A friend of mine, who knows what a fanatic I am about chili, told me about this place after seeing in on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I happened to be visiting Burbank on business so I made sure I checked it out. I stopped by on Monday evening around 5:30 and was 1 of only 3 customers there. However, by the time I left there wasn't an empty seat in the place (I'd estimate they could accommodate about 25 people at a time). Like me, most of the people appeared to be here for the first time. The restaurant is set up with a large horseshoe bar in the middle of the dining room and provides the only seating. All the ingredients are in a steam table at the center of the horseshoe. The nice lady that helped me explained a little about the chili itself and eventually offered my a small sample (a spoonful each) of the 4 varieties of chili they serve. They included Beef Hot, Beef Mild, Chicken, and Vegetarian. These varieties can be served over pasta, tamale, hot dog, or a few other options including with beans or just a bowl of chili. I went with the purest form - a bowl of "medium" chili without anything extra. They don't actually have a so-called "medium" chili so what they do is serve a scoop of hot and a scoop of mild that I then stirred together myself. They offered me fresh onions, crackers and cheese, but I declined all. Back to the samples though... The four spoonfuls of chili where served to me on a flat plate. The hot was a dark redish brown, the other three were all a similar shade of medium brown. All four samples had a pool of oil/grease/fat under them after she spooned them on to the plate. I tried all of them and the flavors were all similar except for the hot version that had a substantial bite to it. The blended hot & mild together (that makes their medium chili) produced just enough heat to be enjoyable as a meal. Unfortunately, the chili didn't live up to the reputation they have somehow established, at least to my palette. I found it to be too greasy and lacking in the rich, Texas-style red chili flavor that I prefer. Perhaps this is a style of chili that the folks in Southern California prefer and so Chili John's has survived as long as they have. I'm not saying it was bad, just not the style of chili I favor. I did enjoy the company of the servers and the other customers in the place seemed to be enjoying themselves so my trip was at least a pleasant one. I wish them all the best and hope they continue to thrive. I even bought one of their t-shirts just because I enjoyed the experience.
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