Around the turn of the century, chili joints appeared in Texas. By the 1920s they were familiar all over the West, and by the depression years there was hardly a town that didn’t have a chili parlor. The chili joints were usually no more than a shed or a room with a counter and some stools. Usually a blanket was hung up to separate the kitchen.
It was during the Great Depression when chili joints meant the difference between starvation and staying alive. Chili was cheap and crackers were free. At the time chili was said to have saved more people from starvation than the Red Cross.
On of the most famous chili joints was actually the highfalutin restaurant – Chasen’s Restaurant in Hollywood, California. The owner of the restaurant, Dave Chasen who was an ex-vaudeville performer, kept the recipe his guarded secret, entrusting it to no one. For years he came to the restaurant every Sunday to privately cook up a batch, which he would freeze for the week believing that the chili was best when reheated (it is). “It is a kind of bastard chili” was all that Dave Chasen would divulge. Continue reading