Worth a Try: Chili

Photo courtesy of Goode Company

No matter the spice, meat, beans, or noodles that fill up these bowls, you’ll want to make a trip to try these chili dishes.

Home Team BBQ, Three locations in Charleston, South Carolina

Photo courtesy of Paul Cheney

This barbecue joint was opened by classically trained chefs, including owner and pitmaster Aaron Siegel. Now with three busy locations in Charleston, their thoughtful Southern menu always draws a crowd. One of their many creative dishes, the Smoked Chicken and White Bean Chili is hard to beat. A little sweet and a little spicy, the chili has been a big seller since the restaurant opened. It can be ordered as a side, as part of the Frito Pie, and is the most popular topping guests choose for the BBQ Nachos. Aaron says the chili was a great way to round out their menu and use the delicious smoked chicken and other excess ingredients that a barbecue restaurant naturally has on hand, creating a unique dish that any chili lover will enjoy. 

Camp Washington Chili, Cincinnati, Ohio

Photo courtesy of Teri Campbell

In 1951, Johnny Johnson came to America from Greece and began working at Camp Washington Chili, which his uncle opened in 1940, and he’s never had another job since. Camp Washington has grown from humble beginnings to being the only James Beard American Regional Classic Award-winning restaurant in Cincinnati. Their high-quality chili is made fresh every day, and only family members know the secret spice blend and add it to the batches. The restaurant is open 24 hours, 6 days a week and goes through 60 gallons of chili daily. Two of the most popular of their many chili offerings are the 3 Way, comprised of chili, spaghetti, and cheese, and the Cheese Coney hot dog, which they sell more than 1,000 of every day.
3005 Colerain Avenue. 

Maverick’s Grill, Granby, Colorado

Photo courtesy of Camille Clancy

Among the different styles of chili, green chili truly stands out. Maverick’s version of this unique dish contains pork, just the right amount of heat, cilantro, and lime for a fresh flavor, and is thickened with a butter roux for richness. Their Green Chili has won a vast array of awards, but the creation of the recipe was somewhat by accident. Owner and General Manager Sean Richardson once had to make a batch of green chili in the absence of the cook who usually made it, so he threw together the dish with what he had on hand in the kitchen. It was a hit, and the rest is history. Among all the awards the restaurant’s green chili, red chili, and salsa have won, the wins in the people’s choice categories mean the most to Sean, whose aim is to make a great bowl of chili everyone can enjoy. 15 E. Agate Avenue. 

Varallo’s Chile Parlor & Restaurant, Nashville, Tennessee

Photo courtesy of Deborah Varallo
Photo courtesy of Deborah Varallo

In 1907, Frank Varallo Sr., a traveling violinist from Italy, opened a restaurant selling his “chile,” which came from a secret bean soup recipe he received from a family he met on his travels in South America. Fourth-generation owner Todd Varallo now runs this no-frills establishment, which is the oldest restaurant in Tennessee. Chili can be ordered many ways, including the Chile 3 Way, which is chili, spaghetti, and a tamale; the Chile Mix, which is chili and short spaghetti; the Chile Hot, which is chili and a tamale; the Chile Straight, which is chili only; and Franks Chile Mac, which comes with long spaghetti and their famous chili. Varallo’s serves full breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday. 239 4th Avenue North. 

Barney’s Beanery, Six locations in Los Angeles, California area

Since opening in 1920 in West Hollywood, Barney’s Beanery has more than proven their status as a classic L.A. eatery. The number of people in show business who have enjoyed their casual, welcoming atmosphere over the years is too long to list. Barney’s Beanery also boasts a long list of menu options. Among the 700-plus menu items are a wide variety of chili options, including “The ‘Classic’ Since 1920,” Turkey, Vegetable, Texas-Style, Fireman’s, and Chili with Spaghetti and Beans. Chili can be ordered in many sizes, in a bread bowl, and on burgers, hot dogs, nachos, potato skins, french fries, and more. The Chili Sampler allows guests to choose three chili varieties, giving them a small but delicious taste of all Barney’s Beanery has to offer. 

The Chili Parlor, Springfield, Illinois

The Chili Parlor serves a secret-recipe chili that has kept customers coming since 1945. A unique blend of spices gives the chili lots of flavor, and there are five heat levels available, as well as light beans and no-bean options. The Chili Parlor keeps the ground beef and beans separate right until the order is placed so customers can customize the heat from mild to Firebrand. Any patron brave enough to order and finish this super-spicy bowl is added to the Firebrand Challenge Board. The beverage offerings include milk and even buttermilk to help combat the spice of their well-loved chili in any form. 820 South 9th Street.  

Woodyard Bar-B-Que, Kansas City, Kansas

For many people, barbecue and chili just go together, and at Woodyard Bar-B-Que, they take that literally with their Burnt End Chili. Included in the book, 500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late, this hearty dish is a three-bean chili with smoked ground beef topped with a heaping serving of burnt brisket ends, and it comes in a single serving, a cup, or a bowl. Still a working woodyard, the restaurant smokes all its meat on location in their outdoor pits and has plenty of patio seating, making it a welcoming atmosphere to enjoy local barbecue and chili at its finest. 3001 Merriam Lane. 

Fox Bros. BAR-B-Q, Atlanta, Georgia

Photo courtesy of John O'Hagan
Photo courtesy of John O’Hagan

Twin brothers and pitmasters Jonathan and Justin Fox are originally from Texas, but they have created an Atlanta hotspot with their restaurant Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q. One of the clearest ways they pay homage to the Lone Star State is with their Brisket Chili, served a variety of ways. The recipe contains no beans and has a smoky flavor from chopped brisket. It comes topped simply with cheese and onions in a bowl, in the Chili-Mac, smothering Tater Tots in the crave-worthy dish The Lopez, and can be added to almost anything on the menu. 1238 DeKalb Avenue NE. 

Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas

Photo courtesy of Goode Company
Photo courtesy of Goode Company

Goode’s Armadillo Palace is devoted to serving true Texas food, and the restaurant draws inspiration from being a part of the South, its proximity to the Gulf, and neighboring Mexico. In keeping with Texas tradition, Armadillo Palace offers chili without beans but plenty of mouth-watering chunks of meat. Their Venison Chili is made with venison from Broken Arrow Ranch in Ingram, Texas, and is served with cheese, onion, and crackers. You can also enjoy the meaty chili on the Old-Fashioned Frito Pie or on the Chili Cheese Burger for tons of flavor and a true Texas experience. 5015 Kirby Drive. 

Big Bad Breakfast, Oxford, Mississippi, and Birmingham, Alabama

Photo courtesy of City Grocery Restaurant Group
Photo courtesy of City Grocery Restaurant Group

It might come as a surprise to see a breakfast-focused restaurant also known for its chili, but once guests try it atop a waffle with slaw, cheese, pickles, onions, jalapeños, crackers, and a griddle-fried hot dog in a dish called The Pylon, they’ll understand why. Their house-made, no-bean beef chili also tops the The Good Old Boy omelet for another unique dish to try. More of Chef John Currence’s inventive dishes fill his cookbook, Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day, but you can try his spicy chili sauce for yourself at home with the following recipe.  719 North Lamar, Oxford. 5361 US Hwy 280, Birmingham. 

This content was originally published in the November 2016 issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine. ©2016 Hoffman Media