Where to find a great bowl of red — Texas-style chili — in the Big Apple
The big bowl of red from Hill Country in Manhattan.
As winter fast approaches, I find myself in search of a steaming non-vegan Bowl O’Red Texas beef chili.
We’re talking chile con carne sin frijoles. NO BEANS! But where to get the best in New York City without hopping a plane to Texas?
"Chili concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing. One of the first things I do when I get home to Texas is to have a Bowl of Red. There is simply nothing better," said Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States.
I have to agree with Lyndon. As a real Texan, he would also never abide his Bowl O’ Red having anything in it other than meat. But I’m even willing to overlook a few stray beans here and there in New York City if the chili is also made with love.
After much sampling, check out the best Bowls of Red that New York City has to offer.
Texas Red Chili
Few things will combat a chilly day like this comforting dish of ground beef simmered in aromatic vegetables and spices: chef Richard Caruso's Tex-Mex take on classic chili at the New York City restaurant, Javelina. It's also perfect for feeding a crowd during, say, the biggest football game of the year: You can make it in advance, freeze it, then heat it back up for game day. The most important part is having plenty of topping options, including cheese, cilantro, white onion and tortilla chips.
The masa paste added into the chili is key to thickening the dish to the right consistency. If you can't find masa flour, use two tablespoons of finely ground cornmeal instead. However, do make sure to use ancho chile powder and not just whichever chile powder you have on hand. Ancho chile powder is typically lower in heat than other varieties and does not have other spices mixed in, like many generic chile powders.
A true, authentic Texas chili recipe
I love to buy chiles, especially when I find ones that are soft and pliant, so fresh you can imagine they were drying in a Mexican field maybe just last week.
I have to be careful, however, when shopping because my storage space is very limited. And the other day when I opened my cabinet, out came tumbling three bags of chiles that hit me on the head. I then realized that I needed to make something that would use up a lot of my supply. Fortunately, there was a big football game and nothing pleases people watching winter sports more than a big bowl of spicy red Texas chili.
Now, I’ve written about chili before and provided you with general guidelines on how I make my chili. I don’t use beans, I don’t use tomatoes but most importantly, I don’t use measurements. It works for me, but can be frustrating if you’ve never made chili and desire more strict instructions.
So for this batch, I decided to multi-task and wrote down what I was adding to the pot when I made my what I dubbed my seven-chile chili. Of course, there were a couple of mishaps—I added way too many ground cloves in the beginning and accidentally added cardamom instead of coriander during one spice addition. But the best thing about chili is that the longer it cooks, the flavors both deepen and blend into a complex dish where the sum of the bowl is greater than its parts.
People often ask if my chili is real deal Texas-style chili. I’ll say yes because I’m a Texan and it’s the chili I grew up eating. Though defining what authentic Texas chili is can be difficult. The term “chili” comes from chile con carne, which translates to peppers with meat. And that’s at heart what I make, with the addition of some spices and aromatics. But there have been some grumbles.
Some people have grumbled because there’s cinnamon and chocolate in my chili, though these flavors are commonly found in Mexican cuisine. Some people have grumbled because there aren’t tomatoes in my chili, though I don’t think that cowboys on the range had access to tomatoes all the time. And some people have grumbled because I don’t use Gebhardt’s Chili Powder, though I can’t buy that in New York and using fresh chiles will trump chili powder any day.
But no matter what people say, I love my chili and usually, those that eat it love it, too. So here is some of my chili with measurements. Enjoy!
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Where to Get the Best Bowls of Chili in NYC
When the temps hit below freezing, nothing sounds better than warm bowl of chili. The favorite winter staple is not only delicious, but stems from a variety of mouthwatering recipes that are packed with exciting flavors and ingredients. Whether you like yours thick and meaty or vegetarian, with a touch of spice or 5-alarm heat, chili can be prepared to suit any palate. Here’s where you can find the best bowls of chili in NYC when you’re craving a hot and hearty meal.
