9600 Fondren @ S. Braeswood
CLOSED AS OF SEPTEMBER 2013
Wot?, as my distant (thank goodness) cousin Jim Bob would say. A chili parlor in Texas? Don’t they know every Texan over the age of two has their own SECRET RECIPE for chili that is MUCH BETTER than any other and they won’t order chili at restaurants? And don’t they know Texans don’t like to eat hot and spicy foods except in cool weather? Well, those are some of the excuses I’ve seen on discussion boards or heard from restauranteurs (maybe with a little exaggeration on my part) concerning why there are so few places that offer more than a perfunctory bowl of chili, our official state dish.
As a matter of fact, the proprietors of The Chili Shak are from Los Angeles so maybe they haven’t heard all those excuses, and I’m glad they haven’t. But this is not some West Coast la-la-land chili, it’s all beef and no beans. It’s a family recipe, too, not out of a can. There is only one variety and one spice level but chili is in or on everything on the menu including Chili Rice, a family favorite that seems to have inspired the business, Chili Nu Nus (chili on spaghetti but not Cincinnati style chili), chili fries, chili dogs, chili burgers, chili nachos, chili fritos, chili on baked potatoes and chili on tamales and burritos plus a chili sausage dog. One thing that is missing curiously - and it was my first clue the owners are not from Texas - is a chili pie; maybe that’s what chili fritos refers to. If so they might want to consider changing the name so Texans aren’t completely lost when looking at the menu.
The chili is a little lacking in heat and cumin for my tastes but I know there will be some people, including some Native Texans, who will find it too spicy. As someone who has perfected my own SECRET RECIPE for chili that is MUCH BETTER than anybody elses, I could gritch about this or that but the fact is I'm tickled to have an honest-to-goodness chili parlor in the neighborhood. I really liked the Chili Dog - a bun-length all-beef skinless weiner, split and grilled, on a grilled bun, with a smear of mustard and a generous ladle of chili plus onions and cheese. Jalapenos are available as an extra. It was very messy but it was possible to pick it up and eat it out of hand, one of the requirements of a hot dog as far as I’m concerned.
The proprietor says he thinks their best offering is the Chili Burger, but I haven’t tried that.
The website gives the history of the enterprise but isn't about the restaurant. They're closed on Sundays.