My camera is broken. Again. How the heck can I take decent pictures of yummy food to share with you without my camera? As it happens, my camera repair shop is located in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. And every time I drive my camera over there (which is way too many times) I pass by Mike’s Chili Parlor and think to myself… “self, that looks like a place I need to try”. Maybe my camera keeps breaking to get me to go to Mike’s. So I did. With my trusty iPhone and its not-so-great camera functionality by my side.
I ordered two quarts of chili to go and took them with me to a barbecue my friends were having celebrating Al Franken’s belated win. The theme was food from Minnesota. I had no idea what food from Minnesota looks like, I found out — there was hot dish, cake cake, and other “food”. (I thought to myself, chili counts. It’s from the middle of the country. And as a product of the coasts, that’s close enough for me. Yeah, I know, that’s offensive coast-ish snobbery, but at least It’s honest.) Anyway, I showed up with two plastic containers filled with chili. It’s not like I brought sushi or foie gras.
There are times when you want something subtle, something refined, something that challenges you. This was not one of those times. Mike’s chili is like the bar/”chili parlor” where Mike sells his chili (is there a real Mike still there? I forgot to ask) — simple, straightforward, packed with texture and solid flavor, and kind of greasy. Beans, ground beef, and a strong but not spicy sauce bringing it all together. I imagine if I’d eaten my chili there that the oil would have been more integrated. It’s not their fault that it separated a touch by the time I got it to the BBQ. That said, after some quick mixing, everything more or less stayed together, and the chili disappeared in no time. I diced some onions to put on mine.
Mike’s chili is basic. Definitely not fancy. But it’s also reassuring and unassuming in its honesty. What you see is what you get. And what you get is some very decent flavorful and filling red chili.
As for my pictures of Mike’s chili, maybe my regular camera is too fancy to take pictures of this chili. Maybe it knew that it had to sacrifice itself to get me to head over to Mike’s and that my simple phone camera was the right way to take these pictures. Or maybe my camera just sucks and wants to make me unhappy and cost me money. (Or maybe I spend way too much time anthropomorphizing my camera and need to spend some time discussing this tendency with a professional?)
See all our Seattle writeups and photo galleries at our Seattle restaurant guide on Tastingmenu.