10 of the Best Chili Bowls in Milwaukee
Chili season is in full swing. The weather has turned blustery and football has taken over Sundays. Many people cook chili at home, but like all comfort food, sometimes it just tastes best when it's cooked for you. Here are 10 of the best places to grab a bowl of chili around Milwaukee.
The gold standard for chili in Milwaukee, Real Chili is especially loved by Marquette students thanks to its campus location. The chili recipe goes back to at least 1931 when they opened in MKE, and it's served similar to Cincinnati-style chili, with your choice of beans, spaghetti noodles, mounds of shredded cheese and other toppings. Order “the Marquette” to get a medium-spicy bowl with spaghetti and beans, then top it with endless oyster crackers. People tend to either love Real Chili or hate it, but no one can deny its iconic status in Milwaukee.
The chili at this exceptional downtown dive bar is home style, so you'll find ground beef, beans and veggies like green peppers and celery. It leans toward the brothy—as opposed to thick tomato sauce—side of the chili spectrum, but it's still rich and meaty. Get it KC's style and it's served over a big piece of crusty bread with sour cream and cheese on top, or try it on a chili cheese dog on Mondays.
Beer and chili go together well, which is presumably why Stubby's has chili on the menu. They go a step further in their Pigs n' Pints chili and use beer in the recipe. It's pork based, with beer and various types of chiles, and has won local chili cookoff contests. Standard toppings are available, but the best way to try it may be on top of their Westsider nachos. An already massive pile of chips, cheese, pico and corn salsa gets covered in chili and then topped with big scoops of sour cream and guacamole.
The chili at Beans & Barley is vegetarian, but meat eaters seem to love it just as much as herbivores. It's more filling than you'd imagine a veggie chili to be, thanks to the substantial addition of bulgur wheat to the traditional base of tomatoes, beans, peppers and onions. If that's still not enough for you, get it topped with cheese, onions and sliced avocado, a primo chili topper that isn't a common option around here.
The restaurant inside the Harley-Davidson Museum serves up a meaty, Texas-style roadhouse beef chili, perfect for satisfying your appetite after a long Harley ride. You can get it in a bowl with cheese, onion and sour cream, but why stop there? It's also available on top of a baked potato, Cincy-style with noodles as an entree, and stuffed into mini cornbread mini muffins as an appetizer. Cornbread and chili are a matched pair, so why not?
If you can deal with the crowd that leans heavily toward college age (this is Water St., after all), then you'll be rewarded with a top notch bowl of chili. They call it Texas red, and it's chock full of meat, likely because BBQ makes up most of the menu. Steak, brisket and bacon are mixed with bourbon, beer and a great hit of hot spice. If you want to temper the heat a little, try it on top of mac and cheese or chili cheese fries.
Known primarily as a sports bar with a popular Miller Park shuttle, chili is the best thing I've found on Rounding Third's menu (though, their burgers are pretty solid, too). It's thick and hearty, with black beans, corn and just a little bit of heat. It's just fine in a crock on its own, but go for the gold and get the chili cheese fries. Thick, crisp fries hold up amazingly well under a blanket of chili, then topped with grated cheddar, red onion and sour cream. They're the best chili cheese fries around.
Suitable for its neighborhood, the chili at Fuel Cafe in Riverwest is vegan. It's only available on weekends and does sell out, but it's a delicious bargain when you can get it. Lots of peppers, onions, beans and tomatoes make up the base, and you can get it topped with noodles, sour cream (vegan or dairy), cheddar and onions all for free. Also free: the big chunk of French bread and butter served on the side.
Photo courtesy Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, Facebook
The Fire Pit is located on the first floor of Potawatomi, in the back corner of the old casino area. It's one of the best places to watch sports thanks to giant TVs and great viewing angles. They have a number of Native American-inspired dishes, including a chili made with bison meat, not beef. Bison is lean and rich, which makes it perfect for a long-cooking chili. Try it with an order of fry bread on the side, on their nachos or in a quesadilla.
Available at both the Wauwatosa and downtown locations, the chili at Jackson's is made with filet, ground chuck and andouille sausage. Andouille is a Cajun sausage often used in jambalaya, giving this chili a unique spice. Perhaps the best part of the chili here are the toppings, though: onions, sour cream and fried cheese curds. Why don't more places put cheese curds on top of their chili? Get on that, restaurants.