Bill Cosby says his ghost will haunt the new Ben’s Chili Bowl in Arlington

10:30 a.m.: A massive crowd has gathered in front of the new Ben's Chili Bowl, 1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, for its grand opening. There are balloons. There are ribbons. But there is not yet any sign of the man everyone is here to see: Bill Cosby, the only man, other than President Obama, who eats for free at Ben's.


Ben's Chili Bowl in Arlington. (Maura Judkis/for The Post)

10:45 a.m.: Cosby emerges, wearing a grey sweatshirt and puffy coat. Whoever set up this sound system didn't take into account all of the planes landing at Reagan nearby, so if you're not in the first three rows, you probably can't hear a word he's saying. But Cosby begins by talking about how Ben's Chili Bowl relates to his mortality: "I am going to have my 77th birthday in July. I am facing the fact that I can go anytime I am called." Kind of grim! Where's he going with this?

Bill Cosby at Ben's Chili Bowl in Arlington (Maura Judkis/for The Post)
Bill Cosby at Ben's Chili Bowl in Arlington (Maura Judkis/for The Post)

Turns out, according to Cosby, the new Ben's location is for him. He served in the military, and gestures in the direction of Arlington National Cemetery. "I want my body buried not far, so my ghost can get up, make the trip here instead of flying all the way over to U Street." He plans on hanging out at the Arlington Ben's with his ghost pals: "I will be eating with them, and we will be having a good time. Because in that cemetery that’s no cholesterol, there’s no triglycerides. Eat as many as you like. Double down on the cheese and the fries. A lot of people may not go to heaven, because this is heaven." (You can also read our colleague Tom Jackman's account of the opening).

10:50 a.m.: Arlington Board Chair Jay Fisette presents both Virginia Ali and Bill Cosby with keys to the city of Arlington. "You can use this dead or alive," he says to Cosby, who pledges to use it to get out of parking tickets.

10:53 a.m.: The ambassador from Trinidad and Tobago is up next. "We're starting to shiver, ladies and gentlemen," he says. Cosby agrees. "How many more speakers do they have?" he says, slightly exasperated.

10:56 a.m.: "I am the historian of Ben's Chili Bowl, and today is a day of history," says Bernard Demczuk. He begins a long-winded story about the history of Arlington, before noticing that Cosby has begun to get annoyed.

"Bill, are you rolling your eyes at me?" he said.

"It was a natural reaction to someone telling a story that went nowhere!" said Cosby, who noted that he could have used his time to give away three half-smokes instead.

10:58 a.m.: After every speaker, Cosby has taken to sarcastically yelling "Photo op!" and posing. There are three more speakers to go. Get this man his chili fries, already!

11:04 a.m.: Cosby and Virginia Ali whip out the ceremonial giant scissors for the ribbon cutting. "Alright, so where's the line for the chili now?" asks a bystander.


Bill Cosby cuts the ribbon at Ben's Chili Bowl in Arlington (Maura Judkis/for The Post)

11:06 a.m.: Immediate crush for the door. Those who remember the old Ray's Hell Burger space will recall that it is not big enough for a crowd of 200. This is going to get ugly.

11:07 a.m.: It's like the Hunger Games over here in Rosslyn. May the odds be ever in your favor.

11:10 a.m.: A nearby coffee shop seizes an opportunity, handing out $1 latte coupons to frustrated line-waiters.

(Maura Judkis/for The Post)
This is what happens when you're stick in a crushing crowd at Ben's Chili Bowl. (Maura Judkis/for The Post)

11:13 a.m.: Girl in the crowd: "I could totally have a second breakfast." By the time we get in there, it's going to be lunch anyway, so she doesn't have to worry.

11:22 a.m.: The crowd grows restless. "Give everybody eight minutes and get 'em out of there!" a woman yells to the bouncer. "I want to eat!"  Everyone is getting hangry, a.k.a hungry-angry. This reporter has been pushed face-first into a giant cluster of balloons, and can see nothing else.

11:25 a.m.: A Ben's representative arrives to quell the disturbance, handing out Ben's Chili Bowl buttons. A member of the Ali family has been shut out of his own restaurant. "Hey guys, can I go get on the grill?" he asks, trying to make his way through the crowd.

11:47 a.m.: "Thanks for being patient," says the bouncer. "It's a little thick in there."

"Like a milkshake," adds a bystander.

Bill Cosby leaves Ben's Chili Bowl in Arlington (Maura Judkis/for The Post)
Bill Cosby leaves Ben's Chili Bowl in Arlington (Maura Judkis/for The Post)

11:48 a.m.: Bill Cosby, after enjoying the first meal of Ben's Chili Bowl Arlington, makes his way out, and most of the crowd inside leaves with him. There's finally enough space to see what it looks like inside. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't have quite the charm of the original location. A huge wall banner details the history of Ben's, with giant photos of President Obama and Cosby. There's a long lunch counter, and a digital jukebox.


Inside Ben's Chili Bowl Arlington (Maura Judkis/for The Post)

12:10 p.m.: Huge news: This Ben's takes credit cards!

12:15 p.m.: Success.


A half-smoke and chili cheese fries at Ben's Chili Bowl Arlington (Maura Judkis/for The Post)

12:24 p.m.: This is the line you can expect if you go to Ben's at any point today.

Ben's Chili Bowl, 1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington (Metro: Rosslyn). 


The line in front of Ben's Chili Bowl Arlington on opening day. (Maura Judkis/for The Post)
Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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