7 members of the chili team ventured out to visit today’s chili contender, JK’s Chili. JK’s Chili sits in the corner of an unassuming strip mall across from the railroad tracks in Madeira. The interior consists of an 8 stool lunch counter, a handful of tables, and a row of booths along the wall. Open only for breakfast and lunch, JK’s serves up traditional chili parlor fare: breakfast, double-deckers, fried sandwiches, and of course chili. Notably, they offer a cheese coney special which nets you 4 cheese coneys for $5, a bargain that’s pretty tough to beat. As great as that deal is, we’re in search of the best chili, not the cheapest. So, what did we think?Overall Rating:
It was close but she earned the “Chili Biddy” title today. The order was accurate but just a bit slow. The food was average on taste, a little bland. I felt like I needed to add hot sauce to spice it up a bit. The portions were average for the cost. I’m a definite maybe for repeat visits.
As a lifelong eastsider and former Madeira resident I am ashamed to admit I did not know of JK’s existence until very recently, despite it having been there for over 30 years. Still, better late than never, I was anxious to give their chili a try. I ordered my usual bowl of plain with 2 cheese coneys. Service was expedient and I quickly found myself digging right in. The chili was relatively meaty, but gave off very little in the way of aroma. My first bite was met with overwhelming disappointment. While the chili was indeed meaty and had a nice texture, it was utterly devoid of flavor. Subsequent bites did not improve the situation, so I turned to the cheese coneys. The cheese coneys appeared to be very heavy on the chili, a fact which was confirmed immediately upon picking the first one up. Ordinarily I don’t consider a little extra chili to be a bad thing, but again the flavorless chili failed to impress, serving only to so liquefy the bun of the second coney that it had to be eaten with a fork. Finally returning to my half-eaten bowl of chili, I tried doctoring it with a few dashes of hot sauce and few shakes of salt but to no avail. Not quite the worst chili I’ve encountered thus far, but unless you live or work in the area it probably isn’t worth the trip.
J Ks Chili met all the requirements today. Good portions, meaty chili, solid fries and reasonable prices. The only knock is that the chili was mild for my taste. The folks that ordered Cheese Coneys had to be happy, they looked pretty big and were on 4 for $5 special.
JK’s chili parlor sits on the end cap of a multi-tenant storefront in the quiet town of Madeira. If you aren’t paying attention you could easily pass it up and not see it. The outside of the parlor is plastered with signs such as “4 coneys for $5!” which is enough to entice us in even on a non-chili tour. The parlor itself is a typical parlor with one awesome addition, you can buy lottery tickets at JK’s! From $20 scratch offs to $1 pick threes, you can scratch away your retirement funds. Unfortunately they don’t have Keno, and Stephanie was really looking forward to this. Inside the front door and past the lottery tickets we find a long counter with about 10 seats on the left and about ten tables throughout the rest of the restaurant, more than enough seating for our chili team. We arrived at noon and were quickly given 2 tables (even though I prefer to sit at the counter) and were quickly given our drink orders. Upon receiving our drinks I ordered the normal 4-way with onions and a cheese coney, with mustard and onion. The waiter has the distinct honor of being the first male on the chili tour to serve me. I typically prefer my chili to be served by a “Biddy” as our teammate Adam coined, but even though he lacked the henish qualities of our previous biddies, he did serve the chili in quick fashion, and without reminders. The coney was the first to arrive to my table. It had an awkward lean to it that I must assume was from an abundance of chili with a shorter than bun size frank. The buns were fresh and soft, but it was a mess to eat. I was excited to see that they kept it local with Shur-Good oyster crackers, but they had a chewier texture to them, almost as though they were stale. The hot sauce was Frank’s Red Hot, and was, well, not that hot and left a lot to be desired. The 4-way quickly made it’s appearance, but if we’re judging on appearance, I’m a bit disappointed. The typical chili parlor serves their 3, 4, and 5 ways on a dish that is a hybrid between a bowl and a plate, curving up to keep the sauce centered with the noodles. JK’s serves their chili on a normal round plate that allows for the whole concoction to flow around with reckless abandon. The chili itself bit flavorful, but then the flavor quickly left. There was no aftertaste whatsoever, and the onions overpowered the dish. The noodles were fine, not too firm, not to soft, and were easily managed with a fork. The cheese on both the coney and the dish were sharp and soft, just like they should be. Overall, I’m going to have to give low marks for JK’s. The appearances along with the overall lack of flavor are what gives JK’s 4 stars out 10. It’s OK, but it’s just not up there with the heavy hitters.
JK’s was located in a little strip mall, set back off the road enough that we nearly drove right past it, bonus points for “off the beaten path”. I love the small Chili Parlor feeling of a counter as soon you walk in. What more do you need. The server was great, I’m not really sure if he said anything when he walked up but I got my coke quickly and the meal came soon after. I had my usual 3 Way. I had a double take moment when the server brought my order, the plate was round and the cheese was edge to edge with no mountain, this is a good start. Props on the delivery. Fresh cheese too, it wasn’t pulled out of a freezer, definitely grated earlier that day. The spaghetti was thinner, but the chili suited my taste buds just fine. I liked it.
The coneys at JK’s had a great cheese to chili to bread ratio. The bread was fresh, the chili was hot but what really made the coneys was the mustard. One can only assume it was just your regular run of the mill yellow mustard, but something about it really made the chili flavor pop on the coney. JK’s served up a hearty helping of cheese fries, to my dismay they use crinkle cuts but they were cooked and seasoned well.