Young and Hungry

Chili Relations: Anthony Holmon Takes on Ben’s Chili Bowl

Anthony Holmon Takes On Ben's Chili Bowl

Anthony Ulysses Holmon doesn’t work at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Not anymore, anyway. But he still wears the jacket. The shiny maroon hoodie emblazoned with the Ben’s logo set him back $50 when he served as the night manager at D.C.’s most famous hot dog joint, Holmon says. And he’s determined to get his money’s worth.

“Now I use my jacket and my Ben’s hat as an advertisement,” says Holmon. “It’s like, ‘Oh, you work at Ben’s?’ Not no more. I’m getting ready to open my own chili bowl.”

For weeks, Holmon, 39, has been promoting his own restaurant concept—an idea based almost entirely on one-upping Washington’s legendary half-smoke landmark—largely via Twitter and in interviews with WTOP. He’s calling the concept “D.C. Chili Bowl.”

While he’s talked publicly about several possible locations—including setting up shop inside the now-shuttered Capital City Diner on Bladensburg Road NE—Holmon does not have a lease. At least not yet.

But he has gotten a reaction. A lawyer representing the Ali family, which has operated Ben’s since its late founder Ben Ali first opened the joint on U Street NW back in 1958, sent him a cease and desist letter, dated Feb. 15, which alleged that his use of the words “Chili Bowl” constitute federal trademark infringement and threatened to sue if Holmon moves forward.

Holmon, however, is undaunted. “I think it was a scare tactic,” he says, vowing not to back down. “Wendy’s didn’t call McDonald’s and ask if they could open another burger joint. Chef Spike [Mendelsohn] didn’t call Burger King and ask if he could open Good Stuff Eatery. Martin Luther King said if a man can build a better mousetrap then the world will beat a path to his door if he made his house in the woods. That’s the way I feel….I can do some things in the kitchen that the whole [Ali] family put together couldn’t do.”

Openly challenging one of the city’s most beloved institutions is a bold position to take. A longstanding symbol of African-American entrepreneurship, Ben’s Chili Bowl remains a popular destination for tourists and an almost obligatory campaign stop for any politician seeking citywide office. Culturally, the place holds a permanent place in the District’s collective consciousness—even if, digestively, the signature spicy sauce offers many of us only heartburn.

While it might sound like culinary treason, Holmon brazenly suggests he’s merely riding the same coattails as the descendants of Ben Ali themselves. “They get something that came their way, latch onto it and promote it,” he says.

We’re sitting at DC-3, the modish hot dog shop run by the Matchbox group on Capitol Hill, which appropriately offers its own approximation of Ben’s signature sausage: the “DC hot half-smoke,” laced with mustard, onions and relish. Unlike the Ben’s standard-bearer, it doesn’t come with chili. It also costs a little less: $4.49 compared to $5.70.

Holmon seems underwhelmed by DC-3’s version. He’s not too keen on the onion topping, either. “Onions make a difference when they’re cut fresh,” he says. “A day-old onion or two day-old onion takes away from the taste.” To Holmon, DC-3’s topping smacks of old age. “They weren’t cut today,” he says. (DC-3 declined to comment.)

Discussing the DC-3 dog’s apparent shortcomings naturally leads Holmon into dishing about his beef with Ben’s. The onions are just a starting point. At Ben’s, “they chop their onions in the buffalo chopper,” he says, referring to a kind of industrial-sized food processor that the restaurant says it sometimes uses. “Never do that,” Holmon says. “For one, it pulls all the water out of the onions, so you’ve got a bunch of soggy onions.”

Over the course of our hour-long lunch, Holmon doesn’t stop riffing on how Ben’s could improve its food and service—a list of things he pledges to do differently at his own place.

For instance, Holmon doesn’t approve of the way Ben’s staffers don’t wear gloves when handling the food. He also takes issue with the restaurant’s use of canned cheese sauce. “I would fine-tune it,” he says. “Drop a bag of shredded cheddar in it or something. Not just open a can and heat it up.” He further points to the family’s refusal to offer fried onions or cornbread as an accompaniment for the chili.

