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Chili in Texas

I'm a recent convert to the chili world who is perfecting my personal recipe. I will be traveling in Texas this coming June and am interested in getting some authentic Texas chili to calibrate my palate. I have seen very little about chili in Texas beyond one poster's comments that true Texas chiliheads make their own chili (which I wholeheartedly agree with). I will be spending some time in the DFW area as well as a quick jaunt to San Antonio and a few other spots. Are there any suitable chili joints I can stop at to get a sample? I had a vision of making some grand pilgrimage to SA, the birthplace of chili (according to many historians).

So what's the real story?

Joe

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  1. We've had the "chili chat" before. I'd suggest you do a search. I don't recall much of anything that was promising because I'm one of those that always has several batches of chili in the freezer, waiting to be thawed out. We've got several chili cooks in our household, so the chili in the freezer always includes an interesting variety. That's why we never order it when we eat out.

    But as far as where I'd suggest that one could go to eat some good Texas chili, I'd probably recommend that a true believer attend some of the chili cookoffs held frequently around the state.

    Here's the biggest, best, most-famous: http://www.chili.org/terlingua.html

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jaymes

      Thanks to all who responded. I'm convinced that it will be a difficult quest to find the ultimate
      Texas chili at a restaurant in Texas. I happen to have developed what I think is an excellent chili recipe of my own that I (and many friends) find delicious. Anything I try at restaurants falls short of what I have in my freezer right now (YUM!) Long story short, if it's convenient to visit a "chili joint" while in TX, I will try it, but I won't spend valuable time searching. Barbecue, that's another story for another thread, and I will have my shopping list of possible stops with me on my trip. Unfortunately, this trip itinerary is not food-dominated, so I'll have to fit food stops in between other activities and may not be able to satisfy my Chowhound instincts fully. Life is too short to cover "the stuff of life".

      Adios, amigos.

      ChiliJoe

      1. re: ChiliJoe

        Care to share that excellent chili recipe... I enjoy making different chilis. :)

        1. re: Rene

          Well...... I'm not about to give away all my secrets, but I'll tell you my approach. I try to honor the traditional core of chili (beef, chilis, basic spices) and add my own touch. I pretty much start with the basic middle of the road chili style that has permeated my entire life (Wendy's chili is a standard example) and expand on it. A well-stocked spice rack is a great inspiration. For me chili has always been more complex than the Texas purist's meat sauce. However, I make sure that the meat and cumin are prominent. My flavor target is kind of a sweet, smoky, "brown" flavor. By brown I mean dark beer, molasses, that sort of thing. I include things like coriander, ground mustard, a few unexpected sweeteners (secret!) and smoked paprika and chipotles. I haven't ventured too close to the Cincinnati approach yet, although some day I might try it. I use tomato sauce, some beans (I'm not in Texas!), maybe one or two other contrasting solids for color and texture (wild rice, corn, hominy, etc.), and simmer it long enough that the flavors meld into a sauce worthy of the snootiest restaurant. I vary the spicyness to suit the palates of the folks I happen to be sharing with, but my personal heat preference level is moderate - well balanced with the sweetness and not lip-searing. I've tried including Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, and a few other meats, but I keep returning to a combination of ground and diced beef. It's an ongoing experiment.

          I'm getting hungry. Let's go make some chili!

          1. re: ChiliJoe

            Very interesting... I've not explored preparing a sweet chili and I am a Texan so for me this would be a chili-like concoction. I did have an opportunity in Cincinnati to try the chili and, while I liked the texture, the sweet was a bit much... It's certainly not a bad thing but possibly an interesting twist. I'd probably stick with 1/2" cubed round steak but can definitely understand hominy in the mix... beans could work in a non-traditional.... also red bell peppers, onions, garlic... I like the dark beer and chipoltle idea with the other spices that I usually include. Thanks!

        2. re: ChiliJoe

          If you find any great restaurant chili during your trek through Texas, please come back here and let us know about it, okay?

          And perhaps the next time someone asks that question, we'll have a better answer.

          Thanks!

      2. Texas really isn't a chili parlor state like you may find in some states. As already indicated, this is a chili competition state! I probably couldn't name 5 non-chain restaurants that serve a bowl-o-red. I'm searching my brain for one at this point.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Lambowner

          The last time this exact same topic came up, I thought and thought and tried to remember the last time I, or anyone I was with, ordered chili in a Texas restaurant. I couldn't think of a single time. In fact, the last time I could recall anyone ordering chili was when I was visiting relatives in California and they wanted to go to a Marie Callendar's. So we did. And one of them ordered chili. But, like I said, I don't order it in restaurants because I'm pretty convinced mine will be better (not to mention that also I know what's in it), and I have plenty of it just sitting in the freezer waiting to be heated and served. I can't help but suspect my experience is fairly common and that the reason Texas doesn't have as many good chili restaurants as, say, TexMex or barbecue joints, is not because we don't like or eat a lot of chili. We do. Just not out.

          It's an interesting conundrum, though, isn't it?

          I do recall that the last time we discussed this very thing, it was because somebody wanted to open a chili parlor somewhere in Texas. I suppose ChiliJoe could do a little investigation and see if that ever came about.

          I will say that I've heard that Texas Chili Parlor in Austin serves some pretty good stuff, although it's really a dive, so that might not appeal to everyone.

          1. re: Jaymes

            I've been to Austin's Texas Chili Parlor is okay. I think I had pretty high expectations, and the place didn't quite meet up with them for the most part. Sevice is pretty bad as the staff seems to be continually hungover. The place is a dump, but it's part of the experience.

            1. re: Jaymes

              Hi Jaymes.

              When I was in school at Texas, (late 70's/early 80's), one of my best buds and I used to hit the TCP fairly often as it was a short and very pleasant walk from campus, (and right across Lavaca from Wheeler's Liquors!).

              It just so happens that I will be visiting best bud in Austin next week while he is there on family business. I wouldn't be shocked at all if we manage to hit the TCP for old time's sake, (as well as our planned visit to Franklin's).

              If we do, I'll let you know...

              1. re: DoobieWah

                I've only been once, and was told to order the cheese enchiladas with the chili gravy. As I recall, they were pretty good. Since it was also close to the courts, lawyers and judges frequented the place.

            2. re: Lambowner

              Texas Armadillo Palace in Houston sells venison chili, but i don't know if it's any good having never been there. ChiliJoe check out the link Jaymes provided, and go to CASI, they have recipies for the winning chili going back twenty years or so.

            3. There are a couple of places in the Dallas area you'll want to check out, Tolbert's and Chapman's (I have never been to either, just heard about them).

              Here's a thread from a couple of years ago that was a good one:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/681912

              There are lots of topics on chili here on this board, including several about Dallas that haven't been moved to the Dallas board. You could also search the Dallas board and post your question there. Austin also has it's own board (as does Houston but you're coming no where close to Houston). There is a lot of mediocre restaurant chili out there and, of course, lots of disagreement about what constitutes good chili. Good Luck. Wish I could do a tour of the state looking for chili.

              1 Reply
              1. re: brucesw

                Chapman's chili was awesome, but they are now closed.
                I'll eat at Tolbert's whenever I am near Grapevine, but their
                chili is just ok.

              2. Interesting that for many Texans, chili is a home experience. That was my case for 8 years in Texas a couple decades ago when I was fortunate to have limitless access to first class home made venison chili. Now I'm back in Texas, and I have had one bowl at a decent restaurant. It simply didn't measure up, so I will stick with what restaurants do better. For starters, no beans in Texas chili!

                1. RT's neighborhood bar in Denton has great chili when they have it. definitely worth a try,