Soup of the Week / Chili at Ballyhoo
Owner Tim Stevens draws on his German heritage as well as his commitment to high-quality comfort food with ’Hoo’s signature chili
Photos by kc kratt
What makes Ballyhoo’s chili stand out?
While serving a consistent product is very important to us, I don’t necessarily feel that there are unbreakable rules we have to follow when it comes to making chili. Following a recipe to the letter, day in and day out, tends to stifle the creativity of a cook, so we really just do what we feel on any particular day. Sometimes we throw some beans into our meat chili, or we may go completely vegetarian if the mood strikes us.
Any tips or tricks for making really great chili?
I don’t know if this is really considered a trick, but we are constantly striving to make our product better. We procure all of our high quality meats from J. H. Dodman Company, located right down the street from us, so our product is always extremely fresh. Since we pride ourselves on our housemade sausages, we like to throw some of our extra sausage grind into the mix every now and then.
Do you have any childhood memories related to comfort foods like soup and chili?
My grandfather is of German descent, and as a five- or six-year-old, I would always eat the foods he was fond of: blind robins (smoked herring), Limburger cheese sandwiches, pickled herring, etc. He would often make chili, which always included a healthy dose of Jack Daniel’s. I enjoyed it immensely until I got through about the fourth bowl and started to feel pretty ill. Looking back, I think cooking the booze out a little would have been a good idea.
What are some of the qualities that make Ballyhoo a destination for such a wide variety of clientele?
We try very hard to be the kind of place that makes everyone feel comfortable, whether you want a quick beer and a bite at lunchtime, or you’re stopping in before or after a show or concert at the arena. We listen closely to the suggestions of our customers, and we make changes if we see a particular demand for one. Besides occasionally offering vegetarian chili, we recently added a vegetarian option to our sausage menu and it’s been very well received. We try to be flexible. Right now, we are offering any of our sausages prepared “’Hoo style”—topped with the popular chili and homemade mac and cheese—for a one-dollar upcharge. It’s pretty intense, but really delicious.
Jennifer Boye is a frequent contributor to Spree and the chef at Mansion on Delaware Avenue.