Chili hot spots
A guide to restaurants that serve chili in Port Chester and Rye Brook
Thursday, January 23, 2014 11:00 AM
In the dead of winter, when the temperature is in the teens and the wind chill factor lowers it to the single digits, what's better to warm up your insides than a good hot bowl of chili. So I set out to see how many restaurants I could find in Port Chester and Rye Brook that serve up this belly-warming concoction-either in a bowl, as a topping, or both.
Texas No-Bean Chili and cornbread accompanied by a beer at Q Authentic Barbecue Restaurant at 112 North Main St. is the only chili in town made with chunks of brisket rather than chopped beef.
CLAIRE K. RACINE|WESTMORE NEWS
When I embarked on this survey of chili in its various forms and flavors around town, I knew I would have a hard time getting to all the restaurants that offer it, and I knew I couldn't eat it every day or more than once a day without my stomach revolting. In the time allotted, I made it to 11 out of 17 places that I confirmed had chili on the menu. A few may have chili if you ask for it, but if this comfort food was not on the menu, I passed it by. I also didn't count delis without seating. I could have missed a location or two, and I welcome feedback if I have somehow omitted your favorite chili spot (editor@westmore news.com).
When it came to ranking, I assessed these delectable culinary creations from the spiciest medley to the one with the least kick-ranging from five chilis to one. The spiciest recipes aren't necessarily the best. It depends on your palate.
This was a fun exercise, and I discovered a few chilis I hadn't tried before as well as some sandwich combinations-such as the Steak all the Way wedge at Frank's Restaurant and Pizzeria-I'll go back for. However, for now I'm going to give my body a break from spicy food-especially chili-for a few weeks.
24 North Main Street
5 chilis out of 5
The main attraction at Hubba, as well as at its Broad Street counterpart Texas Chili-the chili, of course-is as hot as it gets, setting the standard for the 5-chili rating. I did a taste test of hot dogs with chili and hamburgers with chili and onions from both, eating one right after the other, and found the chili to be identical in spiciness at each one. In fact, everything about these food items was the same at each eatery. I did find a slightly enhanced flavor to the Texas Chili concoction, but I can't put my finger on it.
There's no menu at Hubba; the food items for sale are written in black marker on small sky blue paper plates that match the counter. If you can tolerate it, a large bowl of chili (16 oz.) goes for $7, the small version for $5.50. Chili fries are $3, a hot dog Texas (with chili and onions) goes for $2.75, a burger with chili and onions $3, a steak wedge with chili and cheese $6, chili fries $3 and chili cheese onions rings $3.50 or $4.50.
The food offerings aren't as extensive as they are at Texas Chili-there are no salads here, for instance-but you can get chili on anything they serve. Cut the spiciness of the chili on fries and burgers with ketchup and cool your mouth off with water or Texas water at no charge or their fruit punch for $1.50.
Hubba is open pretty much around the clock, only closing for four hours (from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.) each morning. While the fast food restaurant is always popular, after the bars close or a night of drinking, people flock to Hubba.
Texas Chili Restaurant
36 Broad Street
5 chilis out of 5
Hubba and Texas Chili set the standard for the hottest chili in town. When Texas Chili opened on South Main Street on Apr. 23, 2008, owner Moises Hernandez said he had previously worked at Hubba and made the chili there, so the recipe at each is basically the same. Texas Chili moved from South Main to Broad Street, right next door to the Westmore News, in December. Their chili is delish, if you can tolerate its fire, but it's far from healthy, saturating to-go bags with grease, so our rule is not to eat there more than once a month.
Obviously chili is the centerpiece at Texas Chili, so you can get anything with chili on it or, if you're really brave, you can eat a cup of chili. It's available in three different sizes for $5, $6 and $7. All breakfast sandwiches can be spiced up with chili for an extra dollar.
The Texas burger ($2.75) comes on a small hard roll with chili and chopped raw onions. Add ketchup to cut the bite. The same with Texas fries ($3 or $4). Hot dogs with chili ($2.25) or chili and onions ($2.25) are also popular as well as steak ($6) or chicken cutlet ($6) wedges with chili. You can even get a salad with chili on top: i.e. a steak salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, bell peppers and slices of avocado topped with minute steak and chili ($7.50). If you eat in, you can order water or Texas water (faintly pink-colored water) at no charge to cool your palate.
Since Texas Chili is pretty much patterned after Hubba, which came first, it only closes for an hour or two each morning before 6:00 and does a booming business in the early hours of the morning when drinkers hanker for a spicy snack.
Davy Byrnes Irish Pub & Restaurant
538 Willett Avenue
4 chilis out of 5
You wouldn't expect the chili at an Irish pub to be as spicy as it is at Davy Byrnes until you learn that the chef's name is Diego. Listed on the menu under appetizers, it comes in a crock with raw chopped onions on top and cheese on the bottom which mixes in and melts as you eat it. The chili costs $5.50 with the cheese and onions, $4.50 plain. Davy Byrnes' savory chili has a thin consistency, is made with chopped beef and has a small number of beans in it. Saltines served on the side temper the heat of this high-powered mixture.
Frank's Restaurant and Pizzeria
23 Putnam Avenue
4 chilis out of 5
I imagine you could get chili on anything you want at Frank's, but I tried the two items listed on the menu with it-a Steak All the Way wedge with minute steak, sautéed onions, peppers, chili and melted mozzarella ($5.95) and chili cheese fries made with yellow American ($5). The former was an excellent sandwich I will definitely order again-a great combination of flavors. The chili here is quite spicy-I would rate it a 4.