Holmon says he had hoped to work with the Alis to help modernize their longstanding business. He claims the chili bowl clan simply wouldn’t listen. To hear him tell it, the Ali family is a decadent bunch that is resting on their laurels and resistant to change—to their own detriment.

“Quality on a scale of one to ten at Ben’s Chili Bowl is a three,” Holmon says. “I believe in giving the customer what they want. If you’re going to charge me six dollars for a half-smoke, don’t tell me what I can’t have on it. If I tell you to split two and put it in the bun you should still give it to me.”

Naturally, Ben’s brass disputes a lot of what Holmon says, ranging from the cornbread—which, according to the family, is actually an option with large chili orders—to his characterization of them as content to sacrifice better business practices for the sake of tradition. “The only thing that hasn’t changed at Ben’s is the chili recipe,” says daughter-in-law Vida Ali.

If Holmon, a self-described 20-year food industry veteran, with prior stints at Starbucks, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and even the CIA cafeteria, comes off like a disgruntled former employee, that’s because he is.

Holmon contends the Ali family unfairly accused him of stealing from the register and fired him. Ben’s co-owner Kamal Ali describes Holmon’s termination in less stark terms. “The register was showing some shortages, and he was the manager, and he was the responsible party for the shift and the shortages,” Ali says. “We did not accuse him of stealing…We did say, ‘You are the one responsible.’”

Holmon says he was not the only one with access to the register that night and is consulting lawyers about potentially suing Ben’s for wrongful termination. (According to D.C. Superior Court records, Holmon has a track record of suing former employers, including a pair of 2008 suits against Starbucks and a 2007 case against Lucky Strike.)

Ali confirms that Holmon worked at Ben’s as night manager for several months before he was let go in January. But according to both parties, their relationship goes back farther. Ali first met Holmon while he was working for Centerplate, the former food service operator at Nationals Park, which managed the Ben’s Chili Bowl stands there back in 2008.

Holmon was fired from that job amid what he describes as personality clashes with management.

Regardless, Holmon’s relationship with the Ben’s brand continued. Holmon approached Ali with a pitch for another Ben’s Chili Bowl concession at a minor league ballpark in Woodbridge. Ali agreed. “It was a very small-scale affair,” says Ali, who adds that the 2010 venture ended up losing money.

For a short time after that, Holmon operated his own soul-food restaurant in Clinton, Md. By all accounts, the place didn’t last long; Holmon says the location was low on foot traffic.

Ali says he felt sorry for Holmon’s failed restaurant venture, so the family gave him a job at the original Ben’s about six months ago. The chili bowl scion adds that he even helped Holmon find an apartment—a place that Ali says he was paying for. Holmon confirms that Ali paid the first month’s rent and security deposit but says that subsequent months were being deducted from his paycheck.

“He’s still in the apartment as far as I’m aware,” says Ali, who describes Holmon’s negative comments about Ben’s as “a stab in the back” after all he’s done for the guy. Holmon says he’s currently looking for cheaper digs in Southeast D.C. “Legally, I’ve got to get him out of there,” adds Ali. “And, legally, I’ve got to get him to stop using the name.”

Ali says Holmon “poses no significant threat” to Ben’s. “He has dreams without means right now,” Ali says. “He doesn’t have a facility. He doesn’t have the rights to use that name. I don’t think he has a real company set up or anything of that nature. He’s just trying to create something out of nothing. He wants to profit off our family’s good name and reputation in the city.”

Ali says Holmon left him no choice but to unleash the lawyers. “You’re causing confusion to the public,” Ali says. “The public is confused and thinks you have an association with the same place or the same product….For him to take it on, well, he’s obviously trying to make a quick benefit.”

