From the 1860s until the late 1930s, one of the primary amusements of both visitors and locals was the food and entertainment offered in the plazas of San Antonio by the Chili Queens.
These women served chili con carne and other Mexican American delicacies from dusk until dawn at various San Antonio plazas over the years — setting up tables and benches and bringing pots of food to cook or reheat over their flickering mesquite fires and to serve by the light of their oil lanterns. As morning came, their families helped them cart everything away. Wandering musicians and singers provided a festive air to the unique proceedings—unique, that is, outside Mexico. In Mexico, the open-air plaza restaurants were not celebrated for their charming food-servers. Only San Antonio had Chili Queens—and while they liked to joke, banter, and flirt with customers, they were well chaperoned by family members who guarded their virtue.
At first, only a few women — such as Sadie and Martha, sometimes pictured in old books about San Antonio — were called Chili Queens. Sadie was called “Anglo-Celtic;” Martha was Hispanic. Eventually, the royal title was applied to all the women—most of them young and virtually all of them Hispanic. Continue reading
by Steven Doyle
A true bowl of Texas red is near and dear to me, and I am always willing to order a bowl if found on any menu I stumble across. I am pleased to report that there are more chili offerings this year than last, and many have upped the ante in developing a perfect bowl. With temperatures dipping into freezing ranges in the coming month, what a perfect opportunity to go out and taste a bowl for yourself. Continue reading
by Steven Doyle
Temperatures are dropping this week and many of you will be seeking out great bowl of chili. We will be running our 2015 chili line up next week for your pleasure. We also have the tale of the original chili cook off in Terlingua if you are interested in any more history today. This article was read last week on the main stage of The Original International Chili Cook Off held in Terlingua each year, which we are honored. That cook off is always held in Terlingua the first week of November.
This week we have been discussing the perfect bowl of red, as we do each year about this time. It is certainly something we enjoy and take to heart as a true Texas original. However, it has been disturbing as each one of these conversations always ends with a debate on “beans or no beans”. Our stance stays true to the no beans camp. We have a few original chili recipes to prove that this is the way God intended chili to be served. Beans may join the table as a condiment, just as you might add a fresh brunoise of onions, or even Fritos to make your own pie. Continue reading
by Steven Doyle
When it comes to modern home chili remedies we have a few people to thank. First there were the “powder men” from the mid 19th century, a term I believe chili maven Frank X Tolbert to have coined, and then there are the butchers who first canned and made brick chili at the dawn of the 20th century to sell to the chili loving consumer.
Tolbert devotes a chapter of his book “Bowl of Red” to the powder men, and waffles on who he thinks brought powdered and packaged chili to mankind. He first attributes William Gebhardt of New Braunfels, but paragraphs later he names DeWitt Pendery of Fort Worth. A little digging shows that both started grinding a powder chili mix in 1890, so it is easy to understand Tolbert’s quandry. Continue reading
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
by Steven Doyle
Last week we discussed the finer ice creameries in the DFW area which caused a bit of thunder. It would seem you are all very passionate about your frozen confections. In a follow up visit I checked in at Carnival Barkers new Oak Cliff location which actually proved to be more than I expected.
As we had mentioned, Carnival Barkers sells more than just ice cream. Sure they have quirky ice cream sandwiches and the like, but they also make a mean bowl of chili. Not any ordinary chili, but a true bowl of red with chunky and savory beef chunks that will leave you begging for more. You may order the chili in several forms. A plain bowl with whatever accouterments you might desire such as sour cream, cheese and onions. Or take them up on a offer of making you the perfect Frito Pie. Or best yet, the chili dog. Continue reading
by Steven Doyle
Plenty can be written about Khanh Nguyen at DaLat. He is definitely the king of the late night menu, serving pho and plenty of other interesting Vietnamese items on into the night. Arrive at 1:59 and you will be welcome to order, whereas any other establishment would be sweeping and shaking you off to find bad waffles for your 2am fix. Many of the late night patrons are waiters, bartenders and chefs. Others arrive directly from the bars that surround the neighborhood. All are welcomed with a steaming bowl of pho, or one of the many other items that will definitely sooth your soul.
And damn those delicious little DaLat shooters which are Vietnamese meatballs seared and sunk into a spicy broth of sake, coconut and cream. Toss your head back for a moment of bliss. Continue reading