WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Bill Cosby was on hand Thursday to celebrate the 55th anniversary of a Washington institution — Ben’s Chili Bowl.

The venerable greasy spoon on U Street NW is famous for its half-smoke sausages smothered in chili.

It’s long been a significant gathering place for African-Americans in the city. Ben’s has endured in its original location despite the ups and downs of the surrounding neighborhood, which is now thriving.

Photos: Stars Come Out to Celebrate Ben’s

Cosby is a longtime patron and booster of Ben’s.

The comedian joined the owners and other luminaries including Jesse Jackson and Mayor Vincent Gray for the restaurant’s anniversary celebration Thursday.

Then President-Elect Barack Obama dined at Ben’s one week prior to his inauguration in 2009.

Cosby is also the voice heard on the restaurant’s phone while patrons are placed on hold.

Listen: Bill Cosby’s Phone Message for Ben’s

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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