Chili is the go-to food for all activities in the colder months. It's soothing, hearty, can be healthy and packs a wallop of flavor that you just can't get from a simple bowl of soup. The spicy stew even has its own Chili Appreciation Society that sanctions cook-offs around the globe. Ladle up some of Chicago's best renditions of chili for steamy satisfaction.
1160 N. Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60610
Chef/Partner of Chicago q, Lee Ann Whippen, won second place at the World Food Championships – a four-day competition with a large variety of food categories, including chili. So how good do you think her chili is? Chicago q's Kobe brisket chili is made with Kobe brisket, Italian sausage and ground beef. Choose a bowl or a cup and go ahead and have it topped with sour cream, cheddar and chives. The chef says that it's "hearty and soul satisfying and it will warm you up!"
Sam's Gourmet Lasagna
Chicago French Market
131 Clinton St.
Chicago, IL 60661
Chili in a bowl? That's so quaint. How about chili spilling out between layers of luscious pasta? Soon after Chicagoan Samantha Kendall began concocting healthy versions of her kids' favorite dish, lasagna, it was showing up in grocery stores and in a handful of restaurants. Kendall has her own stand in the popular Chicago French Market that's stocked with a variety of lasagnas including her fabulous chili lasagna: a three-layer mix of ground turkey, kidney beans, sautéed Roma tomatoes, seasonings and cheddar and mozzarella cheese between fresh pasta and capped with sour cream and crumbled tortilla chips (optional). Urban cowboys who fancy black beans will go for the (pictured) award-winning Black Bean BBQ Chili Lasagna which is loaded with black and kidney beans, BBQ sauce, sweet Italian turkey sausage, seasonings and cheddar and mozzarella cheese between pasta with a sprinkle of white and green onions.
Howells and Hood
435 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
When Howells and Hood has to shut down its substantial and appealing patio for the winter, the enormous restaurant tucked into the Tribune Tower has to offer something yummy, and that would be the 1871 Chili. The all-meat, no-beans chili is made from smoked brisket, NY strip steak, pork, Chipotle peppers, red onions, crème fraiche, New Holland Dragon's Milk Stout beer and sided with a corn muffin. Chef Paul says, "Chipotle peppers are added for spice and to thicken, and we make a roux out of masa harina and tomato paste which adds to the complexity and depth of flavor." This bowl is as busy as the reporters upstairs. Have fun chasing the heat with a choice of 114 unique local and global beer varieties, one of the largest draft beer selections in the city.
Related: Best Vegetarian Burgers In Chicago
3465 S. Morgan St.
Chicago, IL 60608
On the north side, you have your chili, you have your tamale and sometimes you have a chili tamale. But head south and it turns into the Mother-in-Law and Johnny O's in Bridgeport. Part liquor store, part bar and another part hot dog stand, this is a unique joint. You'll get a corn roll tamale (a staple in Chicago tap rooms for eons) in a cup, sprinkled with raw onions and sport peppers with a good ladle of homemade chili over the whole enchilada, er... tamale. It's a very popular option after a night of adult beverages at Maria's or Bernice's bars in the neighborhood. Why "Mother-in-Law?" Heartburn guaranteed.
Pret A Manger
108 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
With nine locations (eight in the city and one in Evanston), Pret A Manger is serving up hot stuff in bowls at a breakneck pace all year long. Using natural flavors and carefully sourced, sustainable ingredients, the quick-serve restaurant offers 14 comforting soups from spicy pork pozole to an authentic New England lobster bisque and a brand new Aztec quinoa chili. The sturdy chili is packed with meatless protein and wholesome grains like cannellini and pinto beans, quinoa, amaranth and millet. Toss in peppers, onions, corn, cilantro, ancho chile and lime juice and you have one fine flavor profile. It's also gluten-free and suitable for vegans.
Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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