Ali says he holds no ill will toward the former employee. “I just wish he would use his own creativity and his own experience in food service to come up with his own ideas and concepts,” Ali says. “He claims he’s been in food service for 20 years. He’s got all these ideas, but they all seem to center around my business and my product and my name.”

Holmon disputes the Ali family’s legal claim, suggesting the registered trademark for “Ben’s Chili Bowl” doesn’t restrict every generic “chili bowl” in town. He points to a defunct Coney Island Chili Bowl on Benning Road NE, which presently seems to exist only in a few Internet references, as an example of a similar titled enterprise the Ali family never sued.

Ali says he was unaware of that operation. “If we had known of another business with ‘chili bowl’ in the name, we would have certainly taken the same legal action,” Ali says.

Holmon also disputes the Ali’s outright dismissal of his business prospects. He says he’s got about $2,500 in start-up cash and is seeking investors. Over the next several weeks, he says he’s scheduled some 17 separate tasting events at local office buildings in order to help promote his own product while looking for a permanent location for the restaurant.

If Holmon’s search for a site is any indication, he could be a thorn in the Ali family’s side for months to come.

“I just noticed a location five blocks from Ben’s is available,” he says. “I’m trying to find out who owns it.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Eatery tips? Food pursuits? Send suggestions to hungry@washingtoncitypaper.com.

  • StrangeFruit

    Hey City Paper,

    I got $2,500 and fifty cent for a start-up, can I get some free press too?

  • Creativemeat

    It does seem odd that this guy is getting so much publicity for a nonexistant restaurant that will never open. He's delusional to think that naming his place DC Chili Bowl within a few miles of Ben's isn't trademark infringement.

    It's sad to use this guy for a few extra web clicks. Usually, someone with a history of civil lawsuits is a few cards short of a full deck.

  • Jon

    how about calling the place DC Sausage In a Bun With Meat Sauce Bowl.

  • anthony ulysses holmon

    I am glad that we live in the United States of America where we can express ourselves in many different ways. Does anyone know how Ben's Chili Bowl got started ???????? I figured you all did'nt, I wont tell that story here today. I will say that Mr. Ali started the same way I did. I have been told by native washintonians that Mr. Ali was working for a lady selling hot dogs before he opened Ben's Chili Bowl that is the part of the story that everyone leaves out. He thought that he could do a better job and did a great job for the business to still be standing 50 years later. As a man with a family to take care of and bills to pay. What will you do if your employer says you no longer have a job and move out of the apartment we help you move into. Business is Business. DC Chili Bowl will be a modern day "Chili Bowl" with a consumer friendly menu, kids meals and non tourist prices. I am the owner and operator of DC Chili Bowl and I approve this message.

  • Sewsewsoso

    This is really lame. Why give this guy press? So many more important things in DC need press and you waste your time writing this gossip. We don't need a second rate Page Six...

  • anthony ulysses holmon

    To be honest about what had me thinking long and hard about doing a "Chili Bowl" was all the negative comments and changes that the consumers were posting on Yelp. When I was managing Ben's Chili Bowl I would read the comments and share them with the staff. (this was not something tha was being done before I started working there) If I was thinking about franchising the first place I would start is with what the consumer is saying about my brand. One thing is certain and two for sure you cannot duplicate history. I am the owner and operator of DC Chili Bowl and I approve this message

  • Pingback: Chili Relations: Anthony Holmon Takes on Ben's Chili Bowl | Informatic Web

  • Blackie

    Am I missing something? This "self-described 20-year food industry veteran" has been fired from 4 different jobs since 2007? And is suing at least 3 of them? Are we to take him seriously? It even looks like the Ali family tried to help him by paying for his apartment. Give me a break. I am the owner and operator of my laptop and I approve this message.