Good Stock, 31 Carmine St
Hailing from Houma, Louisiana, founder Ben LeBlanc knows a thing or two about soups. Missing the spicy southern stew he ate growing up, LeBlanc opened Good Stock, a restaurant where “soup is no longer an afterthought.” Good stock is community minded and has partnered with local butchers and famers to create an exciting and diverse soup menu that rotates daily. Vegetarians will love the red bean and chickpea chili. Extremely filling, this bowl is exactly what you need on cold, windy day in the city. In midtown? Good Stock also has a location at Urbanspace Vanderbilt.
The Brooklyn Star, 539 Lorimer St
Ask around about which spots offer the best bowls of chili in NYC and chances are you’ll hear the Brooklyn Star mentioned. The Williamsburg restaurant serves a serious bowl of tripe chili. Does the thought of eating tripe sound a little too adventurous for you? Not to worry. Beef and bacon are also added to the meat equation. Mix in all the spices and this recipe guarantees your every spoonful will be packed with complex, bold flavors. The fixings are worth a mention and include radish, cilantro, lime, Mexican crema, and a bag of Fritos.
Times Square Diner and Grill, 807 8 th Ave
There’s one thing about diners, you can’t go wrong ordering from the soup menu. Located in the heart of Manhattan, Time Square Diner and Grill fries, grills, sautés, and bakes and stews just about every food you can think of. Cheap and satisfying, a bowl of the chili con carne is a reliable choice for when a desire for something hot and spicy hits you at anytime day or night – this place is open 24/7. And you can’t beat the price – the massive 16 oz. serving costs just $5.95!
Hill Country Barbecue Market, 30 W 26 th St
Inspired by the food and music of Central Texas’ barbecue belt, Hill Country Barbecue Market is a meat lover’s dream come true. Using high quality meat, simple dry rub, post oak wood, and a low and slow cooking method, the kitchen at Hill Country Barbecue is serious yet no-frills. It should come as no surprise then that this is one of the few places in the city that you can find chili made Texas style – sans beans. Named after the restaurant’s founding executive chef, Elizabeth Karmel a.k.a. Queen of the Grill, EAK’s Bowl of Red is a mouthwatering ground-beef chili sure to satisfy the hungriest of wranglers.
JG Melon, 1291 3rd Ave
Located on the Upper East Side, JG Melon is an American pub known for its cozy, neighborhood atmosphere. Since opening in 1972, the restaurant has earned a reputation as having one of the best burgers in NYC. The menu is peppered with pub style favorites and diners are always quick to mention JG Melon’s chili as a worthy choice. For those rare occasions when you’re not feeling a burger, we suggest ordering a bowl of chili topped with cheese and side of cottage fries or a green salad. On the West Side of town? Check out JG Melon’s other locations at 89 MacDougal Street and 480 Amsterdam Avenue.
Illinois: Springfield Style Chilli
What It Is: This greasy and milder rendition of chili is made with ground beef, beans, and suet. It is often served over a hot dog bun.
Origins: In 1914, Port DaFrates went from Springfield, Illinois to Dallas, Texas and tried Texan chili. He brought the recipe back home to Springfield where his brother Ray started making the chili and selling it in jars at his local grocery store. The DaFrates brothers named it "chilli" with two "l"s because that was an alternative spelling. It is still the spelling used in Illinois.
Where to Eat It: Dew Chilli Parlor, Springfield, Illinois, serves up chilli made from a 1909 recipe.
Texas pork green chili
Was October a strange month for y’all? It sure was for me. Every time I turned around, it seemed something had gone awry. Whether it was the computer meltdown we had in Phoenix, my erasing almost 200 photos when I accidentally formatted the wrong memory card, gifts I had ordered being sent to the wrong people, important emails ending up in the junk-mail folder or just the endless games of phone tag I played with my friends, almost nothing I did this month was clear and simple.
