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I guess this post became inevitable once I'd eaten at Romano's Macaroni Grill and found it surpisingly good.

Since its' corporate parent owns both Maggiano's and Chili's, I now must consider the prospect of actually eating at a Chili's.

Has anyone here done this? And, if so, please report the details re: what to eat and what not to.


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  1. It's pretty rank. The cool thing is there is no chili listed on the menu.

    6 Replies
    1. re: sbp

      That's because the name of the place is Chile's as in the pepper.

      1. re: Outsider

        Ummm....no, it's "Chili's".

        Link: http://www.chilis.com/

        1. re: Outsider

          Despite the pepper in the logo, as the spelling suggests the name refers to the spicy stew (chili). When it first got going nationally in the late 80s/early 90s, there were several items incorporating chili on the menu. The decor played up the name, with lots of chili cookoff photos/memorabilia on the walls.

          My opinion of the food - I thought it was passable for a chain in the early days. Now I think it's one of the worst of the lot. Mainly because the ones I have been to have been poorly managed and served very sloppily prepared foods.

          1. re: Liz CT

            The Chili's in Bennington VT leaves a lot to be desired. The manager is great and always rectifies things, in fact, last time we were there, he went in the kitchen and cooked the fajitas himself! (green peppers were not even cooked, just thrown on the plate) We have resolved not to return though, ........the broccoli is always cold, never has any butter even though I specifically request HOT PLAIN broccoli with NO over-salted seasonings and some butter that isn't hard as ice. Every time, they get it wrong. But I think the worst part is the fries: the kitchen people , who obviously don't give a hoot about what's coming out of the kitchen , actually put a pile of fries on a large plate and when they need to fill an order, they just grab a handful and plop them on the customer's plate! No cooking to order and of course, the fries are cold and limp. Shame on Chili's .

          2. re: Outsider

            They USED to have a very good chili, but it's gone the way of everything else they used to have good!

          3. re: sbp

            The only time I've ever set foot in a Chili's was a few years ago when I had a flat tire right in front of one. I couldn't get the lug nuts off to change the tire, and then it started raining. Pissed off, I went in and drank a couple of beers and ordered Chili. I figured that it was the safest thing. Chili I was served, but this was in Austin.

            I'll have to say, though, that Chili's commercial where the guy comes home with a To Go order of baby backs and fries, then turns on the game, preparing to eat all alone is comforting in some way.

          4. STAY OUT!! I am frequently subjected to eating lunch with my cohorts at a local Chilis and consistently get bad food and not even at good prices. At least here in New Jersey, there is always a good diner or pizza shop around for much better fare at fair prices.

            1. It won't kill you but it's so boring. I used to work with someone who knew every form of chain eatery in the country and just loved going to Chili's.

              1. The steak fajitas are OK--I've had better, but I've had much worse, too.

                1. My last experience with Chili's is seven years old, but, back in the day, my Irvine office co-workers went there two or more times a week and I went along to keep up with the insider information flow.

                  I dimly remember that the baby back ribs were edible, but the sauce overly sweet and the hamburgers were medium-to-good if I got very specific about how I wanted it cooked and served. All-in-all, it took some planning to get a decent meal.

                  Oh, and BTW, anything with a lot of cheese like nachos, BLEEEAHHHH!

                  The fact was that the guys in the office wanted to go there so they could get some fairly strong drinks in them at lunch and the women wanted to go there because the servers were almost exclusively hot guy athletes from UC Irvine. The steam from the estrogen fog made it difficult to see the plates.

                  1. "surprisingly good" is accurate for Macaroni Grill. Chili's, despite the same parent, is more boring and not surprisingly mediocre.

                    1. As was mentioned in the other post, the rib eyes are pretty good there.

                      1. used to be a regular at the local store due to the opposite reason gypsy jan cites; the waitstaff at mine were almost exclusively hot women in tight jeans. that was THE reason to eat there. that said, the burgers were ok, if you could get them cooked properly, which i was fortunately able to do, despite local laws. the buffalo chicken salad was also pretty good. the margaritas were good, and due to a certain mutual attraction with several bartenders, very strong. most of the rest of the menu wasn't anything you couldn't get from the freezer section at your market.

                        fortunately, i am now married to my very own hot woman, and have perfected my own margaritas, so i have not been back in years.

