's, introduced Ben's long-term employees. Some, he said, have worked at the landmark for more than 30 years.
Cosby was joined by the owners of Ben's and other luminaries including Mayor Vincent Gray for the restaurant's anniversary celebration on Thursday.
The establishment survived economic downturns, the 1968 riots and gentrification.
"Ben's really represents the District of Columbia," D.C. council member Jack Evans said.
Virginia's husband Ben Ali died in 2009, but his legacy is carried on in his sons and their wives who now run the business.
"It's a very integrated community, we have such diversity here," Virginia Ali said. "I think the world should look like Ben's Chili Bowl!"
The family plans to soon open a new location on 8th Street.
Photos below courtesy of Michael Akin: