For the last 65 years, Ben’s Chili Bowl has held a special place in Washington, D.C.’s heart. What started as a simple chili restaurant in 1958 has become a longstanding community hub that has served everyone from presidents to unhoused neighbors. When students head to historic U Street on an EF Explore America tour, they could have the opportunity to sit and eat at Ben’s, enjoy the jukebox playing Motown, and lean in close to see the dozens of photos that line the walls.
This beloved restaurant has played a crucial role in Black history in Washington, D.C. It stayed open through the 1968 riots that followed Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the economic decline of the predominately Black area in the 1970s and ‘80s, and gentrification of the neighborhood at the beginning of the next century. Despite everything, Ben’s has welcomed loyal customers and tourists alike for the last six decades.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with the folks at Ben’s to talk about the restaurant’s rich history and their commitment to bringing young people into this sacred space. Your students can experience this historic institution (and order a milkshake and fries) while on an EF Explore America tour to Washington, D.C.
Scroll for a brief timeline that highlights key dates in Ben’s history.