Decemburger: Texas Chili Parlor
First came 50 Burgers, 50 Days. Then Novemburger. 2011 wraps up with a burger a day for Decemburger.
Day 13: Texas Chili Parlor
1409 Lavaca St. 472-2828, www.cactushill.com/tcp/home.htm.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Saturday. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.13.11
The Chili Parlor is one place I’ll drink cheap beer, because cheap beer is all I drank when I first started coming here more than 20 years ago. And Miller High Life’s clear bottle makes that terrible stuff taste like cold gold for $2. Like your nicer restaurants, the Chili Parlor is a special-occasion destination. Like for politicians when the Legislature’s in session, for Longhorn fans trying to find the game on TV, for Vanessa Ferlito dancing for the drunks in Tarantino's "Death Proof" and for that random group of 10 that always seems to pack the community table underneath the old contractors’ union sign in the back room. Check that: a group of 15 just moved in.
The burger: I haven’t covered many chili cheeseburgers in this neverending series, because chili is an afterthought almost everywhere. But a chili cheeseburger here ($7.50 with a side) means something. If you order the XX chili from a roster of seven types, it means you’ll have as much meat on top of your hamburger as the grilled ground beef that forms the patty at its heart. TCP’s XX is cowboy-style chili: all-beef in big slow-cooked pieces, no beans, in a mahogany swirl of thick chili broth that’s all smoky heat and no tomato-sweetened tang. Dry heat, like a Hill Country summer. It pays tribute to the burger, especially with mustard, and you’ll welcome a little shredded lettuce and tomato to cool things down.
Fries or rings? How about neither? Unless you count chili as a side dish — and you should; try three styles for $8.95 — your options are more like potato salad, pasta salad or Fritos. I added mac and cheese for $1.50, a bowl of ridged elbow mac with a little cheese sauce to loosen things up and some tomato for character, but notable mostly for clingy, twirled strands of cheddar cheese that move through it like macaroni nachos. The potato salad is an actual composed salad, with soft chunks of potato laced through with red and green bell pepper, carrot, mayo and onion on a bed of lettuce. Refined company for that urban cowboy of a chili cheeseburger.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)