Young and Hungry

Chili Reception: Where Do You Go for a Good (Non-Ben’s) Bowl?

chili sampler

I had a serious hankering for chili last weekend, and I found myself in a strange position. I wasn't sure where to get a good bowl. Aside from the obvious spots like Ben's and Hard Times, I was seriously stumped.

I think this paucity of chili says something about our current  gastronomic tastes. (And maybe something about our willingness to make our own now.) During the last great economic crisis, chili parlors were omni-present. They were America's comfort food during the Depression. Now it's cupcakes. My teeth hurt just thinking about this.

So I need your help, Y&H Nation. Where do you go for a good bowl of chili these days? All suggestions welcome...except Ben's and Hard Times.

  • Former Staffer

    I make my own. Having spent three years in the Sonoran desert, nothing around here is really chili.

    Take New Mexican red (hot or mild), some Negro, Pasilla, Chipotle, and Ancho chiles and toast in a cast iron skillet. De-seed and stem. Place in a blender.

    Add one onion, several garlic cloves, a Brooklyn Brown Ale, some chocolate, smoked paprika, hickory salt and blend until smooth.

    Sear whatever meat you like, be it pork, ground round, or chicken and bake until tender.

    That's real chili.

  • EdTheRed

    Back in the 80s and early 90s, I used to go to the old location of Bar-J, which shared a building with Booth Feeds on Route 1 between Ft. Belvoir and Lorton. When they got eminent domained out of their building, they moved a bit further north on Route 1, but I never did check out the new location. Apparently, they're in Woodbridge now. Anyways, they made a damn fine Texas-style chili - no beans, and you could get it wet, dry, or extra dry.

  • Tim Carman

    Former Staffer,

    Sounds like a decent recipe, but let me ask a clarifying question or two:

    1. Do you bake the meat separately and then combine with your blended chili sauce? If so, that's a technique I haven't seen much. Typically, you want a fairly marbled cut of meat, so that its fat will render into the chili as it stews away and make it more flavorful.

    2. You find the same results whatever type of meat? You don't find that, for instance, a fatty ground chuck is better than lean chicken meat?


  • Grumpy

    Most 'chili' is 'sloppy joe mix with beans and spices thrown in'. It's usually too hot (spicy) to enjoy.

    I'd like to know TOO where you can get good chili.

  • Former Staffer


    I was trying to generalize. I forgot a little brown sugar/molasses to add some sweetness (depending on taste and what's in the cupboard).

    I typically use that recipe for pork shoulder (carne adovada) and roast at 350 for 45 minutes or so. Cube it and roast/bake together.

    Burger, sirloin, chuck depends on your taste...I don't like a lot of gristle in mine, so if I use sirloin I may crisp some bacon first and use the bacon fat to add a little flavor. This one I typically do in a pot on the stove.

    Chicken...there's a couple ways to try it, shredded seems to work the best, although you can do this like the adovada as well.

    I'm a Red over Green kinda guy.

    The Brooklyn gives the pork a nice background flavor. My most recent ground beef chili used apple cider instead of beer and gave it a sweeter aftertaste. But experimenting to find what you like is the name of the game.

  • Tim Carman

    Thanks for passing along your chili secrets, FS.

    I'm getting very hungry.


  • monkeyrotica

    If there's good chili around DC, I haven't found it. I use Paul Prudhomme's Texas Red recipe from Seasoned America. Plenty of ingredients, but it's bulletproof. Dried arbol, serrano and guajillo peppers, diced top round, thickened with a pound and a quarter of rendered bacon and cornmeal. Some nutmeg and cinnamon for sweetening and cumin at the end. None of this Hamburger Helper ground nonsense. Great with some brothy pintos or over Fritos for a nice chili pie.

    My mom tells me that back in the early 1960s, there used to be a couple of chili parlors downtown near the old Greyhound station. Probably folded just before the neighborhood went to seed after the riots.

  • Elyse

    If you are craving Cincinnati style chili (and not the fake stuff that Hard Times serves) head over to The Bottom Line in farragut. They bring in cans of Skyline Chili from Cincinnati so that they can serve it to Bengals fans.

  • Tim Carman

    Thanks for the tip, Elyse.

  • Matthew

    It's not on the menu all the time, but the chili at the Greek Deli is quite good. You can also get it over orzo, and both versions come with a nice sized slice of bread to mop up any remainders.

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  • monkeyrotica

    Two chili places I have yet to try: Vienna Inn and Tubby's Frozen Custard. Excellent hotdogs at the former and fresh handcut spicy fries at the latter.

    Skyline Chili is also available in the frozen section at Harris Teeter.

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