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Ben’s Chili Bowl Community Day to Have Games, NatMobile

Ben's Chili Bowl community day (Photo via Ben's Chili Bowl)

Ben’s Chili Bowl is set to throw a party with games, giveaways and the Nationals NatMobile for locals in Rosslyn this weekend.

The eatery’s second annual community day is scheduled for its location at 1725 Wilson Boulevard from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The day also will include the unveiling of Ben’s Chili Bowl’s “latest family member,” spokeswoman Vida Ali said in an email. But she didn’t elaborate.

Photo via Ben’s Chili Bowl

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Say ‘MLK’ at Ben’s Chili Bowl to Get 10 Percent Off

Ben's Chili Bowl opening in RosslynBen’s Chili Bowl in Rosslyn is offering a week-long promotion conjunction with next Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday.

The restaurant, at 1725 Wilson Blvd, is offering 10 percent off all orders through Monday, Jan. 19. To get the discount, you have to say “MLK” at the register.

News of the promotion comes from an Arlington County press release touting the county’s annual MLK tribute. The event is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 18, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street).

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.“Now in its 46th year, the family-friendly program will include live music from the Saint Augustine Gospel Choir, dance from The Dance Institute of Washington and a keynote address from Arlington’s own William T. Newman, Jr. with CBS Radio’s Justine Love serving as emcee,” according to the press release.

There will be a volunteer expo featuring local non-profits before the event. An exhibit entitled “Arlington During the Civil Rights Era” will be on display at Washington-Lee throughout the evening.

In addition to partnering with Ben’s Chili Bowl for the tribute, Arlington is also partnering with the Arlington Food Assistance Center. From the press release:

This year, the program organizers have teamed up with local non-profit Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) to collect non-perishable items for Arlington residents in need. Area community groups and individuals are encouraged to bring food drive collections to the event to “fill the AFAC van” that will be on site at Washington-Lee High School from 6:15-7 p.m.

Requested donations include:

  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Beans
  • Canned Soup
  • Cooking Oil (plastic bottles)
  • Corn Flour (Masa) or All-Purpose Flour
  • Low-Sugar Cereal

To register your group as part of the donation drive, fill out the sign-up form. The group that collects the most donations will be recognized during the MLK Tribute and on the Department of Parks and Recreation Facebook page and website.

Disclosure: Arlington County is advertising the MLK tribute event on ARLnow.com.

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Ben’s Chili Bowl to Host ‘Community Day’ on Saturday

Ben's Chili Bowl opening in RosslynBen’s Chili Bowl, less than a year after opening in Rosslyn (1725 Wilson Blvd), is hosting a a day of children’s activities and charity fundraisers for its new neighbors this weekend.

The community day will take place on Saturday, Oct. 4, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., in the parking lot of the Colonial Village Shopping Center. Ben’s is hosting face painting and balloon animals for children, and the Arlington County Fire Department will bring a fire engine for kids to tour while learning about fire prevention and safety. There will also be games with “various prizes.”

Ben’s will also be hosting a canned food drive to benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Anyone who brings in cans will get 10 percent off their next meal at the restaurant.

“Ben’s truly appreciates the excellent work that AFAC does,” Ben’s co-owner Vida Ali said in a press release, “so for this Community Day and beyond we choose to support their efforts as much as possible.”

There will also be two raffles Ben’s is hosting: anyone who pledges to “stand up against bullying,” in honor of October being National Bullying Prevention Month, will be entered into a raffle for a free lunch for two; anyone who brings in a 300 words or less story about how they gave back to the community will also be entered into a raffle for a free lunch for two people.

“Ben’s is first and foremost about family and community,” the release said. “Now, a new chapter has begun in Arlington and Ben’s is happy to invite everyone in the community to come out and enjoy a wonderful day of giving and celebrating life.”

File photo

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Photos: Ben’s Chili Bowl Opens at DCA

(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) Ben’s Chili Bowl opened its second Arlington location at Reagan National Airport this morning with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

In the pre-security section of B/C terminal of the airport, a crowd gathered to hear the Chuck Brown Band, listen to speakers and watch the Ali family, which owns Ben’s, cut the ribbon on the new restaurant. The Ben’s Chili Bowl location in Rosslyn opened in March as the first standalone, brick-and-mortar Ben’s to open since the original in 1958.

“We have a lot of visitors to our original U Street location that come from all over the country, so now people who don’t have time can stop here on their way in or out of the city,” Virginia Ali, the widow of Ben’s founder Ben Ali, said. “It’s a very attractive location.”

