There are admittedly few times during the year when Los Angeles weather calls for a rib-sticking chili. No, we’re not just talking about the delicious brown goo ladled over chili dogs and cheese fries but an actual bowl of chili — likely one of the least sexy foods in our trend-obsessed culture. With the onset of a very wet El Niño, though, it's possible that chili could makes a seasonal comeback. Circle the wagons and put on your boots — here are five places where a bowl of beans is no afterthought.
Chili with Spaghetti at Chili John’s
Sibling to a century-old Wisconsin chili parlor of the same name, Chili John’s has been gracing Burbank with its spicy, brick-red chili since 1946. Even Guy Fieri paid a visit. Take a stool at the U-shaped counter and go for the classic beef chili, slicked with a thin patina of orange-colored grease, served on a bed of spaghetti and topped with beans, onions and shredded cheese. Trust the countermen; they've long mastered the art of assembling diner chili. 2018 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank. (818) 846-3611, chilijohnsca.com.
Turkey Kale Chili at Sycamore Kitchen
Does putting kale in chili sound like something out of an SNL The Californians skit? Maybe, but at Karen and Quinn Hatfield’s cozy café, you’ll be introduced to the charms of a lighter, healthier chili. Loaded with roasted turkey, kidney beans, stewed tomatoes, toasted chile peppers and, yes, braised kale, Sycamore Kitchen’s is totally Cali and totally satisfying. 143 S. La Brea Ave., Mid-City. (323) 939-0151, thesycamorekitchen.com.
Frito Pie at HomeState
At HomeState, East Hollywood’s Tex-Mex breakfast/lunch joint, the humble Frito bag is split open and topped with brawny chili con carne, cheddar, lettuce, sour cream and pickled jalapeños. It’s a combination that takes you by the pleasure receptors and hangs on for dear life until the bag's empty. If only it were available after the bars closed. 4624 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz. 323-906-1122, myhomestate.com.
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Smoked Brisket and Hominy Stew at the Must
Downtown’s the Must is probably the least pretentious wine bar in Los Angeles, as evidenced by a menu that includes fried fluffernutter sandwiches, peach sangria and something called “cholo fried rice.” We’re fans of the smoky, slightly offbeat brisket chili, which comes topped with creme fraiche, scallions and little nubs of sharp aged cheddar. 17 Winston St., downtown. (213) 628-2000, themust.com.
Chili Bread Bowl at Tub’s Fine Chili
Chili specialists are rare in L.A., and even more rare are ones that boast Texas-style chili. At Tub’s, which has been serving Culver City since 2009, you’ll find around 10 or so hearty varieties, which range from veggie and steak to beef-bacon and green pork chili. The greatest innovation here might be the bread bowl, a fluffy, disc-shaped flatbread that’s a major improvement over the usual sourdough carb bomb. Guy Fieri, who apparently is a chili connoisseur, was a big fan when he visited. 4263 Overland Ave., Culver City. (310) 559-8827, tubschili.com.