Texas Chili Parlor, Austin
I'm glad that I came here (1409 Lavaca at 15th Street, 472-2828). As the name suggests, this place specializes in chili (we're talking about Texan chili con carne with meat and beans here, as opposed to straight chili peppers). It dawned on me today that even though we ate tons of chili growing up as kids, that was probably almost always out of a can, and I don't think that I'd ever really had real chili made from scratch (aside from maybe on a chili dog or something). Well, when in Texas, get Texan food, right?
This place was actually a bit more of a bar than a restaurant, but that's also good since that meant that they served food until midnight (good for folks whose flights out of O'Hare ended up being delayed almost six hours in the end!). The food list was actually rather extensive, serving everything from nachos, burgers (including chili and jalapeno varieties of course), steaks, enchiladas, tamales, burritos, and tacos. But I came here for one thing: the chili. Thankfully they offered a US$3.75 "taster" size in addition to the small and large ones, so I grabbed a taster of the "XXX Hot, Hot, Hot" (as opposed to "X Mild - best for beginners" and "XX Spicy - our most popular but beware") as well as the special Habanero ("beef and few pinto beans HOT, HOT, HOT") chili. The bowls came complete with Premium saltines, raw onions, and pickled jalapeno slices.
The "XXX Hot" version was my favorite, as it was full of beans and just about the right degree of spiciness. I wolfed that one down in seconds, and wished I had ordered a bigger serving. The Habanero version on the other hand, took a lot longer to eat. This was not only because of its searing heat, but also because it simply lacked the robust taste (and the beans) of the regular chili. It was in fact rather bland once one discounted the hot factor. Thus, there wasn't a whole lot in it for me to really want to eat this quickly, even after having added the raw onions in an attempt at creating more taste (I'm not sure how one would eat it with the jalapenos too, let alone those hot sauces on the tables). It did leave a bit of a burning sensation around my mouth when I ate it, and I'm sure that it will have a similar effect when it leaves my body tomorrow morning too, if you know what I mean.
Nonetheless, I was very glad to have come here, and I do want to come back, solely just to get a large bowl of the "XXX Hot" version.