photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
Texas Chili Parlor
There’s only one place in Austin that can satisfy the wants of dive bar enthusiasts, chili lovers, and downtown-area workers hungry for some excellent enchiladas. And that place is Texas Chili Parlor. There aren’t a lot of spots that can wear this many hats successfully, but TCP has been playing the role of a bartender, chili vendor, and Tex-Mex restaurant on Lavaca and 15th since the mid-1970s. And it’s been doing it with the grizzled expertise of a business that opened its doors a full year before chili became the state dish of Texas (coincidence?).
Walking in feels a little like entering a cave—it’s dimly lit and chilly inside—and there are usually a handful of people sitting at the bar that look like they’ve been there since the restaurant’s inception. It has that “old dive bar aroma” mixed with the lingering smell of beer and chili spices. And a few windows let just enough light enter the dining room to prevent you from stubbing a toe, while also serving as a reminder that you’re on a busy street just a stone’s throw away from the Capitol.
There are about half a dozen different chilis on the menu—including a few with beans for anyone not from Texas—with varying levels of heat (x, xx, xxx). And if you’re not really sure where to start, there’s a chili taster where you can try mini portions of a few different varieties. They also have a full menu of Tex-Mex staples, like burritos and fajitas, but for the mashup of the century, you’ll want to try the Freidas Enchiladas plate—two cheese enchiladas topped with a giant ladle of the chili of your choice. It adds a deep, savory note (and some giant chunks of soft, stewed beef) that we never knew could work so well as a blanket for some enchiladas.
After work, pop into Texas Chili Parlor during Happy Hour for a few bucks off the Mad Dog Margarita—they’re as potent as they sound—and some shelter from the sun. TCP is an Austin institution that’s been immortalized in song, and after a few Mad Dogs, you’ll probably be singing about it, too.
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