CHICAGO — We're on our third solid month of winter weather and this week's forecasts predict a high temperature of 20. Few foods — even pizza, thick or thin — are motivation enough to drag Chicagoans out of the house to brave the cold and slush this week.
But Thursday is National Chili Day. And for a bowl of warm, cheesy, meaty goodness, we say it's worth pulling your boots on — especially for these standouts, all steps from Downtown.
Kobe Brisket Chili at Chicago Q: No ground chuck in sight here. Gold Coast eatery Chicago Q's take on chili is a high-class adaptation that combines Kobe beef brisket with Italian sausage, cornbread croutons and sour cream. Available on the lunch and dinner menu at 1160 N. Dearborn St.
Wild Boar Chili at American Junkie: Ditch the beef altogether at American Junkie, where Chef Kendal Duque uses boar leg and shoulder mixed with roasted ancho and guajillo peppers "because it is lean and has a profoundly naturally complex flavor when it is used in braised dishes." Available at the River North restaurant at 15 W. Illinois St.
Cabo Shrimp Chili at the Local Chicago: For a seafood-inspired take on classic chili, head to The Local Chicago on the Gold Coast, where they combine bacon, chorizo and rock shrimp with red and green peppers, poblano peppers and tomatillo for a fresh, unique twist. Available for lunch and dinner daily at 198 E. Delaware Place.
Veggie Chili at Karyn's Cooked: Where's the beef? Nowhere to be found at vegan chef Karyn Calabrese's Karyn's Cooked. Her dish is vegan and gluten-free with red kidney beans, spices and textured soy protein, available for lunch and dinner daily at 738 N. Wells St.
1871 Chili at Howell's & Hood: Howell's & Hood's own chef Scott Walton won the Magnificent Mile restaurant's chili cook-off — though they insist there was no home-court advantage. Walton's chili won top honors in a customer taste test that pitted him against five other area chefs, including Mercadito's Chef Patricio Sandoval and La Sirena Cladestina's Chef John Manion. Taste the winning dish at 435 N. Michigan Ave.
Texas Roadhouse Chili at Heaven on Seven: Cajun standby Heaven on Seven finds inspiration from a neighboring state for its Texas Roadhouse Chili. The recipe combines beef, pork, salsa, three kinds of chile peppers and beer for a knock-out flavor combination. On the menu every day at the restaurant's Rush Street location on the second floor of 600 N. Michigan Ave.
Think nothing in a restaurant can stand up to your own concoction? Then clear your calendar for March 31 — if you're willing to ditch the meat.
Register on the group's website to compete or taste-test at the cook-off. Proceeds will help fund a community garden in the South Loop.
Want to get your chili fix without cooking, or setting foot outside? Data collected by Grubhub Seamless shows you aren't alone: Chili orders in Chicago are twice as popular during the winter months, with delivery orders spiking 70 percent in the month of January in Chicago.
On Jan. 5, 6 and 7 — during the first days of the polar vortex — delivery and pick-up orders for chili were 50 percent above the seasonal average.
Comparing data over the years, Grubhub found that there's one day Chicagoans wisely forego the bean-based dish: Chili orders drop up to 50 percent in the Windy City every Valentine's Day.