CultureMap Austin -- The old days of Austin, when chili joints littered the eating landscape, have long since passed. I spent hours on the phone wrangling with hostesses at a variety of cafes to find a reasonable amount of restaurants to sample chili from for my recent journey. I quickly gave up asking for the standard “Texas Red,” as not many had even heard of it. The term “chili” fared a little better, but not by much. I’ve whittled my findings down to three spots to visit for a warm, hearty, signature Texas meal.
This journey down the Texas Chili Trail takes us from the South Lamar corridor through the heart of downtown to one of North Austin’s classic greasy spoon joints.
Black Sheep Lodge
Walking into Black Sheep Lodge in South Austin, a commotion erupts. Two waitresses come running pell-mell toward me. It’s good to be the first customer of the day.
I settle in at a thick, old wooden table and take in the scene. TVs are everywhere as faded NFL stars engage in histrionics over current NFL stars, and a stream of customers slowly begin to file in and partake in cold beer and sports bar atmospherics.
The bowl of chili arrives, and it’s a tomato lover’s dream: The ground beef base has been thickened with tomatoes and onions. There’s a tiny beat of chile heat that slowly builds to good effect. While this chili is not an authentic Texas Red (to me a bowl of Texas Red chili should only have meat, stock, masa, garlic and chili powder in it) it is a good one.
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