Hot & Spicy

Where to Get the Best Chili in Houston

We know your family recipe might be better, but try these local options on lazy winter days.

By Stephanie Bartels and Claire Anderson

Find the best chili in Houston. 

IT’S 50 DEGREES IN HOUSTON, which means winter in Texas is in full swing. Whether you’re staying in or going out, the holiday season is the perfect time for looking cute, sipping hot cocoa, and indulging in all things warm and cozy. Looking to warm yourself up with a nice, hot meal? One of the advantages of living in Texas (besides that mild winter temp) is our easy access to some of the tastiest chili in the nation. 

Chili recipes can vary from simple directions to complex-slow cooker varieties, and while most families have their own signature chili recipe, it can be nice sometimes to skip the hassle of home cooking (especially in between Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with the family), and eat a meal made in someone else’s kitchen for a change. Fortunately, there’s plenty of local spots to find delicious chili this winter. Keep reading to find our picks for eight restaurants serving up the best chili in Houston.

Most Unusual Chili: MKT Bar


Located inside Phoenicia Specialty Foods’ downtown Houston location, MKT Bar serves wine, beer, and international dishes, including their take on a Mediterranean-style chili. The Haig’s Chili features ground chuck steak with onions, roasted peppers, fava beans, and chickpeas, topped with white cheddar, radish, garlic, lemon zest, and scallions. This unique dish also comes with pita chips.

Most Texan Chili: The Armadillo Palace


Goode Co.’s Armadillo Palace is packed with Texas memorabilia and offers two in-house bars, a patio, dance hall, and live music from local bands as a backdrop to their signature chili con carne. The bowl is served with cheddar, jalapeños, onions, and for a homey twist: it’s all topped with some crispy Fritos.

Saltines on the side of a classic bowl of chili at Molina's.

Image: Kimberly Park

Most Authentic Chili: Molina’s Cantina


The old-fashioned chili con carne has been on the menu at family-owned restaurant Molina’s Cantina since it opened in 1941. This classic, meaty take on chili is made without beans or tomato (the way authentic Texas chili should be made), and is topped with melted cheese and chopped onions. You can chow down on it at any of Molina’s Westheimer, Fulshear, or Bellaire locations. 

Best BBQ-Style Chili: The Pit Room


Looking to enjoy BBQ and chili? The Pit Room has both. Their Texas Red Chili, served in a cup or bowl, includes a mixture of chopped beef and pork, and is topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and onions. For a true Texas-style (and meat lover’s) dinner, order the Frito Pie or the Loaded Frito Pie, topped with pulled pork or chopped beef. 

Best Vegan Chili: A Moveable Feast


A great vegan option for chili in Houston is at Memorial City-area restaurant and health food store, A Moveable Feast. The shop offers healthy food options for everyone, whatever your eating philosophy may be; ingredients are also organic and sourced locally. The Hearty Chili Pie is a vegan chili made with textured vegetable protein, blue corn tortilla chips for that authentic Tex-Mex flavor, and topped with tomato, jalapeño, onion, and vegan cheese.

Best Chili Hot Dogs: JCI Grill


James Coney Island, everyone’s favorite long-running hot dog chain, serves up a classic chili made with beans and onions at their 10 Houston locations. There’s always options to make your chili-eating experience new every time: there’s the Frito Pie, chili cheese and Texas footlongs made with beef, a tamale plate featuring chili tamales topped with cheddar cheese and onions, and of course, the chili cheese variation of one of JCI’s signature hot dogs.

The cheesiest chili at Jus'Mac.

Image: Jus'Mac 

Cheesiest Chili: Jus’ Mac


For a cheesy twist on a classic bowl of chili, try the Chili Cheese Mac and Cheese at Jus’ Mac, Houston’s first (and only) all mac and cheese restaurant. Their macaroni-infused chili is topped with Colby Jack cheese and Fritos; but they also offer chili cheese nachos, a chili cheese sandwich, or a Frito Pie burger (made with chili, cheese sauce, onions, pickles, and Fritos) for a more casual—yet still cheesy—chili meal.

Most Variety of Chili Toppings: EZ's Liquor Lounge 


When looking for a night out with drinks and a warm meal, look no further than EZ’s Liquor Lounge in the Heights. Take the traditional route with a Chili Pie, made with chili con carne or Golden Veggie chili and a number of topping options, like pico de gallo, jalapeños, queso blanco, and Schredduce (that’s lingo for shredded lettuce). EZ’s also offers chili hot dogs—con carne or vegetarian—and cups of chili served with some East Texas Firecrackers, an extra-spicy, all-Texan side dish.

Filed under
Show Comments

Related Content

The Terlingua Tradition

A Bowl of Red

10/31/2013 By Robb Walsh

Texas Recipes

Native Texan Chili Fixin's

02/24/2014 By Robb Walsh

Best of Houstonia

100 Things Every Houstonian Must Do

10/29/2014 By Houstonia Staff