                        if you go, you might be pleasantly surprised at the drinks, the food will be filling, but i doubt that you'll find any hidden gems.

                        ps. i would avoid at all costs any chili's located in an airport.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mark

                          >>ps. i would avoid at all costs any chili's located in an airport.

                          That's funny! I spend way too much time in airports (I work for an airline), and that is the ONLY time I eat at Chile's. For reasons cited in other posts, there are usually much better choices elsewhere, but airports by their nature are somewhat limited.

                          I don't eat red meat, so my options at Chile's are limited, but I can usually choke down the southwestern egg rolls. They are fried and slightly greasy, and the dipping sauce is textbook cornstarch and vegetable oil, so order the salsa as a sauce instead.

                          On the up side, at several airports there is now a Cuervo Tequileria. MUCH better than Chile's. Actual food! And most airports have some indy concession, if you can find it and if you have time between plane changes. We need an entire thread dedicated to airport fare.

                          As as for Macaroni Grill, I have always found them surprisingly BAD (see my other post on this thread).

                          Chains are chains.

                          1. re: Loren3

                            i've just found that, while no chilis is particularly good, those i've eaten at in airports have been much worse than the average stand-alone store. they may very well be the best of a poor lot when your options are limited, but i wouldn't want to eat at one as my introduction to the chain. i generally do my best not to eat in airports, but if circumstances require it, i try to pack a lunch. understandable that, given your job, you don't have much choice.

                            i, too, have been to one of the cuervo tequileria places. it wasn't great, but was better than most of the airport food i've had. it was also reasonably priced, given it's location.

                        2. They vary by location but I have had some great meals there at bargain prices. The chips and salsa are excellent, salad dressings are good, peppercorn burger is wonderful (although I get mine with cheddar instead of blue cheese) and the fries are consistantly good and golden brown. The Presidente Margarita rocks.

                          1. Well, I guess I'd have to say I must have gotten extraordinarily lucky at my one trip to Macaroni Grill.

                            Thanks for the heads up on Chili's. It will definitely be a pass.

                            Oh, and for those of you who felt the need to lecture me about freeing my inner chowhound from the death grip of chains, thanks! That was really helpful.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Bob Brooks

                              Well, Bob, you won't hear that from me, and frankly I think it's as rude to flame someone for thinking however erroneously that he might get something edible at a chain restaurant as it would be to diss someone for being a Mormon. Yeah, you are in fact going to hell, but it's rude to say it in public... ;-)

                              I had something decent once at a Chili's in Nashville, and a few very pleasant things at a Romano's Grill there, too. Not memorable, and it was a while back...and I've gone to Denny's a lot back when I was very likely to be out and hungry at four ayem, and even had some favorites on the menu. Nobody's offered yet to kick me off the list, and some folks even solicit my recs, even after I confessed a weakness for Sausage/egg McMuffins. It's your life, and it's only food after all (yeah, that oughta start something!).

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                Thanks, Will. I enjoy your posts enormously.

                                What's interesting here to me is that, as someone who has never much even considered going to chains, I happened to have fallen into recent situations that required my presence at a couple of them and was surprised at the quality of the chow.

                                For my part, I still prefer to be the only Caucasian eating in some hole in the wall ethnic place for lunch, but that's only because I like the personal adventure.

                                The bottom line for me is only and always about deliciousness. And that pops up in a suprising array of places.

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  LOLWROTF. By G*d, if you've got up by 4 eyem to hit the road by 5 eyem and the first Mickey D's with an egg sausage muffin is available by 7 eyem, it's pretty tasty and the coffee is much better therse days.

                                  Love and support the independent providers of food that serves our souls; seek them out when you can, but, good cheeerioc*rist, the American fast food system with all its warts sustains the road warriors when they don't have the energy for anything else. (And they can count on pretty much clean bathrooms.)

                                  1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                    "the American fast food system with all its warts sustains the road warriors when they don't have the energy for anything else. (And they can count on pretty much clean bathrooms.)"

                                    Hit two of my nails right on the head! If I have to be on the road in the morning, especially w/o breakfast otherwise, a couple of McMuffs and a hashbrown cake are practically required. Plus which, being old and on prescribed diuretics, I always know I can assuage my growing discomfort when I see them golden arches...

                                    Must point out, though, that my 4 ayem encounters with Denny's were not when I'd gotten up early, but when I hadn't gotten to bed yet...told you it was a long time ago!