Now some people chalked up these bizarre twists and turns in communication to Mercury being retrograde. And my being a Gemini, I was doubly doomed as this planet is my ruler. But I don’t believe in that stuff. Not really, anyway. But since Mercury is supposed to un-retrograde soon (I’m not quite sure what a planet going retrograde really means), let’s hope that the rest of the year proceeds without too many more hiccups.
As I’ve been fiddling with one mishap after another, I’d forgotten that October was National Chili Month, an occasion I’m always eager to celebrate. And now that we have proper jacket-and-scarf weather happening in New York City, spending a few hours at the stove is a welcome prospect. Heck, downright necessary as it can get quite nippy inside my apartment.
Last year I discussed the merits of Texas Red. That will always be my benchmark chili—the one to which all others will be compared. But a few years ago I got it into my head to start making green chili as well. I thought it would be festive, especially around Christmas, to have big bubbling pots of red and green chili side by side. I didn’t hail from a green chili tradition, however, so I turned to a friend from New Mexico on how to make it since that state is known for its green chili.
We were at the movies and I didn’t have a pen or paper handy, so I asked him what he put in his chili just hoping I’d remember. He told me a list of ingredients and his method, which after watching the film I promptly forgot. No matter, I didn’t use a recipe for my red so I reckoned I didn’t need one for my green.
I simmered pounds of chopped pork back with only green chiles (jalapenos, poblanos and serranos) and only green herbs (cilantro and Mexican oregano). I threw in some tomatillos, chicken broth, beer, garlic and onions for good measure, and after a few hours I had a pot of tender pork nestled in a thick, fiery gravy. It wasn’t exactly green, but there were enough green spots dotted around the bowl for me to feel triumphant. Plus, the texture was dense, as a good chili should be, but the tomatillos and cilantro added a welcome brightness. I loved it.
Soon after, my New Mexican friends invited me over for dinner. And on the menu was green chili—New Mexican green chili. And while they shared similar ingredients, it was nothing like mine. Where mine had heat, theirs was more subtly spiced. Where mine stuck to the spoon, theirs was more liquid with distinct chunks of meat. Two completely different dishes, and yet both were welcome on a cold night. “I guess I didn’t follow your directions very well,” I told my friends. They laughed and said it didn’t matter, as my version, while essentially wrong could still be considered right.
So even if I didn’t make green chili the New Mexican way, my green chili is still worthy of the name. And it’s also a darn fine pleasure to eat. So in celebration of National Chili Month and in honor of miscommunication I present to you my green chili—proof that sometimes a misunderstanding can lead to something good.
FOOD UNORTHODOX VARIATIONS ON CHILI
We have often voiced the opinion that chili con carne, rather than apple pie, might well be America's favorite dish. It is one of the tastiest - and easiest -of dishes to make, and anybody, regardless of age or ethnic background, can qualify as a chili expert, one who could declare that his, above all, is the greatest chili on earth.
This was called to mind recently when we read the International Chili Society's ''Official Chili Cookbook'' by Martina and William Neely (St. Martin's Press, $10.95). We admire the book, which offers a dazzling assortment of chili recipes, some of which have won championships in various chili-making contests. The authors make no claim to total purity in the presentation of recipes some call for very odd-sounding ingredients: canned tomato sauces, stuffed olives, whole kernel corn and eggplant. We decided to try four recipes chosen at random from the book. One contains honey another includes flour and corn meal a third, white vinegar and unsweetened chocolate, and a fourth, goat cheese. Don't scoff. If the recipes sound a bit far out, the results in each case were eminently edible. Carroll Shelby's chili - the one with the goat cheese - struck us as one of the best.
