A hot, steaming bowl of chili is just the thing to chase away the chill of old man winter. The thing about chili is that every single person who makes it has a different spin on it. I’m from Texas, and the chili I grew up eating was simple, meaty and spicy. There were no beans or other veggies. It was thicker than soup, but not so thick that you couldn’t sop up the remaining bit with a wedge of homemade cornbread.
I like chili like that. It reminds me of my childhood. And yet, there are a number of good, flavorful beef, chicken and vegetarian chilis to be had here in the Twin Cities. Some topped with cheese, onions or sour cream, others eaten with chips or a slab of bread; all unique and worth the trip out into the cold.
Other top guides list The Loon Café as the best in town and it does have great chili with varying degrees of spice and varieties. The Wienery has been featured on TV and again it’s warranted, but in writing this article I wanted to highlight chili that is equally good, but not so noticed.
824 W. 36th St.
Hours: Open Daily 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
The chili here is a Three Bean Veggie Chili. It’s gluten-free and vegan too. This veggie chili has a bit of kick to it. I ate it with corn chips to cut the zippy spice a bit. It’s not too thick and is a bit more on the soup side as far as consistency goes, but the flavor is robust and fresh. Gigi’s is in the middle of a transformation as far as menu, décor and management go, so if you haven’t been in for a while, stop by and check out the new additions to the menu. Hopefully, this Veggie Chili stays around.
4244 Nicollet Ave.
Hours: Closed on Mondays; Check website for daily hours
At Low Brow you can get their Green Chili Bison Chili in a bowl, on nachos, on fries and on a burger. And when I dined there, our table tried it in every one of these dishes. I had the Chili Fries and they were a tempting comfort food. It’s spicy; it’s bold; it’s yummy. If you have a head cold, this chili could be the cure. The bison is produced locally and comes from Eichtens in Center City, MN.
850 Grand Ave,
St. Paul, MN
Hours: Open Daily at 9:00 a.m.
There are two chili selections available every day at Café Latte. One is a Chipotle Spicy Bean Chili and the other a Salsa Chicken Chili. Both are soul warming and served with a choice of made-from scratch bread and corn chips. These options are spicy enough to clear your head, but not enough to make you breathe fire. The chicken chili is full of generous pieces of juicy good quality chicken and was my favorite of the two.
Yo Yo Donuts & Coffee Bar
5757 Sanibel Dr.
Hours: Monday – Saturday 6:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Sunday 7:00 a.m. – Noon
Yes, I realize this is a donut place. And, yes, Yo Yo’s does have delicious donuts, but they also make hot dog buns from scratch and lovingly make big pots of chili that cook for 3 days to meet their exacting preferences. The end result is one of the best chili dogs you’ll eat. The chili is thick and rich and spicy. And it’s perfect atop this chili dog with mustard, onions and cheese. I did ask about whether they would sell a cup of chili if someone ordered it, and they said yes, although the chance to indulge of a really great chili dog might be too much to pass up.
4301 Nicollet Ave. S
Hours: Check website for daily hours
Anodyne Coffeehouse cooks tasty food from scratch everyday and one of the staples is the vegetarian chili. This chili is thick and full of a variety of beans, peppers, tomatoes and more. It has a bit of a kick, but it wasn’t too spicy for my 3 year-old who gulped it down, savoring every spoonful. It has a pleasing aroma with heavy notes of cumin and garlic. For the carnivores out there, this chili is so hearty that you’ll swear it’s made with meat.
Highland Café & Bakery
2012 Ford Parkway
St. Paul, MN
Hours: Monday – Friday 6:30 a.m. -8:00 p.m.; Saturday 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Sunday 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Tucked away in the strip on Ford Parkway, this spot is easy to miss, but definitely worth the stop. I happened upon it in search of pies and was delighted to find that they have chili. This chili is chock full of meat, beans and veggies. It’s thick and hearty and comes with onions, cheese and sour cream on the side and a thick slab of warm homemade whole wheat bread. There’s a wee bit of a kick, but not too spicy for those with a delicate palate. I left here vowing to come back again for another bowl.
Anna Berend is an attorney and the author of Motherly Law Blog. On Motherly Law, Anna writes about legal issues that affect families and offers tips and resources that pertain to those legal topics. On occasion, inspiration strikes and Anna writes about something totally unrelated to the law. You can find Anna at motherlylaw.com, on Facebook at Motherly Law and on Twitter @MotherlyLaw.