Chili parlors once were fairly common in big cities throughout the Midwest. With the exception of Cincinnati, where chili has remained a bona fide mania, most of them are gone. That is one reason we are so enamored of Real Chili.
The chili itself is a heartland classic, served mild, medium, or hot, with spaghetti or beans, or spaghetti AND beans. The full and complete arrangement is known as the Marquette Special.
Degree of heat is determined by amount of meat. More meat = more heat. The meat is ground fine, brilliantly spiced, and deliciously oily. It goes atop layers of noodles and beans; and on top of the meat is piled a large fistful of shredded cheese (melting from the heat). You can also get sour cream and raw onions as a garnish. Every bowl comes with a side dish of oyster crackers to crumble on top or to eat as a sort of palate-cleanser between bites of chili.
Granted, this style of chili gets little respect from gastronomes who prefer the southwestern kinds, but even for the purist, Real Chili is an inspiring and enjoyable adventure in declasse dining. Sit at a counter or at one of two communal tables with backless stools and accompany your chili with beer or cherry Coke. A fast, friendly staff dole out second helpings at half price of the first, and if you have any doubts about this chili’s raison d’etre, consider the house motto: “Preventing Milwaukee’s Hangovers since 1931.”