Battle of the Meat Chili

Saddle Ranch Chop House vs. Bison Witches Deli

Now that fall has arrived (yes we know it's still 65-70 degrees, but that's sweater weather to most Phoenicians), there's nothing that satisfies our bellies like a nice steaming bowl of chili. This week, we hit up two local restaurants to see whether their meat-filled versions warmed our hearts or cooled our spirits.

In One Corner: Saddle Ranch Chop House
9375 W. Coyotes Blvd., Glendale

A heaping bowl of comforting cowboy chow...

This west coast steakhouse chain with locations in Old Town Scottsdale and in Glendale's Westgate City Center is the kind of kitschy, over-the-top place visitors beg to visit because they're convinced that's what the Wild, Wild Southwest is all about. Think stagecoach wheel chandeliers, horse tack on the walls, and the ultimate in drunken humiliation inducers: a mechanical bull. Yee-haw!

saddle bull.jpg
Saddle Ranch's bucking bull.

​Our expectations were pretty high going into this one. If there's one dish cowboys do well, it's chili. Saddle House's version arrived piping hot in a cute little iron kettle and topped with onions, cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.

It smelled so mouthwatering that one dining companion sat there drooling with spoon in hand, complaining about the delay while we snapped a few photos.

The wait was worth it. The chili was savory and filled with high quality ground beef. Chunky tomatoes and peppers provided a measure of acidity, while kidney beans anchored the dish with earthy flavor.

No one at our table was a huge fan of onions, but Saddle Ranch did a solid job of calming the sometimes overwhelming bite of onions by using a very finely chopped sweet variety.  

"For a cowboy joint in a Southwest town, I was expecting a little more heat," voiced our dining companion.

Though the chili was flavorful, it was about as spicy-hot as Taco Bell's mild sauce. Disappointing for jalapeno lovers but more palatable to the general population. Still, we thought it was a fine chili; perfect for al fresco dining on a cool fall night.

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