chili - Evanston - Firehouse Grill
In the Chow spirit, I had the chili at The Firehouse Grill tonight for dinner. My overall impression was that the chili is merely adequate. My husband said it was fine, when pressed "would you get it again" he said "sure." Not his most ringing endorsement, but definitely not a "well, we never have to eat THAT again either."
Most of the rest of the food is basic pub grub - typical appetizers like buffalo wings, quesadillas, fried stuff, etc. The main dish salads are generous and fresh. I haven't had their burgers, but I thought the steak sandwich should have been sliced thinner - it was tasty, but tough. Their fries are good, thin, crispy, skin on.
Now to the chili - it was of the soupy, midwestern variety. It comes topped with shredded cheddar, chopped green onions and sourcream. The meat was in chunks, simmered long so they pretty much evaporated in your mouth. There were red kidney beans, also falling-apart in texture. Strangely, there were large chunks of celery. Again, falling apart. I found a piece of macaroni, but only one. There were tomatoes, fairly firm - I suspect they toss leftover salad bits into the chili. The writeup in the menu says something about roasted anchos for smoke, but I didn't taste any smoke. Also, there was not enough cumin for my preference. It was mildly spicy, but you can add hot sauce from their "wall of fire." I think it needed a squirt of some lime.
They do have vegetarian chili, which I didn't try.
750 Chicago Ave., Evanston
On the chili front I just wanted to mention that I used to be rather partial to the chili at the Heartland Cafe on Lunt next to the el tracks. This recommendation comes with several caveats, however.
A) it's been a long time since I've been there (moved out of the neighborhood).
B) I'm not a chili fundamentalist. I think it may have even been a meatless chili. (Horrors!)
C) At least in the past, the service at Heartland was always comically casual. Go with someone you really want to kick back and talk to for a while. Don't go if you're either starving, or in a hurry.
That said, I think they even published their recipe and it had various unorthodox ingredients like soy sauce, a touch of either honey or maple syrup, etc. Nevertheless, I found the end result spicy, flavorful and quite satisfying and would use a modified version of their recipe to make a meat chili at home.
I've only been once to the Firehouse Grill, but I have to say I wasn't crazy about it. The sandwiches were overpriced (I thought) and not that great, and the server spilled a pint of beer in my lap and wasn't in any great hurry to help me clean it up. I know when you are a server s**t happens, but somebody there could have pretended to be concerned.
I won't go back, which is too bad because it would be a conveniently located place to get a sandwich and a beer on a Sunday afternoon or something.