Some comestibles require neither introduction nor explanation, and chili is one of them. Chili is universally known to be warming, hearty and casual.Chili is relatively low-fat—without the cheese, sour cream and guacamole garnishes, that is—and a respectable source of protein, fiber and vitamins. It’s ideal for a crowd and it’s practically a sacred rite for a Super Bowl party. Like many popular foods, it’s a topic of heated debate. There are many “authentic” styles of chili, depending on whom you ask. If your chili comes on top of spaghetti, you must be in St. Louis; if it’s extra beefy and bean-free, it’s probably Texan. Common chili ingredients include any configuration of beef, pork or chicken, chili peppers, cumin, tomatoes, garlic, onion and, maybe or maybe not, beans.Aficionados have strong opinions about the proper way to prepare and eat the stuff—in fact, there are so many competing strains of chili that it’s spawned a profusion of chili contests and cook-offs. Chili comes in many forms: on its own in a cup or a bowl, laden with all kinds of toppings; as a soup; in a taco; as a stew; smothering a hotdog; and even on top of pizza. When it comes to “chili,” almost anything goes. We’ve scoped out a rainbow of satisfying chilies nearby. With autumn creeping in, it’s time to slurp up some heat and spice.HOMEMADE CHILI Eden Avenue GrillAccording to our server, this chili is known to convert the chili-indifferent into the chili enthusiast. We didn’t need conversion, but we agreed it was bowl-scrapingly delicious. Like most things at this family-friendly eatery, it’s homemade, and it shows. It’s loaded with firm, dark-red kidney beans, ground beef and a discreet application of chili powder. Deep-red tomatoes add a touch of sweetness—not too much— and the heat is comfortably calibrated to the sensitive Minnesotan palate. It’s served with sides of diced onions, chives, sour cream and cheddar: Decorate at your whim. Eden Avenue Grill also bakes its own breads: Get a sideslice of cornbread to dip into your bowl of goodness. $4. Small bowl, $4; large bowl, $6. 5101 Arcadia Ave.; 952.925.5628.CHILI Potbelly Sandwich ShopThis modest beef and bean concoction is available every day of the week and it’s a dependable take on a typical middle-of-the-road American chili. It’s more of a soup than a stew; call it a “stoup,” to borrow celebrity chef Rachael Ray’s parlance. If you want, you can doctor it with salty oyster crackers, raw onion and cheese, but it’s pretty satisfying on its own and makes a fortifying on-the-go lunch or snack. Cup, $3.50; bowl, $4.90. 3863 Gallagher Drive.; 952.806.9961.CARIBBEAN CHICKEN CHILIQ. CumbersQ. Cumbers rocks the slogan “Where vegetables are good,” which sounds pretty good to us too. This buffet-style eatery is excellent for large parties, families and the budget-conscious. The array of chili choices is mind-boggling and it’s hard to resist mixing up a few in a single bowl (it’s allowed, by the way). There is black bean chili, turkey chili, white chicken chili, green chicken chili and the most popular: Caribbean chicken chili. The lively Caribbean chicken chili is filled with hot jerk spices, spicy Mexican salsa, scads of veggies, chewy white hominy (soft, large kernels of corn), garbanzo beans and cilantro. The chicken meat is meltingly tender; the kitchen prepares a big batch at a time and cooks it down to shreds. The addition of jerk seasoning adds an intriguing note of zingy exotic spice. Once you get addicted, pick up a frequent diner card for future discounts. Minnesota Public Radio members also get 15 percent off. $12.50 adult dinner. 7465 France Ave. S.; 952.831.0235.STEAKHOUSE CHILIPittsburgh BlueThis is the fancy stuff, and no less satisfying for it. Pittsburgh Blue uses top-of-the-line beef for this chili, cut into generous chunks that enhance the flavor and character of the high-quality meat. Kidney beans join the not-very-spicy stoup (a blend of “soup” and “stew.”) Gussy it up with sour cream, cheddar cheese, chopped tomato and sliced scallions—all that and a bag of chips. Literally: It comes with a bag of Fritos corn chips on the side. Cup, $4.95 bowl, $7.95. 3220 W. 70th St.; 952.567.2700.CHICKEN BEAN BURRITOGood EarthCall this one chili-in-a-blanket. Sweet little azuki beans pair up with cute pinto beans and are tossed with steamed brown rice. A riot of vegetables squeeze in, and the whole mélange is wrapped up in a soft, slightly chewy whole-wheat tortilla. Typical chili toppings are available: a picante salsa roja, cheddar and jack cheeses, shredded lettuce, diced chilies, sour cream and awesome fresh guacamole. We amped up our burrito with tender grilled chicken breast (beef is available too) for a nominal fee. We split this between two people and we were beyond sated. $9.95.Galleria, W. 70th St.; 952.925.1001.CHILI & FRIESEddington’sEddington’s is known for its soups, offering 12 different ones at any given time. Naturally, the list includes several kinds of chili, so you can customize your chili choice to match your mood, or you can spring for a “bottomless bowl” to sample more than one. Eddington’s “standard” bean and ground beef chili deserves praise; the simple red chili hits the right notes of hot, sweet and spicy. It’s the perfect foil for a pile of hot and crispy French fries—a bona fide, guilty-as-sin, totally decadent pleasure. You’ll need extra napkins to navigate the tangle of spuds and sauce without drippage—but making a mess is fun too. $4.99,$7.99 for a bottomless bowl. 5125 Edina Industrial Blvd; 952.896.1148.MENUDO Andale Taqueria y MercadoMenudo isn’t just a 1970s Puerto Rican boy band; it’s a robust and spicy Mexican stew that is a famous hangover cure. The combination of meat, heat and spice fits handily into the chili category. The best menudo in our area is certainly at Andale Taqueria, a genuine Mexican place just over the border in Richfield. It’s an assertive soup, and perhaps it’s best not to ask what’s in it. But if you must know, it’s made from beef tripe, stomach meat, pig feet and tendon, and it’s eyebrow-scorchingly hot. Try it: The brave will be rewarded. $8.49. 7700 Nicollet Ave.S.; Richfield; 612.259.8868.CHILI CHEESE DOG LUNCHDairy Queen Some things never grow old—like the beloved DQ. Nostalgia proves to be the best sauce in this case: Dairy Queen’s chili dog tastes like it always has, in the best possible way. The comfortably predictable dog is made of a big all-beef big frank, a scant swipe of wet, sweet and tomato-rich chili, and lots of gooey melted cheddar cheese. No toppings, no surprises. The chili cheese dog lunch includes fries, drink and, of course, one of those inimitable DQ sundaes, all for $5. 3709 W. 50th St.;(there are other DQ locations in Edina) 612.926.0025.THE MEXICANCheetah PizzaIt’s a gourmand’s dream come true: the marriage of two beloved party foods in one ooey-gooey calorie bomb. Yes, it’s chili on a pizza. Cheetah’s Mexican pizza is a work of pure genius: beef or chicken, seasoned refried beans, diced tomatoes and molten cheddar-jack cheese, crowned with shredded lettuce and crushed taco chips. There’s so much going on in this pie, taco sauce packets on the side are nearly superfluous. 12-inch pizza, $15. 5125 Edina Industrial Blvd., 952.830.1234.
A Chili Tour of Edina
A chili tour of Edina.