In Search of Chili Dogs, Part Two

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Hi, it’s Katherine Curry again, reporting in about hot dogs (again!).  I learned a lot about chili dogs on my recent visit to Port Chester.  I also learned that fast, cheap, greasy chili dogs are addictive.

I mean, really — just look at this baby.

I’m getting hungry just looking at it, and I’ve already had my lunch.  This chili dog in particular came from Texas Chili, the up-the-street competitor to Port Chester institution Hubba (a.k.a Pat’s Hubba Hubba, and once upon a time, Texas Quick Lunch.)

It turned out that Michael Stern, my eating companion for the afternoon, had written about Texas Quick Lunch over thirty years ago in an early edition of Roadfood, his and Jane Stern’s indispensable guide to American roadside food.  (In the picture below, the storefront window’s all foggy because of its proximity to Hubba’s giant pot of steaming chili.)

It’s still a long, narrow hole-in-the-wall kind of place.

That’s Michael Stern at the counter, photographing his food, seated at one of the thirteen stools at Hubba’s counter.  (You can read his reviews of Hubba and Texas Chili on Roadfood.com.)

For those of you who haven’t been to Hubba: hung on the wall to the right, out of the frame, is the menu, each item written on its own individual paper plate. And yes, the wallpaper (and ceiling paper!) is dollar bills.  And about that chili — it’s greasy, there’s no way around it. There’s not much to it beyond the grease, finely ground beef, and hot chili peppers.

Best consumed atop a hot dog, this chili is not something I’d order as a standalone, although some more intrepid and/or drunker souls might.

The hot dog is split and grilled, then topped with chili and, typically, chopped raw onions, and plopped atop a grilled bun.  For some reason, ours didn’t come with onions and we had eaten most of it before we thought to ask.

There’s solid reasoning behind the methodology of this chili dog, I believe — the chili is free of tomato, which keeps its water content low and prevents the bun from getting soggy.  Toasting the bun helps it hold up to the grease and, as you can see, the split hot dog acts like an envelope to hold the chili.

Hubba’s chili is more than just greasy — it’s flavorful and spicy-hot without being overwhelming.  A one-alarm chili fire, I think. There are other things on the menu, too — hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, all available topped with chili, of course.

Our next stop was Texas Chili, which opened in 2008, and is extremely similar to Hubba’s.  The most readily apparent difference between the two places is ambiance — Texas Chili is large (at least in comparison to Hubba) and new-looking.  New-looking is not a term anyone would ever apply to Hubba.

For your first visit, as at Hubba, the thing you want to try first is a chili dog.

Another split and grilled dog, topped with a finely-ground beef chili, this time sprinkled with chopped raw onions, on a grilled bun.  In appearance, very similar to Hubba’s dog, but the major difference — at least on this day — was heat.

Texas Chili’s chili packed a serious wallop — it started out tingly hot and just kept building….if I were a cartoon character, steam would have been coming out of my ears.

It was so hot that I was grateful for the cool relief the raw onions provided.  Before we were done with this dog, my face had turned red, I was sweating profusely….can chili dogs cause hot flashes?  My face was such an alarming shade of red that our kind waitress rushed over to offer water, but a man lunching next to us at the counter suggested I get the “Texas water” instead.

Texas water, we learned, is the same as “Hubba water” served up the street:  cold water, served from a fountain cooler, with just a touch of fruit punch added, enough to turn the water a soft pink and give the water a slightly fruity sweetness.  Phew, thank heavens for Texas water!

A four-alarm chili dog, in my opinion.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.

Have you been to Hubba and Texas Chili?  Which spot do you like best?  Anyone have memories of Texas Quick Lunch to share?

The 411 on Hubba.

The 411 on Texas Chili.

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  1. I’ve not been to the new “Texas Chili” but it’s my understanding the old Pats Hubba Hubba was originally Texas, then Pats hubba hubba, then just Hubba Hubba.

    Back in the 90’s we would frequent Pat’s – and I’m not sure what has happened here but the Pat’s chili was hot!

    Here is another little bit of information regarding that Texas water you speak of.

    In the 90’s there was one soda machine (in original Pat’s) which had the Hi-C punch – and on that spigot was the press down button for a cup of water. Well, anytime someone wanted a water it came out pink by default (remnants of the punch stuff). I clearly remember one evening (hehe, well as clear as could be at around 4am and lots of local beverages) that we got our water and it was clear! Apparently someone had decided to fix the soda machine. We were very upset and demanded a splash of the pink stuff be added back in as we were used to that flavored water with our hotdogs and the oh so yummy California burger (with chili and cheese of course).

    The original happening of pink water was a fluke which caught on. Let no one take credit for inventing it (although I will personally take some credit for ensuring it’s survival :))

    The past 2 years I’ve come across a recipe close to that hot chili, but have not mastered it. I’m stuck now out on Nantucket, but if someone would like to fly me out some of the recent Texas chili and some of the current Hubba batch I’ll be happy to send you off a proper review.

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