  • anthony ulysses holmon

    Fired from four different Jobs not true. The Ali's know the guy who owns the building and yes they paid the first months and security deposit, after which my check was deducted for rent. That still does not justify letting me go for a problem in which anyone could have been blamed for. More than 7 people know the register code as well as ring on the same register. To fire me and say move out of the building which im paying rent is a little more that me being responsible for my shift. The sad thing about working in the hospitality industry is that workers are always miss treated, wrongfully terminated and always looking for something better. I have a family to take care of so when you tell me to take a break and get out of the apartment thats not behind in rent that im paying for I dont take that lightly. Thank you for researching my background. I am the owner and operator of DC Chili Bowl and I approve this message

  • Tom Eddy

    This guy really has some serious issues!! This family took the time and effort to help a person like this and this is the thanks that they get in return! Where would you and your family be without them? You really need to check in to your spiritual being and thank these people for bending over backwards for you at a time of need. I know the Ali family and they have no problem helping most people in the community. You need to count your blessings and move on in your own way and stop thinking about just yourself. Talk about a stab in the back!!!

  • BCBB

    What a terrible, tactless, and half-cooked launch strategy. Why would anyone invest in a poor track record of accountability, responsibility, and management? This is not creating friends, fans, followers, and goodwill, and if that's not clear then there's even less business acumen here than already apparent.

    At the end of the day, the Ali family are just flat out good people.

    Anthony: Take off that jacket, you don't deserve to wear it. Yes, it's America and you can make your own way and start what you will -- so be quiet, don't hurt the people that helped you, and just do it. (and best of luck to you....). I'm a proud DC resident and I don't approve of any of your messages.

  • Ian

    Seems that someone who is so desperately trying to start up a business has the time to respond to any criticism like this was a post on his Facebook page. I appreciate the quote from MLK but he would never burn a bridge and deface someone who gave you an opportunity, especially with an establishment that has done so much for the city of DC.

    Must be slow at City Paper these days, I'm thinking of designing a better Washington monument.

  • Keisha

    Exactly what is the purpose of this article and what is his real intentions. This man seems to be an ungrateful, crab in a bucket fool. He was given an opportunity to do a job and apparently he did not do it well and was let go. From his own words Ben's paid for his security deposit and first months rent. That is not something that bad employers do. So now this guy gets an article and publicity to slander his employer. For shame on you City Paper, for shame.

  • Ian

    Seems that someone who is so desperately trying to start up a business has the time to respond to any criticism like this was a post on his Facebook page. I appreciate the quote from MLK but he would never burn a bridge and deface someone who gave you an opportunity, especially with an establishment that has done so much for the city of DC.

    Must be slow at City Paper these days, I'm thinking of designing a better Washington monument, looking forward to being on the cover next week

  • Tim Naylor

    Bun = Soft and fresh
    Chili = Spicy
    Half Smoke = Crispy outside and Juicy Inside

    They make the food in front of your face. They serve 100's of people an hour. They need employees that are willing to work in hot cramped conditions that will still serve the food with a great attitude to hordes of drunk people.

    There are SO MANY things Ben's gets right. It takes a lot of money, thought, and follow through to get those things right.... there are 100's of businesses that I could tell you I could 'do' better than them if I dont have to worry about making a profit and building the brand (because I'm stealing someone else's)

    This guy is a joke and the fact that this even got coverage is hilarious- dissapointing but hilarious.

  • Smitty

    If Mr. Holmon truly believed he could offer a product -- or a customer service experience -- that could rival Ben's Chili Bowl, he wouldn't need to rely on blatant trademark infringement and to get his restaurant off the ground. The analogy between his efforts and those of Wendy's and Spike Mendelsohn when they took on McDonald's and Burger King is nonsensical, albeit comedic.

    While it's nearly impossible to choose between the remainder of Mr. Holmon's fantastic comments (and those offered by enamored author Chris Shott) for further dissection, it's impossible to ignore the mean-spirited (and patently untrue) characterizations of the Ali family that run throughout the article. Anyone who has interacted with any one of the family members for even a few minutes knows that words like "decadent" couldn't be more fictitious. And to read that the same family Mr. Holmon disparages actually paid for a place for him to reside -- even as he came up with this pathetic plan -- is especially telling (and especially rich).

