Tolbert’s Restaurant

Review by: Michael Stern

What would Frank X. Tolbert think of Tolbert’s restaurant? The author of A Bowl of Red, the definitive book about true Texas cooking, especially classic chili, was a seeker of authenticity, of roots, of unfancified people’s food. The restaurant that bears his name and is now run by his daughter, Kathleen, is a rather stylish venue, a culinary reliquary in a town devoted to the charms of Lone Star antiquity. Its broad menu includes the likes of Buffalo wings, a salmon platter, salads, dessert, chile verde made with pork, and even “North of the Border” chili with beans. Live music is featured every night.

For all the amenities and newfangled items on the menu, Tolbert’s bowl of red, aka chili con carne (the one without beans), is perfect — exactly the chili that Tolbert himself eulogized as The Right Stuff. Tortilla chips surrounding it are unobtrusive; cheese and onions are optional; the brew itself is chunky beef and chili and spice. I’m not persnickety about chili; I like all kinds, even the most baroque and iconoclastic, but I must say that this simple one-two combo illustrates the Bauhaus principle of cookery that less is more.

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Tolbert’s Restaurant Recipes


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