Bill Cosby, President Obama Celebrate Ben's Chili Bowl On D.C. Eatery's 55th Anniversary

WASHINGTON -- Landmark D.C. restaurant Ben's Chili Bowl celebrated its 55th anniversary Thursday with a mayoral proclamation, a congratulatory letter from President Obama and a visit from everyone's favorite TV dad.

Bill Cosby, Ben's most famous fan, arrived to cheers Thursday morning. Speaking before a crowd spilling over into U Street, Cosby eschewed the spotlight to honor instead the restaurant's longtime employees.

The Washington Post notes that Cosby isn't the only celebrity to enjoy a half-smoke at Ben's over the years:

The range of A-listers who have stopped by Ben’s is impressive. Actors Denzel Washington and Chris Tucker, the singer Bono and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy have all made appearances. In the early days, according to Ben’s, guests included Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and even Martin Luther King Jr.

Cosby has been a longtime supporter of the restaurant, which famously hangs a sign stating that only one customer eats free at Ben's -- Bill Cosby (the sign was later updated to include the Obama family on the gratis list).

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In honor of Ben's 55th birthday, President and Michelle Obama sent a note saying that the family will return to the restaurant soon; President Obama chowed down on a chili half-smoke and cheese fries during a 2009 visit, just days before his first inauguration.

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D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray proclaimed Thursday Ben's Chili Bowl Day in the nation's capital.

A neighborhood institution since 1958, Ben's Chili Bowl was "one of the few businesses that remained opened through the [1968] riots" that followed the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 55th anniversary celebration comes just as the city begins commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington with a packed schedule of events.

The 1963 March On Washington