August 22, 1958, marks a big day in the District's history: the birth of Ben’s Chili Bowl's famous chili dog and chili half-smoke, considered some of the city's only indigenous foods. Why does the beans-topped tubular meat deserve a 50th birthday bash this weekend, complete with visits from Bill Cosby, Roberta Flack, and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty?
Ben’s is one of the few culinary landmarks in this town not associated with JFK trying to shtup some bimbo, it remains a steadfast supporter of its Shaw neighborhood, and it still serves the best half-smoke around.
That's how Washington City Paper food columnist Tim Carman described the institution to Anthony Bourdain when the No Reservations host was in town recently to shoot an episode. The point here: Ben's is more than mediocre chili. Even during rough times in the U Street neighborhood—like in 1968, after Martin Luther King Jr's assassination sparked riots outside Ben's doors—the family business toughed it out. Watch a two-minute history on the D.C. landmark after the jump.