Sunday, January 27, 2008
Hold the Beans
I took a weekend trip up north to celebrate a birthday, cheer on the Marquette basketball team, and get totally disgusting over a bowl a chili. Hot damn, I have been missing that stuff!
Real Chili is a Milwaukee institution. It's been around since 1931, where it started in the basement of the Jesuit Residence at Marquette University. It's since moved and added a second location, and I'm happy to see that it's thriving.
Back in the day this was my spot. Pre-bar, post-bar, lunch on the go, whenever. Real Chili called to me like suicidal peeps call helplines. It was just that desperate.
It's not the classiest of establishments, but they're great at what they do. Ante up to the lunch counter and order a bowl - mild, medium, or hot. Choose to have it with spaghetti noodles, beans, or both. Add grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, raw diced onions, and/or jalapenos. They dish up a serving of oyster crackers on the side, which serve as weapons during the early morning hours. Food fighting is allowed, although perhaps not encouraged.
The chili is greasy heaven. It's not Texas-hot, but it packs a punch. I've always needed the sour cream to tame it down, but I'm a sissy when it comes to spice. The crackers, if you're able to avoid the urge to chuck them across the room, lend a great crunch. Who cares if they're not the standard accompaniment?
It would be impossible to estimate the number of bowls I ate in those four years. I was addicted. My college boyfriend lived above the Real Chili on campus. Dealing with the constant smell of chili spices was a small price to pay for that kind of convenience. This is not health food. This is comfort food. So comforting, in fact, that I weighed significantly more then than I do now.
My arteries are thankful that Real Chili is confined to Milwaukee, but I wasn't the only diner in our group who wondered if there was an option to franchise in Chicago.
Dare to dream!