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Apr 27, 2003 10:16 PM

Ramova Chili versus Hormel

  • r

Gary has speculated that Ramova Grill's chili is really Hormel. I trust his taste enough that I thought this might be true.

I stopped by Ramova (3510 S Halsted) to pick up a pint to go (without beans, $4), then to my local supermarket for a can of Hormel. Not having purchased Hormel chili for ages, I was surprised to see there are now at least a dozen varieties (more if you include different sizes). I bought the classic "No Beans" version. Also some oyster crackers and a six pack of Anchor Steam. Then home to enjoy. Maybe enjoy is too strong a word but I ate.

The Hormel was, well, Hormel. A slightly sweet bland taste with evidence of tomatoes. The meat was nastier than I remember, consisting of very loose meat nuggets, reminiscent of animal droppings, that contained quite a bit of filler. Not a pleasant experience.

The Ramova was darker brown and probably contained no tomatoes. There was much more spice than Hormel but it was not hot, with cinnamon and clove predominating. The meat, seemingly chopped rather than ground, was head and shoulders above the Hormel pellets. Real chili purists would be horrified by this midwestern rendition but I kind of enjoy a bowl every now and then.

There is no question that even though there are clear similarities between Hormel and Ramova they differ substantially. I vastly prefer Ramova's version. I know I am not alone in wishing that truly good chili was available in Chicago.


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  1. d
    David Hammond

    During the 2002 Chowathon, Ramova Grill was one of my favorite stops – for ambiance, as much as anything else, though I did actually like the chili. At the time, I remember that Patoriq alleged that the chili was Hormel, doctored with cinnamon. Your analysis of Ramova’s chopped meat vs. “Hormel pellets” would indicate that he was incorrect.

    Thanks for boldly performing the side-by-side taste test.

    1. Rene,

      I tip my hat and raise a glass to your pure Chowhoundness. A Hormel v Ramova taste off, tums are on me next time we get together.

      In reference to the original Hormel/Ramova comparison, it was Patoriq via David Hammon who first commented on the similarity. Each time I ate Ramova's chili there was a little glimmer of 'where did I have this before' memory, but it was not until I read David's post that my taste memory kicked in. What I originally said was "there are definitely texture and flavor similarities between Ramova and Hormel All Meat Chili" which, due to my fondness for hyperbole and sweeping generalization has, over the last 6-months, morphed into me stating directly that Hormel all Meat chili and Ramova's are one in the same.

      In interest of Chow Science I just finished eating a bowl of Hormel Chili, no beans, as Rene said, there are similarities, but Hormel, no beans, is certainly not an exact match, though I did not have the benefit of a side by side Ramova bowl as Ramova is not open at 10pm on Sunday. My wife had a few bites of the Hormel Chili, no beans, and commented that there was a noticeable similarity between the chili she had at Steak and Shake with her burger yesterday.

      I, in the interest of Chow Science, have been doing a bit of hot dog stand chili testing and noticed similarities between the Hormel Chili and the La Roc's (hot dog stand) chili I had for lunch last week.

      I was also surprised that Jewel no longer carried Hormel All Meat Chili, which was my original Ramova's comparison. There is a thin greasy meaty consistency to the Hormel All Meat Chili, as opposed to the Chili, No Beans, "meat pellets," that, I still contend, is highly evocative of Ramova, Papa Chris, La Roc's and, I'm sure, many other Chicago area dog stands and diners. I wonder if Hormel still makes the All Meat Chili, it's no longer listed on their web site.

      As an aside, my wife didn't seem surprised in the least when I said, at 10pm on a Sunday night, I was running out to the store for a few cans of Hormel Chili and did she want anything. It sounded a little strange, even to me, but she didn't even give me the wifely 'you're out of your mind' look.


      Ramova Grill
      3510 S. Halsted St.
      Chicago, Il

      La Roc's
      1248 W Grand
      Chicago, IL

      Papa Chris's
      6235 W Touhy Ave
      Chicago, IL 60646


      1. You are a scholar truly.

        1. Speaking of canned chili, there's an old school brand from downstate Illinois called Ray's Chilli (note spelling) that is a primo rendition to keep stocked in the pantry. I believe they also make a coney sauce.

          It used to be carried at a couple of Chicago grocers, though I haven't seen it in a while.

          Any sightings?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Old School

            Old School,

            I happen to have, courtesy of Erik M, a few cans of Ray's Coney Hot Dog Sauce w/beef in my pantry. I'm not sure where Erik bought them, Chicago or downstate. I'm sure Erik will post when he sees your query.


            1. re: Old School

              55th St. store of the Hyde Park Coop.