Let us underscore the fact that we are aware that real Texas chili does not contain tomatoes, beans or other oddments such as chocolate or goat cheese. But these chili recipes are amusing and, if you are not an unadulterated purist among chiliheads, worth trying. Carroll Shelby's chili con carne 1 pound round steak 1 pound chuck steak 1/2 cup peanut, vegetable or corn oil or an equal amount of fat rendered from fresh suet 1 cup finely chopped onions 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic 1/4 cup chili powder 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano 1/2 teaspoon paprika Salt, if desired 1 teaspoon cumin powder 1 cup tomato sauce 1 1/2 cups beer (one 12-ounce can) ? to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 3/4 pound goat cheese, crumbled 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds.
1. Cut the meat into quarter-inch cubes.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the meat, stirring often, until browned.
3. Transfer the meat to a kettle and add the onions and garlic. Cook briefly and add the chili powder, oregano, paprika, salt, cumin, tomato sauce and beer. Bring to the boil.
4. Cover closely and cook over very low heat one hour. Add the cayenne pepper and cook two hours longer. As the chili cooks, skim the fat from the surface.
5. Add the goat cheese and cumin seeds and simmer, stirring, 30 minutes longer. Yield: Four to six servings. Denver Whishan's West Virginia championship chili 1 pound ground pork 1 1/2 pound ground chuck steak Salt, if desired 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper 3 pounds lean chuck, cut into one-inch cubes 4 cups finely chopped red onions 6 cups finely chopped green peppers 6 tablespoons chili powder 7 cups crushed canned tomatoes 1/4 cup (one 2-ounce bottle) Tabasco sauce 1 teaspoon crushed, hot, dried red-pepper flakes 3/4 cup honey.
1. Put the ground pork and steak in a kettle and cook, stirring, until meat loses its raw look. Add salt and pepper and cubed beef. Cook, stirring, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the onions and stir. Cook 25 minutes. Add the green peppers and chili powder and stir. Cook, stirring, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir. Cook, stirring, 20 minutes.
3. Add the Tabasco sauce and crushed red-pepper flakes. Bring to the boil and cover. Cook 30 minutes.
4. Uncover and cook, stirring often from the bottom, 45 minutes. Add the honey and continue cooking 15 minutes.
Yield: Four to six servings. Joe Cooper's chili con carne 3 pounds lean chuck or round steak 1/4 cup olive oil 4 cups water 2 bay leaves 6 tablespoons chili powder Salt, if desired 1/4 cup finely minced garlic 1 teaspoon cumin powder 1 teaspoon oregano 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon sugar 3 tablespoons paprika 3 tablespoons flour 3 to 5 tablespoons cold water 6 tablespoons corn meal.
1. Cut the meat into quarter-inch cubes. Heat the oil in a large kettle and add the meat. Cook, stirring, until the meat loses its raw, red look.
2. Add the four cups of water and bring to the boil. Cover and let simmer one and one-half to two hours.
3. Add the bay leaves, chili powder, salt, garlic, cumin, oregano, pepper flakes, black pepper, sugar and paprika. Stir and cover. Cook 30 minutes.
4. Blend the flour with the cold water and stir in the corn meal, using enough liquid to prevent lumping. Add this, stirring, to the chili. Cook, stirring often, about five minutes. Yield: Eight or more servings. Cincinnati chili con carne 4 cups beef broth 2 pounds ground beef 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 cups finely chopped onions 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic 1/4 cup chili powder or more to taste 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves ? teaspoon hot red pepper or more to taste 1 bay leaf 2 cups fresh or canned tomato sauce 2 tablepoons cider or white vinegar 1/2 ounce (one-half square) unsweetened chocolate.
1. Put the broth in a kettle and add the beef a little at a time until it separates into small pieces. Bring to the boil. Cover and let simmer 30 minutes.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are wilted and start to brown. Set aside. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, hot red pepper, bay leaf and tomato sauce and bring to the boil.
3. Add the tomato mixture to the meat mixture. Add the cider or vinegar and chocolate. Bring to the boil and cover. Simmer one hour. Refrigerate. When ready to serve, skim off the fat, reheat and serve.