                                2. re: Bob Brooks

                                  In the old days (early Chili's in Texas where it was started) my wife HAD to have their mushroom cheeseburger about once a month. Loved it. However, a year or so ago we stopped at the one in Reno and she had one. It was quickly pronounced NOT THE SAME. So, no mas Chili's for us.

                                  Macaroni Grill was started in Longview, TX, a family owned operation that had been there for years. The Brinker folks bought it so they could franchaise. The first franchaise one was built in Addison, TX and was outstanding. The had gallon jugs of wine they put on the table and you kept track of the number of glasses of wine you drank, pure honor system. It was your basic "red" but went fine with the pasta. They also offered several great wood grilled dishes. chicken, veal. Also had at least one or two waiters who could sing Italian opera. It was a very fun place to go and certainly was a "chain" place in those days.

                                3. Chili's is in profound decline. I will never eat there again. They refused to cook my hamburger medium rare; they said medium was the best they could do. I insisted, and they refused. I offered to sign a liability waiver. They refused. And so, I will never darken their door again. Which is too bad, because their was a time when the "Terlingua Pride" was an outstanding hamburger sandwich.

                                  1. Wait, Bob! You surrendered too soon!

                                    I went to Chili's for the first time about 6 months ago, coworker peer pressure against my chow-tendencies. In Long Beach (Ca). Maybe I got lucky, but I ordered the Buffalo (boneless "wing") chicken salad and an order of chips for the table. And I really liked both. Wing sauce compared favorably to the many meals I've eaten at the Anchor Bar (and elsewhere in Buffalo) and the chips are so good that I'll now get an extra bag to go (thin, crispy, freshly fried).

                                    I haven't veered from that formula yet, have had this lunch three or four more times, and haven't tried a different branch. But the reason you can be "pleasantly surprised" is that maybe there's a cook in one of these chains that has figured something out.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Christine

                                      I have to say a co-worker and I, both chowhounds, had a complete obsession with that buffalo boneless chicken salad a couple of years ago. Something about the cool green salad and the hot sauce and the breaded chicken completely worked. It got to the point where we were asking for extra bowls of hot sauce on the side. I was sweating out my scalp halfway through the salad. Good times.

                                    2. Geez, people...it's NOT that bad!

                                      Ok, it is what it is...but the food is edible and priced decently. Enjoy the outing there .

                                      My vegetarian sister swears by their veggie burger. As for me, when I go to Chili's I can't NOT order the Chicken Crispers. The best Chicken nugget-tender-strip thingie I have had anywhere. Also, the cinnamon apples are a very worthy side!

                                      1. j
                                        Jersey City Mods

                                        It's not great, but we used to go as an office (in King of Prussia PA)to both TFIF's and Chili's. I will say that for what it is, it is not all that bad. I actually think it is better than TGI Friday's. I had some kind of fish thing and at least it was not overcooked. The appetizers were actually decent. I certainly would not make a special trip there though.

                                        ..and it is way better than stuff like Spaghetti Warehouse.

                                        1. uh, yeah..........

                                          chili's startted out as a burger joint on greenville ave in dallas when i was a kid. theiir menu has changed a BUNCH since they franchised.

                                          to reply to a post somewhere down the line here....No....they're not named for the chili pepper, but for the Chili that was on their original menu. It had maybe 3 different burgers, a basket of fries and a "bowl of red" (their chili) and not a lot else. (Thier salsa is considerably milder now as well, although it is still made hotter here in Dallas than in teh northern states where i have eaten there......it's still the best salsa in the restaraunt industry tho)

                                          They still make fantastic burgers and great margaritas......but, like any place that has gone corportate....they have lost some of the originality over the years....no reason not to go......

                                          1. i like it. chicken blt tacos are delicious, if unorthodox. the tortilla chips are thin, crispy, warm and salty, as i like them. i think it's one of the less offensive chain restaurants out there, but i'm a total southwest food fanatic.

                                            1. I would consider myself quite a chowhound, but I really do enjoy Chili's for what it is. I actually enjoy the majority of their appetizers, yet no one will ever go with me! Their southwest eggrolls are delicious! Chicken crispers are perfectly battered, although sometimes super greasy. Nachos are simple enough with ample cheese. I even think they have a pretty good buffalo sauce and shanghai sauce for the chicken bites. I love the side of healthy black beans too. Their french fries are some of my favorites......

