Virginia Ali is a truly incredible woman. Her earthly life began on her parents' Virginia farm on December 17th, 1933, and today she is as vibrant as ever. She smiles whenever recounting her fond memories of childhood on the farm, her deep involvement in her family's country church, her college studies at Virginia Union University, and moving to Washington, DC as a young woman to find her destiny.
As her beloved DC community knows so well, Virginia's historic destiny found her the day she met Ben Ali, her husband and partner in life, love, family, and business. The dynamic newlyweds opened the doors of the now iconic Ben's Chili Bowl on August 22, 1958. Today, over 55 years later, this institution has become a place of fond memories for countless friends from DC, Maryland, Virginia, and all around the world.
Known affectionately as "Mom" or Mrs. Ben, Virginia has touched the lives of everyone she has encountered. Although she has achieved near celebrity status, her demeanor has never changed – with all her natural poise and sophistication, she still exemplifies the pure, wholesome values instilled by her parents. She lives a philosophy of giving love and kindness to everyone she meets, and as a result she is cherished and respected in a way that is very rare these days. In fact, at this point she is considered the "Matriarch of U Street" and countless DC residents call her "Mom."
In addition to all the hours she has put in at Ben's Chili Bowl, Virginia has also made time for many other meaningful endeavors. She has served on the Board of Directors of For Love of Children, The Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage, the Islamic Society of the Greater Washington Area, and Cultural Tourism DC among others.
Over the years, Virginia and Ben have received countless awards and accolades including the prestigious America's Classics Restaurant Award from the James Beard Foundation. They were inducted into the DC Hall of Fame in 2002 and were later given the Key to the City by Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. More recently, the Smithsonian placed Ben’s Chili Bowl on its list of the 20 Most Iconic Food Destinations Across America.
With all that she has accomplished thus far, Virginia isn't resting on her laurels. As her family, friends, and employees will attest, she is a true dynamo who encourages those around her to live fully and strive for excellence in all areas of life. She gives generously of herself and her time, and despite all the recognition and accolades, she is perhaps best known for her kind, loving nature and her very sound wisdom. Virginia is truly a people person, and we are all very thankful for everything she gives us by simply being herself.