Whether you like it spicy hot and loaded with ground beef, a little sweet with a pinch of brown sugar or heavy on veggies, it’s hard to beat a good bowl or plate full of chili.
While chili is enjoyable year-round – well, maybe not on 100-degree days in July – it is especially delightful at tailgate parties, and you could argue that chili’s versatility makes it the ultimate comfort food during Missouri’s cold winter months.
Purists generally prefer traditional chili with ground beef and might accept turkey chili or chili with deer or pork sausage, while more adventurous eaters rave over bowls of white chicken chili.
You can serve it in a bowl and eat it with a spoon or heap it on a plate and gobble it up with a fork. It makes a great topping for burgers and hot dogs – and it’s generally something that even finicky kids will eat.
No matter where you stand on the subject, one thing is certain: Missouri has a plethora of eateries that serve up wow-worthy chili. Here are just a few:
Casper’s in Springfield dates back to the early 1900s when the namesake owner sold chili from the back of his fruit stand. Today, Casper’s offers diner-food staples such as burgers and hot dogs, but chili is clearly the centerpiece of their menu. At Casper’s, you can buy chili by the gallon!
In Independence, chili conversations generally start and end with Dixon’s Famous Chili. You can get your chili served up the way you like it: juicy, soupy or dry; with fixins such as ketchup, onions and grated cheese; or spread out on tamales or spaghetti noodles. The chili there must be good if they’re bold enough to call it “famous” and put it in the name of the restaurant, right?
BBQ infused chili
It only makes sense that a Kansas City area restaurant would include barbecued meats in its chili. That’s just what you find at Hawg Jaw Que and Brew in Riverside, where you can add burnt ends or brisket into your chili. In fact, Kansas City’s Pitch Magazine just lauded Hawg Jaw’s burnt end chili as the city’s best.
Chili and suds
If Hannibal’s favorite author was still around, he’d probably write a short story about the black bean chili at Mark Twain Brewing Company. But since he can’t, we asked a local for an opinion: “It has some nice heat to it, and of course goes well with their Aunt Polly’s Harvest Ale.” That’s not fiction. (**This is a special menu item- call ahead to see if they have it that day.)
Chili for the sweet tooth
Okay, the chili at Sugar Leaf Bakery and Café in Branson doesn’t come flavored with cupcakes, but it is very popular among locals who seek out this charming eatery best known for confections and baked goods. The chili was simply described as “remarkable” by one of Sugar Leaf’s regulars.
Chili with chicken
The white chicken chili at T. Weiler’s Food and Spirits in St. Charles is said to be a show-stopper. Enjoy a heaping bowl on its own, or pair it with a salad or sandwich for a hearty meal. Top it with cheese, crumbled crackers or onions to suit your taste.
Chili dog delight
Ste. Genevieve is probably best known for its wineries, but the folks at Sirro’s Restaurant serve up an excellent bowl of chili and are locally famous for outstanding chili dogs. It’s a great stop for a casual lunch, dinner or even a late-night snack.
Several restaurants in Jefferson City have great chili, but the bowls served up at O’Donoghue’s Steaks and Seafood are one reason to get excited about the onset of winter in the Show-Me State. Available seasonally, you can get O’Donoghue’s chili by the bowl or by the cup. It’s a great complement to their turkey club and the classic grilled cheese sandwich.
When you’re searching for awesome chili in St. Joseph, the former hometown of outlaw Jesse James, look no further than Crumbly Burger. Their specials include chili, chili dogs and chili-cheese fries. The chili so good, it oughta be a crime (sorry, we couldn’t resist).
Chili in the corner pocket
Columbia’s Billiards on Broadway features a dish known as ’Bout Died Fries,’ which is an order of their fresh-cut fries smothered with house-made chili, chopped onions, diced jalapenos and cheddar cheese. They are so named because when the restaurant’s owner tried them, she “’bout died” with happiness. True story.
Chili and corn bread
Perhaps the best combination since peanut butter and jelly, cornbread and chili go well together and the folks at Cup n Cork in Cape Girardeau have recipes for both down to perfection. The chili has a nice kick, but isn’t “Get me a drink now!” spicy.
There you have it; a look at some of the Missouri restaurants known for dishing up flavorful chili that locals are passionate about and visitors go out of their way to get. Where’s your favorite bowl of chili?