The Hunt For A Bowl Of Red: Tolbert’s Restaurant

tolbertsby Steven Doyle

Last week we began a short series that explored chili in the DFW area. We began with Jack’s Southern Comfort Food located on lowest Greenville Avenue where we found some pretty tremendous chili. We are hoping to uncover more bowls as we continue our search. We have had many really interesting suggestions, and we plan to hit them all up to see if Dallas is really a chili town.

That being said, we loaded up the crave wagon and aimed it towards Grapevine where the legacy of chili resides. Tolbert’s Restaurant is now owned by Frank X. Tolbert’s daughter, Kathleen Tolbert Ryan who also runs the big chili festival in Terlingua, which I am mighty happy to make that pilgrimage each year in November.

The restaurant serves up burgers, steaks and other fried critters and enjoys a decent touristy lunch and dinner crowd each day on the beautiful downtown Grapevine Main Street thoroughfare. The restaurant is surrounded by quaint shops and tea rooms, and located just across the road from bad boy restaurant Wilhoites which is known for attractive more than a few bikers on the weekends.

Tolbert’s also has a reputation for good music and hosts the area’s best tribute and classic rock bands. Each night the venue will fill up with tequila shooting revelers hanging on to lyrics by the likes of the Beatles or the Eagles.


Ordering a bowl of red in this restaurant almost seems more of a privilege than dinner. But order we did, and what was delivered to us was a sight; a classic bright hued bowl of chili gravy that invited the first spoonful to dig into its barrier of steaming goodness.

What was delivered on that first bite was sound. The chili gravy over powered the meat, but it tasted just as it should. The texture and spice levels were spot on, and it seemed adequately meaty, but there was something afoot. There was a distasteful puddle of grease that rose to the top of the bowl and lined the roof of our mouths. The meat was a chili grind that was more chewy and annoying than savory and relenting. It actually had a squeak to each bite.


This was our experience last year, and actually the year before that, leading us to believe that this is what a bowl of Tolbert’s has come to. Sad because Kathleen is an amazing woman that has kept her legacy alive. Her father actually wrote the book on chili. We would like to visit the parlor again in the near future with drastically different results. This would restore our faith in humanity, or at least in the Tolbert’s bowl of red.

Spiciness: 7 of 10
Texture: 6 of 10
Meat Factor: 6 of 10
Chili Bowl Score: 2 out of 5 bowls

We will continue this short series in the coming month. If you have a bowl of chili we need to sample, drop us a line.

Jack’s Southern Comfort Food  4/5 Bowls



Filed under Chili, fun with food, Hunt for a Bowl of red, Steven Doyle

3 responses to “The Hunt For A Bowl Of Red: Tolbert’s Restaurant

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