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There is no milkshake on the East Coast, nay, in all of North America, that can measure up to those served at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Smooth, uncompromisingly sweet, and nearly impossible to get through a straw, the Ben’s shake easily outshakes that of any diner, deli, or other such dive around. Of course, that’s not what the place is known for. For almost 50 years, the folks at Ben’s have offered up the most glorious chili dogs, half-smokes, and burgers on the face of this planet. Through riots, Metro construction, and every Barry administration, its counter staff has served local and international stars at all hours of the day and night. In that time, Ben’s owners and their progeny have created a legacy the James Beard Foundation—whose mission is “[t]o foster the appreciation and development of gastronomy by preserving and promulgating our culinary heritage, and by recognizing and promoting excellence in all aspects of the culinary arts”—found award-worthy. Not bad for a place that started out as a lunch counter. Despite the nostalgia that seems to lurk in every corner of the eatery’s U Street home, Ben’s has managed to keep up with changing times: Now you can order your veggie-chili cheese fries online. In celebration of the D.C. institution’s 47th birthday, Nizam Ali, son of Ben himself, presents a lecture titled “Ben’s Chili Bowl: The First 47 Years” at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 31, at the Anacostia Museum & Center for African American History & Culture, 1901 Fort Place SE. Free. (202) 287-3369. (Mike Kanin)