5 Places to Get Your Chili Fix in Houston (While It's Chilly)

Categories: Top Five

The Chili Shak 004.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Chili two ways at The Chili Shak.
Most of the time, I'm the type of person who thinks that -- like barbecue -- chili is best made and enjoyed at home. It's simple stuff that dates back nearly 500 years to the first chili recipe, when Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of Hernan Cortez's captains, described the Cholulan Indian stew in 1519 as containing "tomatoes, salt and chiles." (What's often left out in this tale is that the missing chili ingredient -- meat -- was meant to come from the conquistadores' slaughtered bodies after the Cholulan Indians killed all of Cortez's men.)

Today, despite chili being the official state food of Texas, it's not a meal that most Texans go out to eat. We go to chili competitions and sample the entries studiously and engage in fierce chili cookoffs, yes. We scream bloody murder when someone suggests putting beans in chili and will argue endlessly with one another over this one ingredient for days. (I've seen that here at Eating Our Words.)

But what about just seeking out a bowl of comfort when it's cold outside? Below are five suggestions for a bowl of red -- not all of them Texan, though.

Armadillo Palace 005.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Chili the Texas way at Armadillo Palace.
Armadillo Palace

Armadillo Palace offers my platonic ideal of what a bowl of chili should be: good-sized chunks of meat cooked in a red sauce that's thick but not soupy, well-spiced but not sweat-inducingly spicy. The sweet bites of venison are given depth with a cumin-laced chili sauce and livened up even further with some crunchy raw onion and fresh jalapeños -- which are served separately, for you to add to the chili at your own discretion. (Now if only someone would tell Armadillo Palace that the wonderful chicken-fried steak should be served the same way, with the cream sauce on the side.)

486164_10152171480067619_1823771842_n.jpg
Photo courtesy of Haven
Wild boar chili Frito pie: Wednesdays at Haven.
Haven

Haven's wild boar chili epitomizes the sort of upscale down-home Texas cooking that chef Randy Evans specializes in, presented elegantly but without fuss. On top of the chili is a tangy crema in lieu of sour cream (although they're virtually the same thing), minced onions, jalapeño Cheddar cheese and what Haven calls a "corn stick," tilting out of the bowl at a jaunty angle. It's as if someone took the hushpuppies at Catfish King (where my East Texas folks at?) and made them better. I know. Sacrilege. But it's true. And on Wednesdays, that same chili is atop a Frito pie as the day's blue plate lunch special.

Twin Peaks

The venison chili at Twin Peaks actually fits the odd hunting lodge aesthetic of the place and is served very simply, with just a scattering of pepper jack cheese and green onions for bite. This is not a chili for the thinking man; it's a chili that's best enjoyed while grunting at a football game on TV, drinking a "draft beer so cold that ice crystals form in the glass," and taking in the view of the staff's own, very prominently displayed Twin Peaks. (Hey, there's a chili out there for everyone!) Beware of going in the evenings, however, when wait times for a table can start at 90 minutes.

Location Info

Venue

Map

Haven

2502 Algerian Way, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Twin Peaks

4527 Lomitas St., Houston, TX

Category: Music

James Coney Island

3607 S. Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Jus' Mac

2617 Yale, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Tags:

chili
My Voice Nation Help
30 comments
palladindc
palladindc

Remember to try as much chili as you can eat at the upcoming HOUSTON KOSHER CHILI COOKOFF Sunday March 3 at the ERJCC on Braeswood near Chimney Rock (11:30 - 3:00) Teams are still being accepted.

Abdul Farukhi
Abdul Farukhi

Why is it called chili when it's served hot and spicy?

susanterrywilhelm
susanterrywilhelm

So glad you mentioned Haven as the Wild Boar Chili was my first thought when I read the headline!  I could eat that by the gallon!

Houston Press
Houston Press

It's not a top 5 list - just a list of a few places to satisfy a wide range of different chili cravings! :)

Chad Nottmeier
Chad Nottmeier

There are 4 others on the list. There is a top 5 and an "honorable mention" ... did u actually read the article? And, HP nailed it with Armadillo Palace. It has been my favorite chili in H-town for a long time.

Chase Thorn
Chase Thorn

Houston Press.. if its the top 5 then there are 3 more, might as well have put Chili's and Denny's on the list.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

I really don't go out for chili, per se, as my own version of pedernales red is incredibly cheap and simple.  Frito pie, on the other hand, I'm always willing to go out for.  That said, steer clear of Jus' Mac (while they have plenty of really nice mac & cheese options, the chili mac isn't one of them.  It has beans in it; nuff said)  Instead, head to El Real, who not only has one of the best Frito pies in town, they're willing to serve it to you in the frito pie bag.

Brittany Kight
Brittany Kight

Ooh and the python chili at Sammy's is to die for.

Brittany Kight
Brittany Kight

Langford Grocery has pretty good chili. Surprisingly, Texas Roadhouse's chili is pretty good as well.

Carlitos Way
Carlitos Way

James Coney? Has to bet better chili in town than that. Might as well go to Wendy's.

blackrain35
blackrain35

Coney Island chili works on the hotdogs, but overall not very good. Might as well go to Wendy's.

Houston Press
Houston Press

Chase Thorn, there are four other spots on the list! :)

HTownChowDown
HTownChowDown

JCI's original hotdogs are a Houston classic.  But their chili is weak.  My favorite chili is at Shady Grove in Austin, but it's a bit to OTL for regular visits.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

The Capitol at St. Germain has a Texas Beef Brisket Chili with squash and jalapeno cornbread that is excellent most days.

Chase Thorn
Chase Thorn

really??? twin peaks and James Coney...you guys really did your research on this one!!!!!!!!

txvet
txvet

If you are looking for a healthier, take out option, the turkey chili at SNAP kitchen is really, really good.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

@FattyFatBastard Jus mac is just plain boring, nothing I've ever gotten has been very good. Middle of the road to average, and that certainly does not justify their prices.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@blackrain35 Exactly.  Who in their right mind EVER goes to JCI for their chili?  They serve it over pasta for chrissake.  Choice failure in the highest regard.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Why don't we have a dislike button yet?

conebaby
conebaby topcommenter

@txvet Agree, it's quite tasty. One of the better meals I've tried there.

conebaby
conebaby topcommenter

@FattyFatBastard  Chili on pasta=Cincinnati Chili, yes? I've never been tempted to try it, except for one version I saw on No Reservations. Fred's & Red's in Joplin, MO, oddly enough.

conebaby
conebaby topcommenter

@kshilcutt  Very hard for me to wrap my brain around chili + pasta. Then again, I like beans in my chili so what do I know :)

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...