?WASHINGTON � Ben Ali, the founder of Ben's Chili Bowl diner, a landmark in Washington's black business and entertainment district and a frequent stop for politicians and celebrities, has died. He was 82. Ali died of congestive heart failure Wednesday night at his home, his daughter-in-law Sonya Ali said yesterday. Ben Ali was born in 1927 and opened the restaurant with his wife, Virginia, in an old movie house in 1958, when Dwight D Eisenhower was President and integrating public schools. It became a longtime fixture in the black business community, serving up bowls of chili and its trademark chili-covered half-smokes.
The smothered sausages became Washington's answer to the Philly Cheese Steak when rivalries flared between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. Ali's family posted a statement on the restaurant's Web site thanking people for their outpouring of support. "Family, friends, and countless fans of Ben's will sorely miss the energetic and unforgettable personality of Ben Ali. He was a true hero of the people and a great example of someone who actually epitomized the American dream," the family wrote. Ali was an immigrant from Trinidad, earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Nebraska and moved to Washington to study at Howard University's medical and dental schools. (AP)