As anyone from DC will tell you, Ben’s is a District institution, and has been pretty much since Trinidadian-born Ben Ali opened it in 1958. Like all institutions, it has its own ephemera, chief amongst which is a laminated, grease-caked piece of paper proclaiming, plainly: “Who eats free at Ben’s.”
That night, I noticed the sheet had been hastily amended right up near the top. The ink was probably still drying, but the words were legible. “The Obama family,” they read. And that, more or less, is how I came to be sitting in one of the city’s most iconic black businesses, eating its most iconic food, at the very moment I found out that America would have its first black president.