- - Monday, March 27, 2017

Ben’s Chili Bowl is getting a new mural, but it could look a lot like the original.

The iconic eatery in Northwest is asking its customers to choose the next famous figures to be painted on the restaurant’s famous wall, which used to feature portraits of comedian Bill Cosby, former President Barack Obama and the late go-go music legend Chuck Brown.

A poll on the Ben’s Chili Bowl website has received more than 20,000 votes and lists more than 60 notable politicians, athletes and entertainers as candidates.


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“It’s a community wall, it’s the community’s choice who goes on it,” said co-owner Vida Ali, daughter-in-law of restaurant founder Ben Ali.

The original mural, painted in 2012, was erased in January and replaced with a temporary mural that directs people to vote in the online survey.



“The old mural was looking bad,” said Ms. Ali. “The weather had taken a toll on it. We realized it was time to refresh.”

The online ballot lists D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, rapper Wale, media billionaire Oprah Winfrey, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the late Marion Barry.

Northwest resident ShaDarryl Brown said he plans to vote for former first lady Michelle Obama, who is also a candidate.

“Honestly, she inspired me more than her husband did,” he said. “She was more for the people, especially kids — she changed the game for kids, in terms of health and everything.”

Mr. Brown, 43, said he would be shocked if any of the mural’s former celebrities are commemorated on the wall for a second time.

“Nobody’s perfect,” he said. “But they should get some good people up there. Some really inspiring people. There are so many people here worth honoring.”

Many celebrities up for consideration have visited the restaurant in the past or are notable members of the D.C. community.

The D.C. Department of Public Works and the Commission on the Arts and the Humanities teamed up with Ben’s Chili Bowl to oversee the project, which is set to be completed in May, weather permitting.

“A mural can take anywhere from a week to three weeks, but we’ve had murals that have taken months,” said Nancee Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works. “If there’s a lot of rain, that definitely delays the process.”

The commission expects to review portfolios from roughly 50 artists, who can apply for the project until April 15, Ms. Lyons said.

Those who want to help pick the next portraits have about another week to vote in the online poll, Ms. Ali said.

“We’re very excited to see what the community wants,” she said. “That’s what the mural’s always been about — what the community wants.”

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