Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chow Time: Chili John's

I have always dreamed about owning my own cafe.  I will freely admit that it has as much to do with The Whistle Stop Cafe of Fried Green Tomatoes fame as it does with the joy I find in preparing simple, tasty food.  I would LOVE to do some old-fashioned cooking for a manageable crowd in an old-fashioned setting.  For not really being an outgoing, people-person type, I really enjoy interacting with folks on a level that is afforded by a more intimately-scaled establishment.  Much like the best kind of grandmother, I truly love feeding people.  Fortunately there are still places that show me that my dreams are more than just the stuff of literary and movie land magic.  Chili John's in Burbank, CA is proof that a little bowl of heaven can still be had - even in Los Angeles. 

"As you like it"

The original Chili John's is in Greenbay, WI and has been serving
 hungry chili-philes at various locations for over 100 years!

The menu at Chili John's is small and at first glance, it seems like the options may be limited.  Tut, tut, given all of the possible combinations, variety abounds.  There are three kinds of chili - veggie, beef (spicy or mild), and chicken;  because we were newbies, they allowed us a sample of each kind.  Each tasty in its own right, I preferred the chicken.  Your choice of chili can be served over pink beans, spaghetti, rice, a tamale, a hot dog, or unadorned on a pillowy bun.  In fact, the menu boasts three different sandwich options but upon closer inspection, they are all exactly the same thing (chili on a bun) with the exception being the sandwich that offers additional "bean juice."  Mmmmmmm...bean juice.

Crackers, onions, peppers, and hot sauce are available to every diner

Chicken chili over beans and spaghetti with onions and oyster crackers.
DID YOU KNOW that John "Chili John" Issac, the Lithuanian immigrant behind the chili,
 was also integral in creating the oyster cracker?  Working with an executive at Nabisco,
he developed a spoon-size cracker to eat with his chili!  Since then, a carafe of oyster
 crackers has stood at the ready for every Chili John's diner.

Mary's monster mess!
Veggie chili with rice, cheese, and sour cream.
Be warned, Mary liked the veggie chili but she wasn't too fond of the rice;
it was filled with fennel seeds.  Sensing her dislike, they promptly
replaced the rice with beans and a chili refill!

Only twenty four seats in the whole place,
all of them stools around a horseshoe counter.

Chili John's is famous for it's pie too.
They have two kinds - lemon and pineapple; both are pudding-like with a graham
 cracker crumb base and whipped-cream topping.  Because I am supremely intolerant
of lactose (among other things), they brought Mary a mini slice for free!!! 

In the corner, they had a cool, succulent terrarium on a cracked ice dinette table.
Did they know we were coming?!!!

Perhaps this was the most poorly timed post considering all of the recent Thanksgiving indulging, but I think enough time has passed to where the leftovers are gone and you're ready to start thinking about food again.  Plus, they don't have turkey chili at Chili John's, so I figured it was safe.  If you're ever in the Burbank area, stop by for some chili "as you like it," or take some home!

Chili John's of California
2018 W Burbank Blvd
Burbank, CA


Mr. Tiny

p.s. Don't forget to enter our AWESOME GIVEAWAY!!!


  1. This is a cool looking little joint! But I have to ask: what is the American obsession with oyster crackers?! Oyster crackers on soup, oyster crackers on chili, oyster crackers in chowder...the list goes on! We don't have them here in the UK, and it just seems like such a strange idea to put something crunchy into these dishes where they get all soggy before you can eat them! :)

    1. Hahahaha! There is no accounting for American obsessions - car chases, "real" housewives, oyster crackers; everything we love ends up a complete and soggy wreck!

  2. You need to follow your dream, I know your place would be amazing!

    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence! One day it will happen!!!

  3. I now really, really, REALLY want some chili. I love reading about all the different local versions of how you can your dish; this post is as vicariously delicious as Jane and Michael Stern's Road Food! My worst fear is that I'll order something entirely unpalatable, and look, in Mary's case, they just replaced the whole thing-- now THAT'S service. :)

    Chase that dream, man! I'd make a pilgrimage to check out a Mr. Tiny-helmed diner, for sure!

    1. Thanks Lisa!!! You will definitely be invited to the grand opening!!

  4. oooh chili on spaghetti - with a side of oyster crackers. Sounds delish! You're partway to being a restauranteur already Mr. T - you've made me hungry!

    1. Yes, I told everyone around me that I was carb-loading for the "big race"...I don't think I convinced any of them.

  5. dang, that is my kind of place. i love chilli! and i'm intrigued by the pink beans. i love chili on spaghetti with cheese!

    1. The pink beans were really good. We asked for the recipe and the lady said, "Just open the can."