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Eats Beat: Texas-sized showdown looms over the official state dish: chili or BBQ?

Posted 3:45pm on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013

Fellow Texans, our way of life is under attack.

After 36 proud years of honoring chili con carne’s lofty “bowl of red” as our official Texas state dish, some neighbors in Austin want to dump it.

Texas Monthly magazine, the arbiter of everything symbolically Texan, wants state Rep. Charlie Geren, R- Railhead Smokehouse, to switch the honored state dish to barbecue.

It’s easy to figure out why.

TM has barbecue editor Daniel Vaughnto cover the newly hip Austin smoker scene. It doesn’t have a chili editor.

But should Fort Worth and Texans really give up on chili, which has warmed cowboys and spurred digestion for 150 years?

Look, on a frosty January morning at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, the cowboys don’t line up first for barbecue. They start the day in the cattle barn with Stockman’s Cafe eggs and chili.

Chili is a Fort Worth icon. The first grocery chili powder was packed and sold about 1890 here by Pendery’s Chili Supply.

It was former Star-Telegram and Dallas Morning News writer Frank X. Tolbert who promoted chili cook-offs and the legacy of Texas red, now preserved at Tolbert’s in Grapevine.

And Geren himself has no small stake in this fight. The Railhead is known for barbecue, but it also has some of Texas’ best traditional chili.

TM political writer Paul Burka has called for doing away with the “bowl of dread.” He calls for “true statesmen” to lift barbecue to a place of honor as the new state dish.

This will involve long hours of debate over both chili and barbecue, probably someplace like the Railhead, Angelo’s Bar-B-Que or 86-year-old Riscky’s Grocery & Market on Azle Avenue.

In Fort Worth, even the Tex-Mex restaurants serve Texas chili. Try it at one of the Pulido’s restaurants, serving a recipe similar to the old Uncle Joe’s brand meat-market chili, or at El Rancho Grande, 1400 N. Main St.

And cafes like Old Neighborhood Grill, which has its own Uncle Joe’s version, Vickery Blvd. Cafe and Paris Coffee Shop all serve an honorable bowl of red.

Tolbert’s in Grapevine continues the legacy at 423 S. Main St., 817-421-4888, tolbertsrestaurant.com.

• New restaurant openings continue in Fort Worth with the new Bird Cafe gastropub, serving as soon as this weekend at 155 E. Fourth St., 817-332-2473, www. birdinthe.net.

Correction: The phone number for Clay Pigeon Food & Drink is 817-882-8065. It’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays at 2731 White Settlement Road; www. claypigeonfd.com.

In all the coverage of Christmas Day dining — and the lack of choices — I’ve failed to mention that Ruth’s Chris Steak House at the Hilton Fort Worth will open at 2 p.m. and serve both specials and the regular menu; www. ruthschris.com/promotions/christmas/.

Also, Humperdink’s Restaurant & Brewpub in Arlington and Dallas opens and serves a turkey dinner with pecan or pumpkin pie for $17.99; 700 Six Flags Drive, 817-640-8553, http:// humperdinks.com/christmas_feast/.

For other choices, see last Friday’s column at dfw.com/eatsbeat.

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Wednesdays in Life & Arts and Fridays in DFW.com. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @EatsBeat Facebook: Bud Kennedy’s Eats Beat Get alerts at RebelMouse.com/eats

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