As fall gives way to winter and crisp evenings transform into chilly nights, it is natural for us to crave the comfort of warmth. In Wisconsin, this means seeking out cozy fireplaces, hot apple ciders, and the kind of food that is best followed by a retreat under your favorite blanket. One of the winter staples that Wisconsin does best is chili, preferably paired with warm cornbread. Regardless of whether you like it spicy, mild, vegan or still moo-ing, you’ll find a chili in Wisconsin that’s worth heading out for.
There’s a simple reason that Chili John’s has been serving up bowls of chili since 1913: it tastes darn good. You won’t find any exotic frills here. Chili John’s serves up a beef and beans chili with traditional spices and the option to order mild, medium or hot. Stopping here for a bowl is worth your time simply to be a part of one of Wisconsin’s oldest chili traditions.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan and looking for a bowl of chili that can go toe-to-toe with the state’s popular meaty options, then look no further than the Green Owl in Madison. The Chili here rotates weekly between a variety of excellent options. One of the best is their Mole’ style chili that features smoky and chocolatey flavors.
Though not quite the oldest chili establishment on our list, Real Chili comes close, with the restaurant dating back to 1931. Their famous slogan, “Real Chili: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore”, got its start back in the 1970s, when hungry customers would stay out past bar time until Real Chili opened for breakfast. Real Chili has thrived over the years thanks to a classic recipe and reasonable prices. Oh, and if you’re a vinegar fan, their chili-infused vinegar will add the perfect extra kick to your bowl.
There are so many excellent reasons to make your way out to Monroe for a trip to this Swiss styled tavern. First and most importantly, they offer the “2nd Best Chili in the World,” which is especially good paired with one of the locally brewed beers on tap. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Braunschweiger and Limburger cheese sandwich (just don’t forget your breath mints.) The cheese platter is also a great option for trying a variety of the delicious locally made cheeses.
The Acoustic Café easily runs away with the award for the most unique chili in the state, but you have to know how to order it. Once you’ve decided on what kind of hoagie you’ll be having, order a cup or bowl of “Cheer”. What you’ll be served is a magical concoction of the café’s flavor-packed chili mixed with their rich and creamy beer cheese soup. It may sound different, but don’t judge until you’ve tried it!
Enjoy comfort food with a view at The Coopers Tavern in Madison, located just across the street from the impressive Wisconsin State Capitol. Diners can choose from traditional beef chili or Cooper’s special sweet potato chili, topped with Dubliner cheddar cheese, sour cream, and scallions. Each bowl is served with a side of homemade cornbread, and pairs perfectly with one of the dozens of beers on tap.