    Along those lines, shame on the City Paper (and WTOP) for giving Mr. Holmon the wholly undeserved exposure he seeks...though I admit to feeling a newfound enlightenment after reading his insightful comments about the importance of chopping onions one-by-one and the culinary magic that results from adding bags of shredded cheddar into cans of cheese sauce.

    In closing, best of luck to Mr. Holmon on the new venture -- for his sake, I hope there are investors out there who really, really enjoy cornbread.

  • Ben

    I still think you should change the name, and really focus on offering something that sets you apart from Ben's, and open up someplace else, not a few doors down. Focus on creating a worthy competitor, instead of bad-mouthing them in the press. Best of luck to you - Ben's is great, but they do coast on their reputation and legacy - competition would be a good thing.

    Also that quote's not from MLK - it's been attributed to Emerson, but I'm not sure that's right either. There's a lot of misquoting of Dr. King going on these days.

  • Summer W.

    You can't top Ben's. Mr. Holman should take all that boundless negative energy and create something positive and new.

    Here's an idea: bake a corn muffin in a tin and slice off the top. Then add a layer of your own recipe of chili. Next, layer the shredded cheese and cheese sauce, and sprinkle fresh chopped onion on top. Voilà!

    Call it DC Chili Cupcake. You can even have your own show on TLC.

  • I'm not a huge fan of Ben's Chili Bowl a, its akin to Georgia Brown these days - tourist attractions that have broad name recognitiion without really good food. However, this guy is showing himself to be quite tacky and disloyal and people will remember that. If you have a really good product people will hear about it. Biting off the Ali family brand shows lack of imagination and plain laziness. Step your game up!

  • Euktrain

    For all of you saying "for shame" to the City Paper, it seems to me they're trying to expose this guy for what he is, and take some shots at WTOP's "reporting" on a non-story while they're at it.

    Did you have this outrage before you read this story? No, you didn't, because you didn't know what was going on.

    City Paper has done a service by digging deeper than WTOP bothered to dig. City Paper isn't giving this guy more publicity, they're criticizing this non-story for what it is. Don't shoot the messenger.

  • DC CHEF

    Mr. Holman with all due respect its OK to have a dream and do what you have o do to get there, but i will give you one advice don"t destroy another man or business to get yours going. You claim you have all his experience..then use it wisely no investor will talk to you with this kind of attitude on top of that your personal life of suing former employees is out in the public which will make it harder for anyone to invest in you. SHUT UP and do your thing.

  • Skrilla Dilla

    @Mr. Holman: But you don't own or operate anything - certainly not a Chili Bowl shop that I can tell. Good luck getting investors with this rap.

    And re: He also takes issue with the restaurant’s use of canned cheese sauce. “I would fine-tune it,” he says. “Drop a bag of shredded cheddar in it or something. Not just open a can and heat it up.”

    - A bag of cheddar?! Now, THAT's fine tuning. Ugh.

  • Consumer

    Let's get one thing straight: If Ben's started serving its food out of a non-descript food truck, people would describe it as mediocre at best. It's like diner food. You enjoy the experience more than the food. I'm so over people acting like its a culinary mecca.

    I also love all these trademark "lawyers" coming out of the woodwork. Ben's claim, while legitimate, is hardly clear cut. I don't ever hear people saying, "Let's go to the Chili Bowl." I hear people saying, "Let's go to Ben's." The issue would be whether "chili bowl" has taken on enough of a unique meaning or whether it is simply descriptive (that's a back of the envelope analysis). Is chili bowl that much different from hamburger? I don't know. Perhaps. But perhaps not.

  • Consumer

    But I don't want anyone to think that I don't think this guy is a kook. He is. No doubt. Just not one that is necessarily violating any trademark laws.

