Seattle is loaded with incredible history. And, not just the city itself, but many businesses and restaurants that call the Emerald City home have quite a story as well. Mike’s Chili Parlor in Ballard is a great example. They’ve been serving “world famous” chili in Seattle since 1922. That history is one of the reasons we really wanted to check this place out.
Mike’s Chili Parlor (1447 NW Ballard Way) is more of a tavern than a restaurant. The large neon sign in front of the building is pretty hard to miss. As you would expect with any tavern, there are beer signs on the wall and even an arcade game in the back. There’s a full bar inside, serving cold beer and plenty of hard booze. If you want to catch your favorite sports team in action, you can do that at Mike’s. There are several large screen TVs, so you won’t miss a second of the game. The place is so old-school they only accept cash — no card — for payment.
This is extremely obvious, but Mike’s Chili Parlor is clearly well-known for its chili. Instead of me describing it, I’ll let them describe their chili (as found on their website): “This is NOT gourmet-yuppie-celebrity chef chili. It’s coarse-ground beef with enough grease that when it is served by the bowl, your spoon will glide through a glistening layer on top before it hits meat.” Yup, that’s about the best way to sum it up.
You can only order your chili a couple different ways at Mike’s Chili Parlor. Their “straight” chili is the meat-only chili, but you can also order the meat chili with beans (if you like it that way). Believe it or not, the straight chili is more expensive than the chili with beans, because the beans are considered more of a “filler” (as it was described to us), and you don’t get as much of the famous meat chili.
Mike’s Chili Parlor also offers different sizes for their chili. There’s a cup, bowl, or a Big Ass Bowl. Yes, that’s actually what it’s called. The Big Ass Bowl is a quart (32 ounces) of chili. If you’re taking chili to go from Mike’s, they’ll even fill a gallon container for you to take home (but you have to bring your own container for that).
When Tove and I were at Mike’s Chili Parlor, we ordered a bowl of the chili with beans (with all the toppings: cheese, onions and jalapenos), a chili burger, and Mike’s home cut fries. That was more than enough food for the two of us. In fact, it was probably too much food. The chili burger isn’t something you can eat with your hands, there’s so much chili loaded on top that you have to use a fork (unless you want to make a complete mockery of yourself).
The chili at Mike’s Chili Parlor is clearly the highlight, but Tove was a big fan of the home cut fries as well. Even though I was stuffed, I was disappointed the food was gone at the end of our meal (as I was scraping the plate for every last drop). I know that sounds pretty pathetic, but I love food.
On top of good food, the service is also great at Mike’s Chili Parlor. I give them props for being so good to us. When Tove asked our waitress for hot tea (yes, she actually ordered tea at a tavern), the server found her some tea and even gave her a couple different options to choose from. I thought that was pretty cool.
The history behind Mike’s Chili Parlor is worth a visit alone. It’s crazy to think that generations of Seattleites have tasted the same secret chili recipe over the decades. It’s literally the same chili fishermen devoured along the ship canal in the 1920s and ’30s. If that’s not reason enough to stop by, you’re bound to enjoy the chili and atmosphere as well (although it can get a little noisy — it’s a tavern after all). You should give Mike’s a shot and let us know what you think!
Have you ever been to Mike’s Chili Parlor in Ballard? What do you think of their chili? How do you think it stacks up to other chili in Seattle? You can leave your comments below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more great places to eat and drink in the Emerald City.