Ben’s historian and former Marion Barry aid Bernard Demczuk was the MC of the opening, and handed out pamphlets detailing a history of Ben’s as well as instructions on how to “properly eat a Ben’s Chili Bowl Classic chili dog.” He spoke about the late “Godfather of Go-Go” Chuck Brown — who was a famous Ben’s customer along with Bill Cosby and President Barack Obama — before introducing the band.

He also remarked on Reagan’s number of annual visitors; according to the airport, more than 20 million passengers flew in and out of the airport last year.

“That’s pretty good traffic for Ben’s Chili Bowl,” Demczuk said.

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board Member Warner Session spoke briefly after the band played its first set of songs. He said that MWAA is elated to have a Ben’s airport location.

“I live in the neighborhood and as you can see I’ve probably eaten one chili dog too many,” Session joked.

Kamal Ali was the last to speak before he and his family cut the ceremonial ribbon. Ali thanked the airport and the ceremony’s event planners, and also mentioned his late father.

“I know dad is looking down on us,” he said.

The band continued to play while Ben’s employees served their first customers, and those waiting in line to get their half-smokes and fries danced and clapped along. The band also promoted its new single and album “Beautiful Life,”  which was released today.

Inside Ben’s, two flat-screen monitors played a slideshow of the Ali’s family pictures, pictures from other Ben’s locations and footage of the U street location’s appearance on the Travel Channel show “Man Versus Food.”

“They are going to do very well here, trust me,” one woman waiting in line said. “There’s going to be a line forever.”

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Morning Notes

Fluorescent office lights can be seen as reflections in a window overlooking Reagan National Airport

Vihstadt Outraising Howze — County Board member John Vihstadt is outraising Democratic challenger Alan Howze ahead of the upcoming November election. Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, has raised $33,773 to Howze’s $6,801. [InsideNova]

‘Revenge of the Understudies’ at Signature — They prepare for roles that they rarely get to actually play, at least in front of a paying audience. On Saturday, however, the understudies at Signature Theatre will take center stage for the annual “Revenge of the Understudies” cabaret. Tickets to either of the show’s two performances — at 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. — are $25. [Washington Post]

Ben’s Chili Bowl Opening at DCA — Ben’s Chili Bowl will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Reagan National Airport location this morning. Bill Cosby won’t be there, but the Chuck Brown Band will be performing. The restaurant is located before the security checkpoints in the B/C terminal.

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Morning Notes

Stormy Ballston sunset (Flickr pool photo by Rpcann)

So Far So Good for Ben’s — The day after the new Ben’s Chili Bowl opened at 1725 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, the line stretched to the back of the restaurant throughout the afternoon. But, the Washington City Paper asks, does the new restaurant capture the authenticity of the U Street original? [Washington City Paper]

Board Candidates on Affordable Housing — The Alliance for Housing Solutions has released the answers to an affordable housing questionnaire sent to the four candidates for Arlington County Board. Each candidate calls affordable housing a “top” or “very high” priority except independent Stephen W.C. Holbrook, who writes “government must stay out of the affordable housing.” [Alliance for Housing Solutions]

Fmr. McD’s Exec Named Elevation CEO — Rick Altizer, a former McDonald’s executive, has been named the new CEO of Elevation Burger. The Arlington-based company currently has 32 locations worldwide and hopes to open about 20 more by the end of the year. [Washington Business Journal]

APS Defends CIP PR Spending — Arlington Public Schools is spending $169,000 during Fiscal Year 2014 on a public relations contractor as part of its Capital Improvement Plan process. In a memo to the school board, John Chadwick, the assistant superintendent of Facilities and Operations, argues that his department “would be overwhelmed by the amount of interaction demanded by our community” during the CIP process if it wasn’t for the PR help. [PDF]

Flickr pool photo by Rpcann

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Photos: Bill Cosby Helps to Open Ben’s Chili Bowl in Rosslyn

(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Comedian Bill Cosby joined Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette and other local notables in helping to open the new Ben’s Chili Bowl in Rosslyn this morning.

Cosby’s jokes and antics drew laughs from the large crowd of media and spectators that gathered to see the ribbon cutting for the iconic U Street eatery’s first stand-alone, brick-and-mortar expansion. Other attendees and speakers included the Ali family, which owns the restaurant; the ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago, late founder Ben Ali’s home country; WPGC DJ Shack Nd Pack; and Rosslyn BID President Mary-Claire Burick.

Cosby joked that as an aging Navy veteran, he was glad to have a Ben’s Chili Bowl near Arlington National Cemetery.

