When it comes to chili, the rules are both very specific and very vague at the same time. In some regions across the U.S., it's perfectly fine to add beans and vegetables. In others, such as the Southwest, anything but meat is often a faux-pas in regard to what goes into that chili pot. There's one destination that seems to be marking the standard as far as the best bowl of chili in the U.S., though, and it can be found in one Southwestern city.

They said that everything is bigger in Texas and if it's being said about chili flavor, then this might, indeed, be true.


The Chili Capital Of The Southwest

Out of all of the cities in Texas, Austin is one of the best in which to grab a bowl of chili. With its big, bold flavors, it's not surprising; with its growing food scene, it's almost expected. Before diving into where to get this one-of-a-kind chili, though, let's first divulge the secrets behind what makes Texas-style chili so outrageously delicious.

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Texas Red Chili

One of the trademarks of Texas-style - or Texas Red, as it's known by the locals - is the absence of any type of bean. Whereas this might be a crucial staple around the rest of the country, Texas-style chili is devoid of most vegetables which means that the choice of meat is highlighted in the recipe. In fact, it would be highly unusual to go to Texas and find chili anywhere that has any kind of bean or vegetable in it. Additionally - and it's another slightly strange attribute of Texas chili - there are no tomatoes used in any authentic recipe.

So, what is included in a Texas-style chili? As it turns out, there are only three main ingredients: stew meat, spices, and chiles. It's hard to imagine how this could turn out a great bowl of chili let alone one that's practically award-winning, but it does. Still intrigued as to what this chili tastes like? Let's head back to Austin to see which restaurants are serving it up the best.

Finding The Best Chili In Austin

Austin is home to a seemingly endless number of great restaurants. Of those restaurants, there are a few, in particular, that give way to the best chili one can find in the city as well as in the entire state... And some would argue it's even the best in the country.

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Texas Chili Parlor

If chili is the official state food of Texas, then the Texas Chili Parlor has been defining what chili actually is since its opening back in 1976. For the locals, this is a special place as it's become somewhat of the heart of the culinary community in terms of Texas' state food. It can be found in downtown Austin giving it a great central location, and it's highly recommended for newcomers to both Texas and its chili style. Those who are familiar with the song 'Dublin Blues' by Guy Clark are also likely familiar with the Chili Parlor, as it was this exact location that he was referencing. If that doesn't give this place enough props, then visitors should take the advice of the locals and find a table, ASAP.

  • Iconic Dish: House Chili, offered in three heat levels - X, XX, and XXX. A runner-up dish is the Frito Pie, which is a big Southwestern comfort food staple featuring chili, sour cream, salsa, jalapeños, lettuce, and shredded cheese, all mixed into a bag of crunchy Frito chips.

Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

Another excellent option for true, Texas-style chili is Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ. This restaurant is highly-braised for its BBQ (especially its brisket) but is also known for its practically untouchable bowl of chili. One Google review claims this of one of its popular chili-based dishes:

"Try the chili cheese sausage wrap. The chili is real meat, chunk chili. Fresh Pico de gallo, cheese, and then a big, split sausage link... all wrapped in a warm flour tortilla... awesomeness!"

Found almost on the outskirts of Austin's city limits, this restaurant is definitely worth the trip. However, since this chili is a rotating menu item, those anxious to get their hands on it will need to pay attention to the restaurants' social media for announcements. Variations at Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ include chili-based dishes, as well as chili with their famous local brisket, provided by Hartley Ranch.

If anyone's mouth isn't watering at this point, then it's time to book a trip to Austin - the scents alone with have a foodie's stomach rumbling.

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