What Makes the Texas Chili Parlor in Austin, Texas, So Iconic
Seven different kinds of chili, Mad Dog margaritas, and a Guy Clark song to start.
Folks might go on and on about all the famous watering holes in Texas, to which we say “cheers,” but we’re here to talk about something else entirely. Namely, the most famous chili hole. In the shadow of the Texas State Capitol building—the one Texans will never let us forget is actually taller than the United States Capitol in D.C.—there sits a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and bar that’s been around since 1976, just a year before chili was declared the official state food of Texas.
It’s called the Texas Chili Parlor. You might have heard about it in an old Guy Clark song, “Dublin Blues,” or perhaps from seeing it in the Quentin Tarantino movie, “Death Proof.” It’s got the sort of underground renown that brings in repeat customers and faraway fans alike, welcoming everybody from 11 a.m. brunch to 2 a.m. last call with neon bar signs, dimly lit tables, and the smell of chili in the air. Tequila, too.
Speaking of chili, the Parlor has seven different chili recipes that it serves daily, from the house chili in three different heat level options—x, xx, xxx—to less traditional Texas chilis like the white chili with pork and the five-bean veggie chili. Order your chili in the form of a classic Frito Pie, which is basically a crunchy bed of Fritos topped with chili and cheese; or choose the popular chili taster plate, which lets you sample three different chilis in one visit. You’ll also see their famous chilis featured on many other menu items like their chili cheeseburger, Tex-Mex chili enchiladas, and a baked potato dish smothered in chili and all the fixings. Your stomach growling yet?
Cap it all off with a Mad Dog margarita, a house drink created by a group of local creatives (and Parlor regulars) back in the 1970s who called themselves the Mad Dogs, and you’ll have checked off a quintessential Texas rite of passage. And guess who was one of the original Mad Dogs? None other than Mr. Guy Clark.
After eating a bowl of authentic Texas chili and sipping down a margarita or two, you’ll see why the dive restaurant is so secretly iconic. It’s the kind of watering hole—and chili hole—that calls you back, to the dimly lit tables and neon bar signs that feel like old Texas.
Next time you’re breezing through Hill Country, consider a sundry pit stop at this Texas food icon. Chili is hard to eat on the road, anyway.