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Virginia Ali

Virginia Ali

Co-Founder of Ben's Chili Bowl

Virginia Ali, born Virginia Rollins in 1933, is more than just the co-founder of the iconic Ben's Chili Bowl. She's a pillar of Washington, D.C.'s cultural and social fabric, a tireless advocate for community, and a living testament to resilience and dedication.


Her journey began in rural Virginia, but opportunity drew her to D.C. in the 1950s. While working as a teller, she met Benjamin Ali, a charismatic young entrepreneur. Together, they purchased a struggling chili bowl stand in 1958, transforming it into the vibrant landmark it is today. Virginia not only brought her sharp business acumen, but also a warmth and hospitality that made Ben's feel like a second home for countless patrons.


Virginia Ali's legacy shines brightly as we celebrate her remarkable accomplishments, which encompass co-founding Ben's Chili Bowl, a small eatery transformed into a cultural landmark that fosters community gatherings and political dialogue. Beyond the realm of food, Ali has been a staunch advocate for social justice, utilizing her platform to champion civil rights and equality, and striving to promote a more inclusive and equitable society. Moreover, her dedication to serving the community extends beyond the walls of the restaurant, as she has committed herself to education, youth development, and various local initiatives, leaving a lasting and positive impact on the landscape of Washington D.C.


Virginia Ali's story is one of grit, grace, and unwavering commitment. She serves as an inspiration to generations, reminding us of the power of community, the importance of giving back, and the enduring impact we can leave on the world around us. Her legacy, like the aroma of chili filling the air at Ben's, continues to nourish and inspire, reminding us that the greatest legacies are built on service, inclusivity, and a genuine love for the people and places we call home.

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