“The reason why this establishment has decided to open here is for me,” he said. “I’m 76-and-a-half years old. I’m going to have my 77th birthday in July… I spent four years in the Navy, which means I am eligible for a military funeral. Now, my can ghost make the trip here instead of flying over to U Street.”

“Over in that cemetery there is no cholesterol,” he continued. “There are no triglycerides. Eat as many as you like. Double down on the cheese and fries. A lot of people may not go to heaven, because this is heaven.”

Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette presented Cosby and Virginia Ali, Ben’s widow, with keys to Arlington. Cosby quipped that he would use it to get out of parking tickets.

“Whoa, who put me on stage after Bill Cosby?” Fisette said, to which Cosby shot back: “your mother did.”

“Thanks for choosing Arlington… for your second spot,” Fisette said. “As I’ve always said, chili for breakfast, chili for lunch, chili for dinner and a half smoke for dessert.”

Customers flooded into the the restaurant following the ribbon cutting, leaving a large crowd outside the doors, waiting to get in. Hundreds showed up to the Colonial Village Shopping Center parking lot to see Cosby speak and get some of the first tastes of chili, half smokes, hamburgers and milkshakes after standing outside in near-freezing temperatures.

The restaurant is located at 1725 Wilson Blvd, in the former Ray’s Hell Burger space. It’s owned and operated by three sons, Nizam, Kamal and Sage, and one daughter, Vida. The family said during the ribbon cutting that the restaurant plans to stay open until 4:30 a.m.

“The chili will sober you up,” Cosby said of Ben’s likely late night customers.

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Ben’s Chili Bowl Hoping to Open Next Month

Ben's Chili Bowl under construction in Rosslyn Ben's Chili Bowl under construction in Rosslyn

Ben’s Chili Bowl, the District-based late-night institution, is hoping to open its new location in Rosslyn next month.

News broke that the restaurant would be coming to Arlington in early September, and co-owner Nizam Ali told ARLnow.com he was hoping for a New Year’s Day opening, but acknowledged that was a bit too optimistic.

“The build-out is going well but the holidays got us a bit,” Ali said in an email last week. “Realistically we are about a month out, so early February is the plan right now.”

Ben’s Chili Bowl will be located at 1725 Wilson Blvd, in the old Ray’s Hell Burger storefront in Colonial Village Shopping Center. Ali has said the Rosslyn location will be designed to have the same feel as their U Street restaurant and plans to also be open for late night.

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Ben’s Chili Bowl ‘Testing the Waters’ in Rosslyn

Ben's Chili Bowl (photo via Facebook)Ben’s Chili Bowl is hoping to become part of the Arlington community when it comes to Rosslyn early next year, co-owner Nizam Ali said.

Occupying Ray’s Hell Burger’s old space at 1725 Wilson Blvd is a chance to replace a valued piece of the community, Ali told ARLnow.com.

“Ray’s was there, and everyone really valued Ray’s,” he said. “It was a great place, I’m sorry to see it go. It was an opening, and it left kind of a void that people flock to that was local and very special. It seemed like a special attempt to go there.”

The Ali family, which has owned Ben’s at it’s original U Street NW location in D.C. since it opened in 1958, have only begun expanding in the last few years, with new spots in Nationals Park, FedEx Field and the restaurant Ben’s Next Door. The Rosslyn restaurant will be its first “brick and mortar” expansion, Ali said.

“I think in our expansion, there’s so much love for the original Ben’s for many reasons, we hope that that love will continue as we expand,” Ali said. Ben’s is also working to open another spot on H Street NE, but no other concrete expansion plans are in the mix. “These stores are part of testing the waters a little bit.”

The space will be about 1,700 square feet, smaller than the original Ben’s, but Ali said he wants people to walk in and feel like they’re in the same place. However, Rosslyn Chili Bowl customers can hold one thing over the patrons of the original: they can pay with credit cards, Ali said.

Ben’s had previously looked into moving to Clarendon, hearing that it was an ideal spot for its late-night crowd, but couldn’t make a location work. Ben’s in Rosslyn will be open well into the night anyway, Ali said. The U Street store is open until 4:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and until 2:00 a.m. Monday-Thursday.

“Our goal is to be available for folks late at night as it’s needed,” he said. “I think it would be good to stay open late as long as we’re not bothering anybody… We’re a family that’s invested in communities, we want to have a community feel. We know we’re entering into a community already, we’re kind of the outsiders coming in, it’s about being respectful.”

The Ali family signed the lease in late August. Nizam Ali said he’d like to be able to open at the beginning of the new year, and hopes to partner with Arlington County to make that a reality. However, he said early 2014 is a safer prediction for when the restaurant will open.

Photo via Facebook

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