  • Preach

    Anthony Holmon - A grown man that has taken legal action against two former employers, and is now in a potential legal battle with another former employer. A grown man that seeks to incorporate the name of an internationally known D.C. business into the name of his business. A grown man that got help with his rent and security deposit from the same former employer that he now seeks to go after...while wearing their gear. I pray that Anthony Holmon gets a moment of common sense clarity and moves forward with more wisdom and discernment.

    But hey - he knows the limits of a buffalo chopper and the benefits of a good piece of cornbread...at least he has that going for him.

    Wait...the CIA cafeteria....he worked there.....can I take this back before I get investigated?!?!

    Redunkulous!

  • Kev29

    "Wendy’s didn’t call McDonald’s and ask if they could open another burger joint."

    Cleo McDowell didn't call McDonald's either.

  • http://www.divasnrides.com Ron The Don

    I can see Mr. Holmon forgot the concept "Never Bite The Hand That Feeds You." He should be thankful that the Ali family lent a helping hand in his times of need. Too bad that act of kindness didn't stop this man's history of burning bridges. If he took the same time and energy making chili that separate itself from Ben's as he does bad mouthing his former employers in the press, his business might move forward in the right direction. At least, he got the cornbread thing going for him. If he thinks he can make better chili, he needs put his money where his mouth is and get cooking because it'll take more than a bag of cheddar and onion sliced in a particular manner to win customers.

    Finally, the most important aspect to any business is accountability. For a guy with 20 years of restaurant experience, he should know a thing or 2 about public relations. Talking trash about a former employer in the press is just as bad as talking trash about a former employer in a job interview. Mr. Holman has no one but him to blame for the jobs he got fired from. He could use them as learning experiences to help he understand how to make and run a better business. In addition, he might as well fedex that jacket from his former employer back. I don't wear any of my former employer's clothing when I stop working for them. At the end of day, the one element that make or break this business is Mr. Holman. Will he learn from those past mistakes, or repeat them again?

  • Mike

    Is that 50 Tyson?

  • Dawg

    Mr. Holman, you are truly doing yourself a disservice. If you would simply chose a unique name and not one so closely related to a prior employer no one would question your motives or your character. But then you probably also would not be getting the free publicity. A name change and an apology to the Ali's would likely do a lot for your reputation. Continuing down the path you are currently on will only damage it.

    Consumer - My friends and I often refer to it as The Chili Bowl or even as The Bowl. I can't think of a time I ever called it Ben's.

    Kev29 - HAHAHA I was thinking the same thing.

  • ReverendMood

    Holman-

    I won't waste too many words on you so: you're an absolute nut! You're selling out people that HELPED you when you were in a rough spot and you have the nerve to call wearing a Ben's hat and jacket after you probably stole from them an "advertisement" for your non-existent restaurant??? Delusions of grandeur indeed!

  • Puss n Boots

    It seems to me that anyone who has had as many management clashes and firings as this guy, ought to know better that to think an investor will lend money to someone who has obvious character flaws. Good luck getting your next job!

  • Anthony Holmon

    Thank you all for your comments. I agree with most and some I don't . Am I pissed because they fired me for something I had nothing to do with yes I am . The former night manager stole over $25.000 from them and the same cashier who helped them is still working the register . The code to th register is known by at least 10 people but I get singled out. As far as the apartment when they told me I was fire they told me to get out of th apartment that I paid the last 6 months rent. You all are protecting them and don even know them. Do you know employees have been there for five years and no pay raise or any type of benefits. The Ali family have you all fooled. If you get a chance ask any worker how long they have been there and if they ever had away raise. Did you all ever go against Coney Island Chili Bowl or Ken Chili Bowl. I did not solicit any interviews or any attention. Ben Chili Bowl name draws the attention. I guess it comes with he territory

  • Anthony Holmon

    Having clashes with management is not a bad thing. I just realize I am meant to own my own business . Keep looking for DC Chili Bowl we will be around for years to come. You all can keep supporting Bens Chili Bowl. They definitely have some great veggie chili. This will be my last comment. I have a business concept to set up. For the record I never said the Ali family wasn't a good family. You will not throw me under the bus and get away with it? Business is business firing a man who has family to take care of and telling him to get out of the apartment he has been paying on the last 6 months has given me the motivation to succeed. K street here we come.

