Viewers Choose Minnesota’s Best Chili

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With winter around the corner, who can resist a delicious, piping hot serving of chili? Nothing warms the body and soul like a hearty bowl, so we sent Natalie Nyhus in search of the best of Minnesota.

Your votes took her to a place that serves up something for every taste. This is the Loon Cafe in Minneapolis.

Chili is kind of like coffee — everyone takes it differently. At the Loon Cafe in Minneapolis, the place WCCO viewers voted Minnesota’s best, you can get just about any kind of chili you’d like.

“Technically we have eight kinds,” owner John Stein said.

It’s been a staple on the menu as long as the Loon has been on the corner of 5th Street and 1st Avenue in Minneapolis, since 1982.

One guy who’s been around just about the entire time is the man behind the chili ladle, executive chef Brian Turner. He’s better known at “Ski-Dad,” a signature name for a guy with a signature dish.

“Don’t call here asking for Brian Turner. They will say: ‘Who the heck is that?’ It’s ‘Ski Dad,'” Turner said.

“How it originally happen was, back in the late 1960s there was a columnist from the Star Tribune who had been to Texas and posted a recipe for Pecos River Red chili, which is meat and sauce. One of the original owners made it and liked it so much and said to one of the other owners. We need to go to Texas and find out what this is all about.”

That recipe is still on the menu today, and boy do they sell a lot of it.

“Out of this Pecos Red family, we have probably made enough to fill 10 average sized swimming pools,” said Turner. That’s about 250,000 gallons!

“These three here are all signature chilies, just different degrees of heat. Anyone can eat that. Lutherans, school teachers, children,” said Turner. “My thing is, don’t cut any corners. I found out if you put crap in, you get crap out.”

“Ski-Dad” doesn’t mess around. Everything is made from scratch, and you can expect some unexpected ingredients.

“That one is a little sweet. That one has chocolate in it,” Turner said.

Whether you seek sweet or heat, the Loon Cafe’s chili a totally crave-worthy food.

“We’ve mailed chili as far away as Japan and Venezuela,” said Turner. “I don’t know anything about molecular gastronomy, foams, drips. That’s not my thing. Making sure my customers have the best bowl of chili in Minnesota, that’s my thing.”

The Loon Café will do chili takeout orders of any size, which is very popular this time of year. Just call in advance.

The Loon Cafe is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. until 12 a.m.

Viewers’ other favorite spots for chili were Café Latte in St. Paul and Uncle Franky’s in Northeast Minneapolis.

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