                                              1. Ah, it's not great, but the ones around here are competently run. I go in and have a bowl of chili (it is not on the menu, but they do have it), a Caesar salad, and a beer when I'm running late and all the local bars' kitchens have closed at 10. Take it for what it is, and it's OK.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Jim M

                                                  Must be a local thing with the chili, My local one served me some bean soup "thing" and called it chili. Yuck! I wont be back!

                                                2. I admit, I am of the fast food generation, and I know that "mass produced food" has a certain taste that many people don't like. I'm sure Chili's has it, and I'm immune to it. While I don't particularly like a big mac, Ive never gotten sick eating one. Back to the topic at hand, the Chili's nearest me is pretty good. You do have to watch to make sure they get the burger the way you want. And no, they will not make a rare burger. Corporate attorneys no doubt (someone can correct me) not to mention various local health codes.

                                                  My personal favorite are the Baja Taco's. Yes, know of a place in San Pedro that sells much better ones. But I live in Honolulu, and they are consistently good. And they do go so well with the Presidente Margaritas. Another friend loves the chicken fried steak, and a third the chicken fingers (thats what he calls them, not what it says on the menu i don't think)

                                                  1. I'm a big time food snob, but confess (anonymously, unless you read my blog) that I find their fajitas to be absolutely divine and craveworty, and I live in Arizona where there are tons of choices for fajitas. We have two young kids and it's a good "family" place where you don't have to worry about your kids being loud while you slug back cold, cheap, American light beer with your fajitas.

                                                    Additionally, I've also found our Chili's to be exceptionally well managed. They never miss the details - like refilling your drinks - unlike lots of very expensive places that we go to where they can't even get the basics right and I have to beg for a refill on my iced tea.

                                                    1. I've found that there are some items on the menu at Chili's that are reasonably good (I like the ribeye steaks) but the last couple of times I've been (with a group of people from work) the service has been overwhelmingly mediocre. It's all a moot point by now anyway, since 2 of the three locations in the Seattle area closed down a couple of months ago, and the only remaining one is behind the security checkpoint at Sea-Tac airport, which makes it unlikely I'll be eating there anytime soon.

                                                      1. I think Maggiano's is overpriced and the service is lacking. I've never had good service any time I've gone there. Half the dishes come out cold, long waits for tables, crappy table placement if you're with all women or have children in your group. I could go on and on. People love this place and I always get stuck going.

                                                        I don't like anything at Macaroni Grill. I've eaten there multiple times at several different locations and I just don't like anything on their menu that I've tried.

                                                        I like Chili's grilled chicken sandwich and their house salad with honey lime dressing. But I just feel like that restaurant is dirty (whether it's the airport in Orlando, the free standing one in my town, or any other city I go to, there is always an issue with dirty seats, dirty tables, missing locks on the bathroom door or something). The one in my town is the worst. I dated someone who really liked to eat there a lot and the bathroom just annoyed me to no end. One day we were there and they couldn't find the spray bottle to wash the tables so they were using paper towels from the bathroom and water. I mean, just do not get me started on this restaurant.

                                                        I actually talked to the manager of the one in my town because if I was going to be forced to eat there often, they could at least work on their cleanliness issue. All he wanted to do was send me gift certificates. I don't want money! I want a clean bathroom.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Manassas64

                                                          Someone's got a case of the Mondays!!!!

                                                        2. The Southern Smokehouse Burger is really good.

                                                          1. I'm partial to the Oldtimer (med rare) with extra pickles but it's been about 18 months since my last visit -- which was not very positive.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: The Ranger

                                                              Exactly what I used to order a few years ago... until they refused to do medium rare here in Austin, Texas... CRAZY!

                                                              1. re: The Ranger

                                                                In NY they won't even serve a burger that's not well done. And, of course, no Chili on the menu. My kids like it, I have yet to have anything decent.

                                                                1. re: The Ranger

                                                                  I order the Oldtimer with cheese, black bean patty. Say what you will about Chili's but I like that I can get a veggie burger substituted for any of their burgers instead of the diet dungeon set aside for vegetarians at most chains.

