Food & Wine
Her restaurant, Ben's Chili Bowl, has been a gathering place for people of all kinds, from community organizers to world leaders. The banquettes at Ben's Chili Bowl were packed. The stools were occupied. It was hard to get a seat at this D.C. institution, but the food came out quickly, so you only had to wait a few minutes for the tables to turn. It was 1963, and a young man waiting inside the restaurant was impatient and stressed. Virginia Ali, the proprietor of this local joint, could feel the man's angst and quickly cleared a table. "What's wrong?" she asked.