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Best non-chain reasonably-priced Real Chili Joint/Steakhouse that's Kid Friendly

I'm a Texas-born CA gal visiting family in early October looking for a top-notch bowl o' red and something tasty and not-too-spicy for the 7 yr old.

Chili: Beef and/or Buffalo, good, hearty flavor, onions, easy on the tomatoes and NO beans please!
Steakhouse: Down-home, great quality, unpretentious.
Looking to spend under $20 per person and since I'll be staying in Duncanville, hopefully not too far.

I'll be heading south down the I-35 on Saturday to Buda, so if have any suggestions for something not-to-be-missed directly off the freeway, I'll take 'em.

Also, is the State Fair worth a visit or should I pass? My 7 yr old is intrigued by the possibility of Piggy Races and she LOVES corn dogs. Worth the $$ and the crowds? Please let me know.

Thanks Hounds!

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  1. I'll leave the steak and bowl of red to others. As to corny dogs and the state fair. It's worth it. Seven is old enough to really take it in.

    5 Replies
      1. re: Plano Rose

        Definitely take a day for the state fair. Fletcher's Corny Dogs outside of the Cotton Bowl are the traditional corny dog of fame. Search the web or check soft drink cans to see if you can find a discount on tickets to the fair.

        Tolbert's (Chili Parlor) serves it year 'round and carries a chili history legacy: Original owner Tolbert was directly linked to the beginnings of the Original Terlingua International Frank X. Tolbert - Wick Fowler Championship Chili Cookoff. It's in Grapevine which is 30-45 minutes NW of Duncanville.

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        Tolbert's
        423 S Main St, Grapevine, TX 76051

        1. re: CocoaNut

          I will second Tolbert's not only for the chili but they also serve steaks. See http://www.tolbertsrestaurant.com/.

          1. re: CocoaNut

            As much as I love Kathleen that runs Tolbert's (daughter of Frank X.) I have to say that based on 4 recent visits to her location in Grapevine I will issue a 'pass' on the chili. I know her from the Terlingua cook off, and even like her personally. But the chili at the restaurant is simply not anything I would offer to a guest of mine. And it is not of competition quality, sad to say.

            I hope this all changes. See below for more details...

            http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/cityo...

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            Tolbert's
            423 S Main St, Grapevine, TX 76051

            1. re: DallasDude

              I concur, I specifically went to Tolbert's to try the chili. It was OK, but not earth-shattering. I expected it to be much better since it has lots of mentions in the boards.

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              Tolbert's
              423 S Main St, Grapevine, TX 76051

        2. BigWoodenSpoon--"Easy on the tomatoes?" Tomatoes in Texas chili? Tell me you were joking. This ain't Wendy's! :)

          10 Replies
          1. re: bhoward

            Hey, I live in (and mostly raised in) the SF Bay Area, so please excuse my unfamiliarity with *True* Texas Chili. That's why I'm asking y'all, since people like to mess with things out here.

            Alright, so if Tolbert's is a passsssss, what are my other options?
            I'm the chilihead and my kid loves the idea of a steak of their very own.
            Should I hunt for good Brisket instead? BBQ would work for both of us.

            Thanks again!

            1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

              I'm continually amazed when people compare generic, people pleaser restaurant recipes to highly customized and practiced, competition cookoff recipes.

              Here are links to two chili society's cookoff schedules. Maybe you'll be lucky and there will be one in the area during your visit. (Note the recipes - OMG!!! :) tomatoes, sauce, paste and even ground meat! lol!)

              Enjoy your visit and hope you find a bowl of TX red that meets your liking!

              1. re: CocoaNut

                Thanks! Didn't see the links, but I looked up the local schedules and nothing's happening while we're in town. Bummer!
                When I cook chili at home, it's more "competition-style".
                Cubed beef, bacon, onions, chilies (usually dried that are re-hydrated in beer), spices and maybe a little tomato paste or masa to thicken it.
                Heck, maybe I'll just head to Tolbert's anyways and see for myself. Grapevine looks like a fun little place to visit as well.

              2. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                There used to be a tasty place that served chili near Downtown Dallas, Chapman's but it recently closed because of some landlord issues.

                I don't know of any other destination spot for chili other than Tolbert's and I would concurr with DallasDude's assesment.

                Dallas is notoriously a poor spot for BBQ. You might want to check out Off the Bone which is south of FW and probably 20-30 minutes from Duncanville.

                It is a bit funny that you just happened to pick three types of cuisine BBQ, Chili and inexpensive steaks that I think most would associate with Texas that are definitely not the strengths of the local dining scent.

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                Tolbert's
                423 S Main St, Grapevine, TX 76051

                Off the Bone
                1734 S Lamar St, Dallas, TX 75215

              3. re: bhoward

                Pretty much every competition chili recipe I've ever come across includes some amount of tomato sauce.

                  1. re: twinwillow

                    I concur, too. I have what I believe is a great recipe and it contains some tomato sauce. I read the original post re; "tomatoes" to mean chopped/diced tomatoes but perhaps I was wrong. I haven't cooked in a chili cookoff in several years but am pretty sure that such tomatoes would lead to disqualification but I will let a poster with greater knowledge comment on that with more authority. Also, while I consider my recipe as outstanding it is definitely not what is generally seen as chili cookoff competition chili.

                    1. re: twinwillow

                      Upon further review...the official CASI Rules do not specify that there should be no diced/chopped tomatoes, per se. (The Rules do say that there shall be no fillers but tomatoes are not listed as an example). The Judging Criteria does state, however, that the "chili should be a smooth combination of meat and gravy." If I am not mistaken, I believe that tomatoes, onions that have not dissolved, and the like are called "floaters" and greatly frowned upon, if not grounds for disqualification. Having said all that, my recipe would be frowned upon (but not for chopped tomatoes!) but is still damn fine. Finally, I went to the CASI site which contains the recipes of past winners and most did include tomatoe paste or tomatoe sauce. None contained chopped onions (as my recipe does) as I suppose that would violate the "smooth" or floater criteria as set out above.

                      1. re: bhoward

                        I wouldn't hesitate to use a tomato paste product for thickness, and depth of flavor.