                                                                2. I enjoy their steak fajitas, and in my area of NJ, finding fajitas that I actually enjoy the taste of is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

                                                                  Other than the fajitas, I'm pretty unimpressed with their fare.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: TarheelYankee

                                                                    I live in Arizona, where good fajitas are all around, but I still love them at Chili's. I've never had anything else there, but I still crave their fajitas and a 32 oz draught beer every now and then.

                                                                    Headed to Bergen County, NJ, tomorrow, by the way. Have you ever been to White Manna in Hackensack?

                                                                    1. re: ejs1492

                                                                      I'm sorry, I just now saw your reply, I wouldn't have been any help though, regarding White Manna, I've only heard of it, never have been there.

                                                                      Did you eat there?

                                                                  2. I used to like the lettuce wraps, but it looks like they've been removed from the menu. There isn't that much I really care for on the menu now, unfortunately.

                                                                    1. It's interesting how jugdmental people like to be on here. Ifyou post to Chowhound YOU KNOW CHili's is a chain. They don't set out to be otherwise. Don't be so overbearing. Their salads are fine. Their chicken is fine. Their fries are fine. They ARE what they come off to be. Don't be critical just because they are a chain. They don't try to come off as anything else, so don't knock them for that, ok?

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Chocolate Toe

                                                                        Amen to that, i swear some of these people would be amazed how bad truly bad food can be.

                                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                          thanks for having my back. :) And also... that is not to say I love Chili's. I don't eat there unless I have to. It is kind of boring. When I eat there, I am more worried about what might get put in the food accidentally and the quality of the kitchen and the staff there... but I am like that at any chain or fast food place. Chili's is fine. Again, not my fave, but it will do.

                                                                      2. OK, I'll say it. I really like Chili's. In fact it's one of the few sit down chain restaurant that I like. You will never see me at an Olive Garden, TGIF's, Red Lobster, Red Robin, Bennigans, Applebee's etc

                                                                        I like Chili's, Cheesecake Factory, Houston's, Outback is OK, PF Changs, and CPK.

                                                                        I will never understand why people eat at Applebee's or TGIF over Chili's. I find the food quality and taste to be way better at Chili's for comparable price and even better atmosphere.

                                                                        My favorites on the menu:
                                                                        Southwestern Eggrolls (I have had these many many times and they never get old, mmmm)
                                                                        Chicken Enchilada Soup
                                                                        Chips and queso
                                                                        Burgers (I actually really like their new mini burgers I can't remember what they call them)
                                                                        BBQ Ranch Chicken Sandwich
                                                                        Grilled Caribbean Pita (they took this off the menu but they still make the Grilled Caribbean salad and they still have other pitas so I special order it.)
                                                                        Chicken Tacos
                                                                        Quesadilla Salad

                                                                        I rarely eat steak or seafood at a restaurant like this so I can't say I've had their steak and seafood items. I always stick more to the sandwich's, salad's, burgers and I believe that's what Chili's does best.

                                                                        I've been to many different Chili's and for the most part I find them to be clean and have good service.

                                                                        Give it a try at least once!

                                                                        1. Oldtimer (plain burger) with fries and a Coke. Heaven on a bun

                                                                          1. I like Chili's. I don't eat there often, but every once in a while I get a craving for their chips with salsa (which is yummy) and queso dip and an oldtimer with a Presidente margarita. Their boneless buffalo wings are good too.

                                                                            1. Chili's is Chili's - nothing exceptional, but not horrible either. That said, they are running a special that's a very good value - don't know how long or what locations (I'm in N. Central TX).

                                                                              1 app to share, 2 entrees and 1 dessert to share - 20 bucks.

                                                                              The entrees do not include everything on their menu, but it was certainly a decent selection of maybe 7 or 8 options including burgers, sandwiches and a couple of plates.

                                                                              I have to say, I ordered the chicken fried steak for the first time (there) and was surprisingly impressed. It had all appearance and texture of being hand battered, though the gravy was the pre-packaged stuff - no surprise there.

                                                                              1. can i just say that Chili's used to have the best chicken caesar salad ever? i'm not kidding. it was awesome, about seven years ago they changed the recipe and it has sucked ever since. the old one had shredded red cabbage, romaine, spicy garlic croutons and sweet pineapple marinated chicken and fresh shredded parm, anchovy-yy dressing, it was seriously sooo good. the new one sucks. sucks sucks sucks.

                                                                                i do find their southwestern eggrolls and boneless wings retardedly addictive. the rest of their menu is pretty blah.