Chili lovers packed the streets of Aggieville Saturday for the 11th annual Chili Crawl.
Some of the eleven participating businesses made what would be classified as classic chili: ground beef, tomatoes, and beans. Others got a bit edgy, using meats such as chicken, pork and bison.
Mary Kim, of Kansas City, came to town to visit a friend, but the friend’s plans did not include sitting at home. Kim said she was surprised at the number of chili variations, and enjoyed some of them.
“The beef and tomatoes is my style of chili,” Kim said. “The last chili was more like gumbo, but I am expanding my definition of chili tonight.”
Betty and Thomas Holder liked the traditional style, and also preferred the chili with less spice.
“I don’t like it hot or spicy,” Betty said. “It also needs to have beans, I think chili isn’t chili without beans.”
Becky Plummer’s taste buds were tantalized by the competition, but that didn’t deter her from voting for the same chili she has supported in previous crawls.
“I always vote for Pat’s,” Plummer said. “Not just for preconceiving conditions, but because they use chunks of meat instead of just ground beef.”
Some chili didn’t taste anything like chili. Dave Walsh, a soldier stationed at Fort Riley, said the chili at Rusty’s Last Chance tasted more like chicken noodle soup. He said it was his first time coming to a chili crawl, but he liked the idea ... and loved eating chili. Corey Springer had her favorites, but didn’t mind the not so tasteful ones, either.
“Even if it’s not good chili,” Springer said, “it still goes to a good cause.”
The crawl was sponsored by the Little Apple Optimist Club, and the more than $8,000 proceeds benefitted several area youth programs.
After having their taste buds sweetened and stunned by the various chilis, the crawl’s last stop was Cold Stone Creamery for a scoop of cold ice cream.
As for the best chili, that depended on individual taste. The Wahoo Fire and Ice Grill’s chicken chili verde was not only spicy but also full of flavor, getting several votes as best. Wahoo’s bison chili hit the tongue with sweet chocolate before spicing it back up with a dash of cinnamon. Bluestem Bistro stepped up their game this year, but those preferring more subdued flavors wouldn’t have liked all the spice. Coco Bolos, a three-time defending crawl champion, was again a favorite. But their pulled pork chili had nothing but meat, meat, meat. On the other hand, their pork chili verde was full of flavor, even if it did not meet a traditional definition of chili.