Q Authentic Barbecue Restaurant
112 North Main Street
4 chilis out of 5
The chili at Q, identified on the menu as Texas No-Bean Chili, is a meal in itself. In fact, my husband and I often get one order ($8.25) and share it. The chili comes in a white casserole dish with shredded cheddar and jack cheeses melted on top. It is made with huge chunks of tender beef brisket, and, as the name implies, has no beans. Cumin is the distinctive spice that makes Q's chile recipe different from others. The unique zing and heartiness make this chili extra yummy and it is, in fact, one of my favorites. Texas No-Bean Chili is served with a delicious square of house made corn bread and sour cream on the side in case you need to cut the spiciness of this fiery, 4-chili concoction.
7 Rye Ridge Plaza
3 chilis out of 5
Although there are tables inside this luncheonette, Club Sandwich is largely a to-go type of place. Besides sandwiches, it has offered excellent chili from day one. The hearty mixture comes in three sizes: a small (8 oz.) plastic deli container for $3, medium (16 oz.) container for $5 and large (32 oz.) container for $8. This is serious chili complete with red and green peppers and onions chopped very fine. I recommend that you order the yummy, thick, all-meat recipe, which I would rate 3 chilis out of 5 in spiciness, topped with chopped raw onions and cheddar cheese. They cut the spiciness and provide added flavor. When the toppings run out, you pour in the packet of oyster crackers that come on the side to do the same.
604 North Main Street
3 chilis out of 5
The sign at Dougie's Standby and the front of the menu refer to their "famous homemade chili." You can get it in the morning on the Heart Attack: egg, cheese, bacon, ham, sausage and chili on a roll for $5, on a 100% beef Nathan's hot dog for $3, on a Dougie cheeseburger for $4.75. Burgers are made fresh daily, never frozen, and bigger and better than the average burger with chili. They come on a seeded hard roll and aren't well done. On Wednesdays you can buy one chili dog and get one free.
You can also get Dougie's chili on a Godfather: two steaks, grilled peppers, onions, mozzarella and chili on a wedge for $10, or a Steve Special: grilled chicken, cheese, French fries, chili and honey mustard on a grilled wrap, or just a steak, cheese and chili on a roll for $7 or a wedge for $9.
For sides, there are French fries with chili for $3.50 or $4.75. A side of chili costs $1 and a cup goes for $5 or $7.
I tried the chili on a burger and on a hot dog. It started out getting a #2 hotness rating, but that assessment jumped to #3 the more I ate.
Sam's Bar & Grill
1 Mill Street
3 chilis out of 5
I usually go to Sam's for burgers, but they also serve a darn good chili. As with most of these warming recipes, it gets spicier the more you eat, but this one never gets to the burning stage. Listed on the menu under soups, it is on the thinner side, made with green peppers, onions and chopped meat. Sam's chili is served in a crock with cheddar cheese melted on top ($7) and tortilla chips scattered on a plate around it for dipping.
There's also a Super Chili Dog for $8, a large Hebrew National hotdog heaped with chili and topped with cheddar cheese. It's hard to pick up because there is so much chili on this dog, which is served with half a pickle and a mound of thin fries.
Sam's will be closing for a month right after the Super Bowl for renovations.
182 North Main Street
3 chilis out of 5
Chili is a staple at Vinny's where you can order it in a cup for $3 or a bowl for $5. Add 75 cents for shredded cheddar cheese on top. Or add chili to your steak wedge along with fried or raw onions and pay $5. Vinny's chili is very meaty with no beans and no visible onions or peppers. On a steak wedge it's not too spicy, but eaten alone in a bowl this chili's got a kick that gives it a hotness score of 3.
Besides the chili on the menu, every Thursday chili con carne with beans is offered as a special on a plate with or without rice for $5.50 or $7.75.
Rye Ridge Deli
Rye Ridge Shopping Center
126 South Ridge Street
2 chilis out of 5
Amid the matzoh ball soup, hot pastrami sandwiches, and sour and half sour pickles at Rye Ridge Deli, chili is listed prominently on the menu under appetizers. Served in a small crock with melted cheddar cheese on top, the chili ($8.99) comes with tortilla chips surrounding the bowl for dipping. It contains chopped meat, chunks of tomato, green pepper and onion, is a little soupy and boasts a savory although not particularly spicy taste, standing apart from the other chilis I sampled. I give this comfort food a 2-chili ranking.
In addition, there's a half pound burger supreme with chili, lettuce, tomato, onion, French fries, onion rings and cole slaw for $12.99 or a hot dog special of two dogs any style (sauerkraut, chopped raw onions, fried onions, potato salad, cole slaw, relish or chili and cole slaw) with French fries for the same price.
El Tio Restaurant
143 Westchester Avenue
1 chili out of 5
Surprisingly for a Mexican restaurant, the chili at El Tio is not spicy but is a meal in itself. In fact, theirs is the least fiery of any I tried in town. It is a thick, all-chopped-beef creation that's good but needs some pizzazz. It comes in a crock with two types of cheese-American and mozzarella-melted on top and sits in the center of a ceramic plate surrounded by flavorful house made tri-color tortilla chips, sour cream, rice, beans and jalapenos in smaller ceramic dishes. Adding the jalapenos helps, but on our recent visit, even those little devils weren't very hot. It had been a while since I had visited El Tio. In the meantime it has been spruced up, a bar added and the restaurant now has a full liquor license rather than just serving wine and beer.
Other restaurants in town that serve chili:
Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar
44 Westchester Avenue
Cousin Frankie's USA Grill
112 Willett Avenue
140 Midland Avenue
934-7852 or 934-7810
J T Straw's Bar & Grill
435 North Main Street
Lyon Park Deli, Café & Catering
29 Putnam Avenue
340 Willett Avenue