Goode’s Armadillo Palace (5015 Kirby Dr., 713.526.9700) thinks outside the bowl by using local venison in its chili, a lean and meaty choice from Broken Arrow Ranch in Ingram, Texas. This no-beans version comes covered in melted cheese with chopped onions, fresh chopped jalapenos and crackers on the side ($9.95).
Johnny Carrabba’s Grace’s (3111 Kirby Dr., 713.728.6410) ladles up Southern stews including Mia seafood gumbo and Jim Lykes beef chili. We don’t know Jim, but the chili is great—a dark fiery bowl with tender chunks of prime beef, and garnished with purple onions and grated Cheddar ($10).
For a mighty spicy bowl of red, hit venerable Shade (250 W. 19th St., 713.863.7500) in the Heights. Thick and satisfying, it’s a mix of simmered tomatoes, onions, peppers, cumin, chili powder and ground beef. The generous brick-red portion is topped with onions and zesty cheese blend ($8).
It only happens in the winter, so grab the super beefy Texas chili at The Hay Merchant (1100 Westheimer Rd., 713.528.9805). Served with pickled jalapenos, sour cream, chopped onions and an irresistible hunk of homemade cornbread, all you need is a cold craft brew from the gastropub’s first-rate menu ($10).
State Fare (947 Gessner Rd., 832.831.0950) knocks it out of the park with chef Jim Mills’ meaty Texas Red. Prepared with beef chuck, Shiner Bock, and ancho and pasilla chiles, the soulful concoction is so balanced with spices, expect zero heartburn. Served with chopped onions, jalapenos, grated Cheddar and tortilla strips ($10).