Kevin Godbee · Sep 15, 2020 · 8 min read
The Best Chili to Eat in St. Pete
Chili's geographic origins go back to what is the currently most talked about border ... unfortunately for no reasons having to do with this quite popular food. Chili was born in both Northern Mexico and Southern Texas - on the border and over the border. Its more official name is Chili con Carne - Spanish for "with meat".
It started out as just chili peppers, meat, salt and water. No beans. No tomatoes. The beans are the most contentious thing when it comes to chili aficionado purists.
As a matter of fact, The Chili Appreciation Society International specified in 1999 that, among other things, cooks are forbidden to include beans in the preparation of chili for official competition. What!?!?!
However, others argue that chili with beans has a long enough history so as to not be considered inauthentic. It certainly seems to be the more popular incarnation at restaurants and in home recipes. The ten on this list ALL have beans. So there, Stan.
This is an update to my 2019 post with the five best chilis in St. Pete. Two came off. NuMex Chile because they closed, and Ford's Garage because they took it off the menu.
That left us with only three: Courigan's Irish Pub, Engine No.9, and Old Key West Bar & Grill. These three remain on the list, and seven new ones have been added to take the top five to the top ten.
Does anybody have a GasX!?!?!?! Just kidding. I did eat a lot of chili though.
We stopped doing rankings a long time ago, and have been putting the lists in alphabetical order. However, I occasionally give shoutouts to a few favorites. In this case two, which are tied for my #1 favorite chilis.
The Bier Boutique - It's the spiciest one on the list, and that's how I like my chili. Hurt me! Please.
Sea Dog Cantina - It's the most complex, and delicious with deep layers of flavor.
Several of the dishes are pictured with raw red onions, and melted cheese. All of these offered it as an option, which I went with each time it was offered. However, I also dug below them to try at least 3-4 bites of chili without the raw onions and cheese first to better ascertain the chili's flavor. I also dug through each one to find which ingredients I could see.
Some people like to follow along and try each place themselves. If you decide to go try any of these, my advice is to test how hot it is being served. I had a few that came out scalding. Not only will you burn your mouth, but you won't be able to taste anything.
One time I burned the heck out of my mouth and in my notes I put, "no flavor".
After it had ten minutes to cool off, it was a whole different world. I could now taste all the flavors, and the dish actually made the list. (That was El Cap.)
These are not ranked from best, to second best, and so on. We've come to feel that is not a good way to do it when they are all amazing executions of this popular dish.
An important thing you should be aware of is that there are other publishers of "best of lists" that do not actually go to the establishments and actually eat the food.
We absolutely DO. (How can anyone recommend something they never experienced?)
Unfortunately, we've seen it a lot - from national and local publishers. We are also aware of a local publisher that offers paid placement in best-of-lists. There is no paid placement here.
I PERSONALLY ATE ALL OF THESE BOWLS OF CHILI, AND WENT TO ALL OF THESE PLACES, AND THESE ARE ALL MY PHOTOS. (Except The Bier Boutique, which my partner, Lori, took.)
These are listed in alphabetical order. <------ Look
Here are the 10 Best Bowls of Chili in St. Pete for 2020
Meat, beans, veggies & hot peppers come together in this sweet and spicy concoction - served with sweet cornbread. I didn't believe that it would be spicy. Most places that say "spicy" are catering to those who believe mild/medium is spicy. I'm typically disappointed. I was thrilled to be proven wrong. I loved it. The flavor is great and get this...it's made with chunks of potato too. Tied for my #1 favorite because of the hearty, and spicy flavors.
A cool hangout on St. Pete Beach, Boulevard Burgers is of course best known for their burgers. Their chili is packed with rich chili flavor. It has kidney beans, tomatoes, and cooked white or yellow onions, in addition to the raw ones I added.
The Chattaway is a quaint eatery on the South Side that was establish in 1951 by Englishwoman, Jillian Frers. High tea is served every day, and so is chili.
Their chili is mild, but flavorful. It is unique in that it is a little on the creamy side. They include bell peppers, kidney and pinto beans.
Note: The Chattaway is CASH ONLY.
Courigan's chili is more tomato-forward, and tangy. There are a small amount of diced green bell peppers in there too. It's definitely fresh, home style, and quite tasty. Spice-wise, the temperature is mild on this one.
El Cap is an old-school throwback that's been around since 1963. It's loved by locals, and best known for their burgers, which still use the same recipe from when they opened.
The chili is old-school as well with the melted cheese being two processed American cheese slices. The chili is mild, and more on the sweet side. It includes kidney beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, and white beans.
Bold n'Spicy Firehouse-style Chili with Jalapeños topped with Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
In Engine's chili, the tomato and chile flavors are equal, the beans are hearty, and the pickled jalapeños add not only some extra spice, but some vinegar-induced mouth watering. Aside from the jalapeños, this one is mild-medium spicy.
Spanning nearly two city blocks, Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill is a St. Petersburg institution that started in 1992. It is the must go-to for "tailgating" before Rays games.
Ferg's chili has a medium spice level. It is flavorful with a prevalent smoky taste.￼ It has some sweetness too. There are bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes.
Blue Ribbon Chili - award winning homemade chili optionally loaded with jalapeño slices, shredded cheese, sour cream, and onion.
Old Key West has won the Grand Central District's Annual Chili cook-off more than once. This one is medium-spicy, a little more chili-forward, but the tomato is there in the background singin' along.
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood in the Tyrone area, and right on the Pinellas Trail, Pesky Pelican offers up some unique St. Louis-style eats that you won't find anywhere else in St. Petersburg. They have a large menu, and there is pretty much something for everyone, so if you're not a fan of the St. Louis eats, don't let that dissuade you.
The chili has medium heat, kidney beans, fine ground beef, a flavorful sauce, tomatoes, and small dice green bell pepper. (Note: The chili is on the lunch menu only.)
Sea Dog Cantina opened in Gulfport at the beginning of 2020. It is one of the best Mexican-inspired restaurants in all of Tampa Bay. Everything here is bursting with flavor, and that includes the Chorizo Black Bean Chili. As I mentioned earlier, Sea Dog's chili is tied for my #1 favorite because it is the most complex, and delicious with deep layers of flavor.
Chef Picard was nice enough to share his recipe with me, which I will not share, but I can tell you that the chorizo black bean chili has equal parts ground beef and chorizo. It also has yellow onion, poblano pepper, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, jalapeños, garlic, fire roasted tomatoes, black beans, Cholula, and several spices.
We'll end with my own homemade chili. I don't always make it this way, but this one went like this. Chili with ground beef, mild Italian sausage, tricolor bell peppers, jalapeño, garlic, onion, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, my own spice blend, corn, red beans, some white vinegar, sugar.
Tell us what your favorite chilis are in the comments!
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Here are the ten best bowls of chili in St. Petersburg, Florida.