White chili is a chili insofar as it contains meat and has a chili pepper base, but it is the one chili that typically includes shredded poultry, either chicken or turkey. White chili is similar to chile verde in that it, too, starts with a base of fresh peppers, but it charts its own path with the inclusion of white beans, and is more often than not served with a pile of shredded cheese.
Texas Chili in New York City - Recipes
In the South, people take their food seriously. When traveling through Texas, it’s best not to talk too loudly about the best ribs you ever had in Georgia. It’s akin to the war between New York City and Chicago over whose pizza is better. Two “war between the states” Southern dishes in particular come to mind: Chili and BBQ. There are a lot of states in the southern United States and every state you go to has the best or the original recipe for chili or BBQ. Really it’s a matter of personal taste: beans or no beans ground beef or cubed red or green spicy or sweet smoked or grilled…but each state does it best. That’s Southern pride!
I was taught that Texas chili is made with cubed meat and has no beans and no tomatoes. It’s simply beef, broth (made from chilies) and seasonings. As I understand it, Texas chili is the one true chili and everything else is just trying too hard to be that good. Since my mother was born and raised in Dallas, that throws my objectivity out the window. I do like all different kinds of chili, but I have a recipe for Texas Chili that my grandmother used to make and it is probably my favorite. It’s amazing the kind of flavor you can get out of just a few key ingredients.
2 ½ lbs boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 Tbs cooking fat (oil, lard, bacon fat)
½ medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups beef stock
2 Tbs corn meal flour
1 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs dark brown sugar
3 Tbs ancho chili powder (or your preference)
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 ¼ cups water
Sour cream (optional)
Lime wedges (optional)
Mix chili powder, cumin, black pepper, 1 Tbs of salt and ¼ cup water until smooth, slightly liquidy paste forms. Set aside.
Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat and heat 2 Tbs. of cooking fat. Working in batches, lightly brown beef on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to meat board to rest and repeat with remaining meat, adding more cooking fat as needed.
Turn heat to medium-low and allow skillet to cool slightly. Melt remaining cooking fat and add onion and garlic. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat to high and add beef stock and remaining 2 cups water and gradually whisk in the corn meal flour, avoiding lumps. Stir in chili paste and add browned beef. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to med-low to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender, but firm, about 2 hours.
Stir in brown sugar and vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently simmer 10 minutes then remove from heat and let rest about 30 minutes. The rest time allows the meat to absorb some of the liquid, thickening the sauce.
Serve with sour cream, lime wedges and tortillas.
There are a lot of different chili recipes. There are a lot of different Texas chili recipes. This is just the one I’m used to eating and I love it! I like the simplicity.
What’s your favorite kind of chili?
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Alex Guarnaschelli says beans don't belong in Texas chili
Alex Guarnaschelli is a Food Network staple, serving as a regular judge on Chopped and even snagging an Iron Chef title on The Next Iron Chef: Redemption (via Food Network). It's safe to say she has some strong opinions on food! Though she may have received her culinary education in France, and though a lot of her restaurant experience has been in New York City (via Alex Guarnaschelli), she wasn't afraid to call Jackson out for his culinary faux pas, even if it was posed as a question.
That same day on Twitter, she responded to Jackson's tweet: "@EddieJackson aren't you a Texas man? You know there are no beans in chili in Texas!"
We definitely agree with Guarnaschelli about what makes Texas chili so distinct. While many consider beans a staple ingredient in the beloved dish, that's basically the one thing Texans can agree on in terms of their chili. Every chili-loving chef or home cook puts their own twist on the state's official dish (via NY Daily News), but a bean shall never find its way into a true Texas "Bowl of Red" (via Food52).
In fact, the rules at the International Chili Cookoff in the "Traditional Red" category, which refers to Texas-style chili's colloquial nickname, make things very clear. When crafting a batch, cooks can add whatever spices they want, they can choose to shred, cube, cut, or grind the meat, using one protein or multiple types, but beans are strictly prohibited.