Originally posted by wudaben
On the Chili topic...I believe the Ray's canned chili comes from the central Illinois area but not necessarily Springfield. I do know that there is an annual chili cookoff between Illinois and Texas as each claims to be the Chili Capital of the world. The major difference between the two I believe is that Illinois chili includes meet where the Texas counterpart does not. Springfield plays host to a large chili convention during the summer months. The best chili in Springfield is a place called Joe Rogers' Original Recipe Chili Parlor (formerly called The Den).
When I was growing up, Ray's Chili had a building on South 13th Street, just off of Laurel. I don't know if it was a manufacturing plant or just a distribution center. It was a fairly large building, in the middle of what was then a residential area.
Just a few blocks away, near 12th and South Grand was Den Chilli, home of the famous Firebrand chili. If you ate a bowl on the premises, they put your name on the wall. Yes, it was that hot. I ate there so often, though, that I gradually got to the point that Firebrand was my norm. I think I stated out with Medium, then Hot, then Extra Hot and, finally, Firebrand. I am probably the only person in the world to have eaten Den Chilli in Tokyo. While stationed there in the Army, my mother came for a visit and brought with her a quart, frozen and packed in dry ice!
A few blocks from the Den, at 6th and Laurel, if I recall, was the Dew Chili Parlor. Locals were pretty much divided into Dew chili fans or Den Chilli fans. I was an equal-opportunity customer, but I have to admit now, 30 years later, I cannot recall much about Dew's chili, so it must not have been that good.
BTW, Den Chilli is gone now, but it was re-opened under the name "Joe Rogers." Firebrand is now called "JR's Special." From what I understand, the Rogers family sold The Den and all rights back in the 70s or 80s. The new owners drove it into the ground after a few years and the Rogers family went back into business, but were unable to regain rights to the names "Den" or "Firebrand."
The main characterstics of Den chilli are its lack of beans and its spicy oil, visibly floating on top, served with oyster crackers. I've never figured out if the spiciness comes from the meat sauce or the oil. Most locals order it with chopped raw onions and, maybe, a tamale on the side. (If you asked for it in the chili, you got less chili