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May 31, 2004 03:41 PM

Real chili does not have beans in it.

  • c

I've heard Chicagoans rave about Bishop's stuff. I tried it once. What a disaster that stuff is! The meat, what there was of it, was minced so small that you could drink the stuff in the bowl if it wasn't for all the beans in the way of it.

I am a chilihead! I make my chili with chunks of beef cubed from a roast weighing at least 5 pounds. The other ingredients in my chili are garlic, onions, beer, several kinds of fresh and dried chiles (hot peppers to you chile incognoscenti)of varied pungencies, ground cumin, Mexican oregano (a member of the verbena family) and a little tomato paste.

I also grow the chiles that I add to my chili. Varieties like jalapenos, serranos, cayennes and red savinas.

If I want beans with my chili, I have frijoles refritos on the side.

Please take note that C18H27NO3 is the chemical formula for capsaicin, the stuff that makes chiles pungent.

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  1. d
    David Hammond


    Determining "real" chili, pizza, Chicago hot dogs, etc., is a difficult task because people's definitions of what's real" tend to differ. You know, somewhere in the mind of god, there's a Platonic Idea of chili, but we mortals can only approximate that ideal form, sometimes with beans, sometimes without.

    Me, when I make chili I use beans and even hominy, but I also like chili without either.

    When you go out to eat, have you found anywhere in Chicago that makes the kind of chili you like?


    1. Rave about Bishop's? Never heard raving, myself.

      Anyways, yes, according to ICS standards chili should not have beans. So? Most purists (myself included) would NEVER put tomato paste into an ICS-style chili, either. It's just not right. A little tomato _sauce_ perhaps but not paste. I've just always felt that people that need to add paste have something they feel they need to cover up or make up for that the combo of chile's in the broth should have created in the first place. Just IMO, of course.

      The fact that lots of people like beans in their chili doesn't mean their chili is wrong, though. It just won't qualify for an ICS cookoff. Big deal, I think most would say. The concept of Cincy's 5-way (and more ways) chili is somewhat off-putting to me, but obviously it's a big hit down there. More power to them for fashioning a chow-style they enjoy.

      I guess I'm not certain what your point is/was. To tell Chicagoans where there's a great purveyor of chili we should be checking out? Please share! Or to tell everyone that you think Bishop's sucks? Either way, that's fine, but it's just a little hard to tell from your post.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Kman

        A quote from Frank X. Tolbert's book, "A Bowl of Red", "One man's chili is another man's axle grease."

        1. re: ChiliDude

          You could readily paraphrase that to say "One man's enlightening discourse is another man's pointless rant."

          I'm confused as to what your aim is, with this commentary. You obviously don't like Bishop's - which is fine. Sharing opinions and experiences is the entire thrust of this site.

          You completely lose me when you move beyond that, and into the rambling definition of your opinion of what chili -should- be. (Which would be a post better suited for the general board, anyway.)

          I guess I'm merely somewhat taken aback by the outright condescension evident in your posts.

          At any rate, the first thing that I thought of was a rather long thread about the varying differences in chili preperation and their correlation with geography. In the interest of injecting some actual information into this thread, I'll share the link.


          1. re: ChiliDude

            Ah ha!

            This is the thread I was thinking of - not the other one. (Oh for the ability to edit posts...)


        2. My understanding is that the only truly authentic recipe for chili is to take a large batch of food that is on the verge of rancidity, spice it so heavily that no problems can be detected, add a variety of ingredients to disguise the technique, and cook it for so long that it's all moot. (Which is not to say that I dislike chili, because I do enjoy it a lot. And even I think that spaghetti is going way overboard. I just haven't ever found any historical reason to say that something does or doesn't belong in chili.)

          8 Replies
          1. re: Bob S.

            You don't put the spaghetti in the chili - you put the chili on the spaghetti (along with cheese, beans (4-way), raw onions (5-way), and a strong antacid as a side dish (6-way).

            1. re: Sandy

              Apologies for my sloppy wording, as I've had this in the past -- it was just the lack of caffeine that led to my lack of accuracy. Still, I side with those that say the two don't belong in the same bowl -- somehow, I suspect that the origin of this variation is that some greasy spoon was serving spaghetti, ran out of red sauce, and ladled some chili on top out of desperation. As I say, I think ICS and any other attempt to offer a specific definition of chili's components is inherently wrong because the dish was devised as a way to use up whatever was about to go bad, but to the extent that there may have been spaghetti on the trail, it was probably not about to go bad.

