Having never spent a significant amount of time in Texas, Texas-style chili remains a mystery to me. However, if I were to imagine chili in Texas, it would pretty much look like Tub’s Fine Chili & Fancy Fixins, which I decided to head to on one of LA’s recent days of rain. For starters, the interior has a whole country-western sort of theme to it, with the workers wearing cowboy hats and cowboy-esque stools that resemble saddles. It’s a bit gimmicky for Southern California, but it kind of feels right for the place. Then there’s the chili, which is a far cry from the Midwestern-style chili I know and love from Chili John’s in Burbank and pretty much the entire state of Michigan. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because as they say, “variety is the spice of life.”
Tub’s serves multiple varieties of chili, with only one of them being beanless. Differing from the Midwestern chili, which is great on a hot dog or spaghetti, the chili here is more like a stew, so that the chili itself becomes the actual meal. We asked the chili man what the most popular choices were and he told us they were “Steak Town,” “Turkey Drive,” and “Campfire Triple-B” (the last of which was actually one of their rotating “Miner’s Choice” specials). The first two are basic steak and turkey chilis, while Triple-B was named for the bacon, beef and black beans it was made from. I tried out a sample of all three, then tried their beanless chili, “Chuck Wagon Grind” just to see if it could compare to the Midwest. It was good, but I knew I would be comparing too much, so I ended up going with Campfire Triple-B, since it was my favorite of the popular choices.
But variety wasn’t simply the name of the game for choosing which chili to eat, there was also a variety of ways to eat it. The normal option was over flatbread in a bowl, but there was also corn bread, brown rice, noodles and hot dogs. It was tough, but in the end, the chili man recommended sticking with the flatbread for first-timers like us. I wasn’t going to argue. Finally, came the size choices. These started at 6 ounces and were prices by the ounce all the way up to 18 ounces. Each ounce had it’s own name and I went with the 12 ounce medium-size, also known as Showgirl. Then came my final decision…what to get on top. I opted for cheese and corn chips, then ordered a side of Buffalo Chips for good measure.
Since my chili had been heating in a tub already, it was completely ready by the time we paid up at the counter. I brought it to the table and got to it. The flavor was off-the-charts delicious and I knew I had made the right choice with Triple-B. The only thing that was missing was spice. I went to the counter to ask if they had any hot sauce and they pointed me to a bottle that seemed to be filled with olive oil. But this was no olive oil, this was habanero pepper oil and not to be toyed with. I splashed only a little bit into my chili at a time until I reached the right amount of heat. There was no way I wanted to pour too much in. The result was a perfect version of what I consider to be Texas-style chili.
The Buffalo Chips ended up tasting like a combination of french fries and potato chips. They were a little too thick to be chips, but too crunchy to be fries. They had some tasty seasoning and also came with some barbecue sauce for dipping. As good as they were, they were definitely unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. I was already eating corn chips and flatbread, but it was good to know the Buffalo Chips at least tasted good.
When I got through most of my chili, I started tearing away at the flatbread. Although it looked like pita, the bread was actually like the bread that is used to make Gorditas at Taco Bell, which was really great. In fact, following my girlfriend’s example, when I reached the bottom of the chili, I lifted out the bread like a taco and ate the rest that way.
All-in-all, I was pretty happy with my Tub’s experience. In fact, I could definitely see the place expanding or even franchising. With good quality food and that country-western theme, it would probably be successful. It didn’t spark up nostalgia like Midwestern chili, but it was a nice foray into the world of chili with beans and certainly worth more visits on future rainy days.