Yippee ki-yay, It’s National Chili Day! I like to think of chili as a relative of cassoulet, a dish which sparks as much debate among French chefs and home cooks as chili does among pretty much everyone in North America. Blame the various styles, such as green chili, Texas red, and Cincinnati, as well as the array of so-called ingredients people swear by, from coffee, chocolate, and peanut butter to beer, pickle juice, and sriracha for the culinary quarrels — not to mention the beans vs. no beans issue. However it’s prepared, though, chili is beloved on a national scale. Despite its reputation as a cornerstone of summer cook-offs, chili reaches its highest greatest popularity in the winter months, according to Google Trends.
As we celebrate this soul-warming dish on its special day, read on for some raves about chili of all flavors and styles at restaurants around the U.S.
* American Cut, New York, New York: “Some of the highlights were lobster chili — spicy, sweet-flavored lobster. Had to resist eating the rest of the sauce with toast to save room for the rest of the meal.”
* Beatrice & Woodsley, Denver, Colorado: “Everything I had was superb — kudos to the chef! The pulled pork green chili was excellent; who knew that a pickled egg would add so much flavor? A new addition to my recipe.”
* Chili U, Libertyville, Illinois: “Despite the name, this place has a lot of non-chili items, and several very flavorful vegetarian choices. We love the idea of ‘build your own’ chili dinner (you choose the extra ingredients for the base and toppings to be added to 4 choices of chili) and the unique chili recipes in the ‘we make’ part of the menu, especially the Thai shrimp chili.”
* District Commons, Washington, D.C.: “The Texas chili was true Texas chili without beans. The side plates of onion, sour cream, and cheese made it possible to tailor the add-ons to your liking. The tiny star-shaped cornbread was creative and visually delightful.”
* Food 101, Atlanta, Georgia: “If you get a chance to go while the restaurant is celebrating its 15-year anniversary, be sure to try the prix fixe menu. My companion did and she was treated to a lovely short rib chili topped with cilantro cream, not to mention fall-off-the-bone ribs. And, I can’t end without mentioning the perfectly portioned, delicious biscuits and slightly sweet cornbread. I’ll be going back!”
* Grillstone, Scotch Plains, New Jersey: “The oysters were excellent. The sushi appetizer was phenomenal. The Angus chili was mesmerizing.”