The iconic Ben's Chili Bowl, which just celebrated its 55th anniversary on U Street NW, will open its first Virginia location in the former home of the original Ray's Hellburger in Rosslyn.
Ben's co-owner Nizam Ben Ali confirms the restaurant's ownership has signed a lease for 1725 Wilson Blvd., which is in the shopping center that used to house Ray's and is still home to Pho 75, Guajillo and Bean Good coffee, among others.
The new location would likely open before the other Ben's Chili Bowl spot now on the drawing board for the Washington region, on H Street NE. Ben's in Rosslyn is aiming for an early 2014 opening, Ali said.
The buildout of the H Street location is more elaborate given that the building did not previously house a restaurant, and will open later, maybe by late spring or early summer, he said.
Ali said he and his family had been looking for space in the Clarendon area for awhile as they explored other markets.
"[Clarendon] wasn't panning out, and this spot was kind of interesting," he said. "We thought that would be an interesting area to go as we try to grow."
Part of the expansion is to make Ben's more accessible to everyone.
"Sometimes it's very difficult to get to Ben's on U Street, with the parking," Ali said. "As we grow, we want to test out different markets and we hope the love will be there in Arlington as it is on U Street."
As to whether President Barack Obama will also be a fixture at this location — as he was at Ray's Hellburger — Ali said he'll welcome the president to any of his restaurants.
"We'd love to have President Obama at any location," Ali said. - Rebecca Cooper - Washington Business Journal