  • Mike

    BUSINESS CONCEPT?!?!?! Seems Ben's already provided that for you.

  • Peter Pan

    ?

  • Peter Pan

    !

  • Rob in Dupont

    This guy seems like a press seeking copy-cat fraud. His rationale is flawed: "Wendy’s didn’t call McDonald’s and ask if they could open another burger joint. Chef Spike [Mendelsohn] didn’t call Burger King and ask if he could open Good Stuff Eatery." If Wendy's was opened by a former McDonald's employee who talked about improving on the intellectual property he had from McDonalds, called themselves 'McDee's' instead, and opened next door to McDonald's, then there would be a legal problem.

    I am all for the entrepreneurial spirit, but I am not for ripping off concepts, ideas and recipes from someone else and then using them for the sole purpose of shutting them down. It seems he is more bent on shutting down Ben's Chili Bowl than opening his own concept. He will fail, if not under his poor business sense, certain from avoidable legal fees if he had just used his energy for creative purposes than spite. Pass me a half smoke Ben's chili dog, not a half baked ripped off idea...

  • Peter Pan

    You say "this will be your last comment". You also say" you have a business concept to set up". That's right, it's just a concept, and that's all it will ever be, a concept!

  • Bart Etter

    Do yourself a favor and do some research, Anthony...

    A quick search of the US Patent and Trademark Office website (http://www.uspto.gov) reveals that Ben's Chili Bowl is a federally registered trademark, meaning that they have an ironclad case against any entity in any part of the country using that name, or any confusingly similar name, in association with restaurant and carry-out services.

    Quite simply, you stand absolutely no chance whatsoever of winning a legal battle over using your proposed name. You can go pay an attorney to tell you what is plainly obvious from a 2 minute web search if you want to.

    The questionable wisdom of attacking Ben's (given the particulars of your story) aside, considering how little start-up capital you have to work with, you'd be much better off using a different name and avoiding a legal battle you can't possibly win.

  • Joe

    Ha... right. The word chili bowl is copyrighted. Sorry Ben, despite how synonymous it may be with your company in this region, you can't copyright that.