              1. re: Bob S.

                Cincinnati chili was developed as an offshoot from hot dog chili by a Greek cafe owner, not as a substitute for anything. Given the ingredients, it's pretty obvious that it bears no relationship to any kind of other sauce. Although onions do go into it (besides being piled, raw and chopped, as the 5th layer), beans do not (although available as an optional 4th layer). The meat should never be browned, either.

              2. re: Sandy

                Cincy Chili is a true regional dish, arising organically from intrepid downtown Cincy restauranteurs. I'm not up on the history, but it has its place and isn't to be looked down upon. Chili is like pizza, be thankful when you have a unique, cared-for version nearby.

                I love Cincy chili... more depth than all other chili's. Throwing 40 Habeneros into some ground chuck just doesn't do it for me.

                1. re: ab

                  I certainly agree with your final point, but even given a theoretical 'live-and-let-live' philosophy about regional food styles, I find the whole Cincy chili deal appalling. (Likewise Asian and UK pizza.) I just don't get it.

                  My wife found the Heartland Cafe's recipe published many years ago and it's what we use as a base. It has various unorthodox ingredients including (if I remember correctly) honey and soy sauce, but the result was quite tasty.

                  Personally, I like meat and beans in my chili, and I like the meat cubed, not ground.

                  1. re: ab

                    Is Skyline Chili a reasonable representation of Cincinnati chili? I'm hoping that it isn't, since that may be the slimiest, cheapest tasting chili I've ever had in my life.


                    1. re: saps

                      If you're getting that canned stuff, no. Although I prefer Camp Washington, the chili at Skyline in Cincy is (or was) far better than the canned goop and was a fair representation of one of the versions, and certainly not slimy.

                      1. re: Sandy

                        Maybe I just went to a bad Skyline store. I'll have to give it another try next time I'm in the Cincinnati area (or in Naples, Florida, where there is a Skyline Chili branch off of Rte 41)


              3. p
                Paul Mollica

                I've eaten chili nearly everywhere in the U.S., some with beans and some without. (The standard in Chicago, BTW, is that beans or macaroni are added to the finished product upon the diner's request.) Chicago, like other parts of the midwest (Cinncinati, most famously) favor a finely ground meat. In the Southwest (Texas, Oklahoma), they favor whole pieces as your post indicates.

                As you probably already know, Jane and Michael Stern published a book of chili recipies from around the country a few years ago (see link below). We've cooked most of the entries and enjoyed them. There's really no cause for dogmatism in the chili world.


                1. Sage words from Paul M. and others regarding dogmatism here... There are different and well-established regional versions and that's that. Preferences are preferences and nothing more (or less).

                  BUT, how 'bout some information now about places that produce good chili in Chicago of whatever ilk.

                  Does anyone serve up a worthwhile Texas style chili?

                  Or Cincinnati style?

                  Or some other style?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Antonius
                    Paul Mollica

                    I don't eat much chili around Chicago (that's one dish I can generally make it to my preferences at home), and the little that I've tried around here was too sweet. But whenever I'm at the Ramova Grill in Bridgeport, that's what I usually order (along with a plate of french fries, about the only place in town where I order them). I also noticed chili on the menu at Kevin's Hamburger Heaven on Pershing Rd., and that might be worth a spin.

                    1. re: Antonius

                      The chili situation in Chicago is pretty bleak, I’d say. Here’s a link to a chili survey from a couple years ago. I don’t have much new to add because, frankly, I’ve pretty much given up looking. Last winter I should have been trying all the neighborhood taverns but couldn’t muster the enthusiasm. Paul’s suggestion of Ramova Grill is a good one, especially if you’re looking for a time warp diner experience.


                      1. re: Antonius

                        One wouldn't normally look for chili at a cajun restaurant, but the chili at Heaven on 7 (I've only ever tried the original location's offering) is pretty good. It's unfortunate that a ready supply of high-quality chili isn't a more common option in Chicago, but as noted in another post it's one of those dishes that's relatively easy to make at home - and exactly to one's specific preferences. I tend to make it in batches and freeze containers for those days when I've just got to have a chili fix.