  • NY_Blue

    A punk and an idiot walk into a bar...
    The Punk: Mister Holman (or is it Miss?), congratulations on finding a free spot at the bottom of the barrel. I hope you, Snooki and Jared Lee Loughner enjoy one another's company. Oops, did I just compare you to a wannabe assassin? My bad, holmes, you're just a wannabe thief. What sets you apart, young lady, is your hubris. Shitting on the Chili Bowl, stealing from the Chili Bowl (oops, I mean being responsible for someone else's theft), and stealing 'The [---] Bowl' as a concept are all badges of douche bag pride. Your decision to proudly wear the C.B. jacket for this photo shoot... that's just hilarious. Look, lady, you're gonna do what you're gonna do, and god bless you no matter what awful choices you continue to make. I only ask that you stop using Ulysses as a middle name. Wait... maybe your parents were being ironic. Yes! They knew you would grow up to be the opposite of a bold & brave, independently minded hero. I think they wanted you to keep the name, but maybe use it in quotes or italics. You know, to get across the wink-wink factor that you're actually a bottom-feeder. If you're curious what truly brave, independent, creative and proud spirits look like, please turn in your bible to the book of Ali. Still paying attention, young lady? We all know that Ben and Virginia Ali built a dream together through trial and error, sweat, blood, desire to better themselves and the community, and endless amounts of love for each other, their family & friends, and for the city that supported them through so many difficult times. But I'm also referring to Ben & Virginia's children and their extended family. Kamal, Nizam and the entire Ali brood have done FAR more than preserve a secret recipe for chili. They were the people who dragged the Bowl through the hard-time, cracked-out, U-Street-is-tore-the-fuck-up-because-of-Metro-construction 80s. They were the people who renovated and expanded the restaurant with extreme sensitivity and care, constantly putting in quadruple the time, effort, and shekels to ensure that the continuity and essence of their parents' dream was being preserved, honored, and supported strongly enough to blossom. Speaking of blossom, remember that boarded-up, piece of shit former theater next door? You know... the one that was hiding the gloriously beautiful and historic Lincoln Theatre with layers of tattered boards, decades of decay, dust and rust... the one that the Ali family worked tirelessly to bring back to life. I'm not suggesting that Nizam repainted the Lincoln while Kamal and Sonya replaced the electrical system, or that Sage and Vida installed new seating while Rob and Logan spread the word that a buried DC institution was once again ready for public adulation... I'm simply schooling you to the fact that this family is the goddamn blueprint on how to build, maintain, grow and expand a business with dignity. You, ma'am, have no creativity, dignity or shame. And by the way, the half-smoke onions are perfect -- PERFECT -- just the way they are. You know how I know? I asked my taste buds, my friends, the President, the 10 billion smiling customers who stand in line at Ben's every day, along with my fellow New Yorkers who troop down to DC every few months for a taste of Ben's (and a taste of Go-Go, naturally). Leave Ben's Chili Bowl alone, you witless punk. Oops... I mean, good luck, "Ulysses."

    The Idiot(s): City Paper & WTOP. Really? You're gonna give this lowlife leech all that shine, airtime and coverage? Excellent choice. Well done. Actually, I'll remove the sarcasm... (ahem) Thank you, sincerely, for printing this interview. I don't have a blog and have been trying to drink less caffeine. Writing this angry comment has satisfied my bloggy craving and has also given me the morning jolt of three cups of coffee. I'm so refreshed! Sorry you can't say the same about your floundering businesses.

  • Ben

    @NY_Blue: Brevity is the soul of wit, man

    Or, in more modern terms: tl;dr

  • Stuart

    Is CP so hard up for column inches that it has taken to publishing the fantasies of the delusional?

  • StrangeFruit

    @ City Paper,

    What was the purpose of this BS? This man is basically homeless and you guys are trying to promote his bootleg hot plate, hot-dog establishment operating out of the back of his 1970 Pacer as competition for Ben's--give me a freakin break!

    I hope Ben's Chili Bowl never spends one red cent advertising in this rag!

  • Strangee’

    What the what??! This is the craziest article I've read in a while. What "business man" admits over the World Wide Web that he's copying another company's brand, image and likeness??!..And stands firm on that fact...And then selects a highly respected and adored establishment like Ben's Chili Bowl? This guy needs to get over himself...He has way too much time on his hands when he should be looking for a new job...cause it's hard out here for pimp. Now, gimmie two BEN's hot dogs and strawberry soda...

  • seeseehpounder

    I look forward to DC Chili Bowl's freshly individually sliced onions. Seems like it may be a little expensive to have somebody on staff to chop the onions all day, giving them full benifits, yearly raises, and covering their apartment's security deposit and first month's rent but the class with which Mr. Holmon carries himself will greatly outweigh the enormous cost to me to buy his delicious half smokes.

  • lovessoldier

    This article makes me sad. I don't think he understands the Ali family tried to help him & as the manager of any shift in a restaurant if he did not identify said culprit then he IS responsible. I pray that my children will never stoop to this level of ungratefulness. Are you serious dude? You were a MANAGER by definition responsible. Please see a mental health professional so that you can TAKE CARE OF YOUR FAMILY. Peace.....

  • Really?

    Why is this guy getting press without a location of his own. Dude was a night manager...

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