2641 East Second Avenue
This landmark in Cherry Creek North offers up the most unusual bowl of chili on this list. The Cherry Cricket is known far and wide for great burgers, but its chili recipe goes all the way back to 1945 and original owner Elizabeth McGuire. According to manager Samantha Taxin, the recipe is described as “Sioux City Southwestern red chili.” The Southwestern flair comes through with a pleasing combination of beef, chiles and spicy flavor; but what makes it unique is a distinct sweetness — not overly so, but sweet nonetheless, which comes as a front note that surprises your palate immediately. When asked, Taxin throws up her hands as if to suggest that there's a secret ingredient that diners will only be able to guess at (because she's not telling). You can order a bowl by itself or have it ladled on top of your favorite burger or “dawg.”
Chicago Style Beef & Dogs
6680 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood
Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Joe and Luanne Margotte and their daughter Dianne Margotte-Zimmerman, this tribute to the Windy City on West Colfax (in the heart of the 40 West Arts District) offers up a mighty fine bowl of red chili. Joe is one hell of a good cook, with impeccable attention to detail. His bowl of red is thick and hearty, with great color and texture, including beans. You'll find well-balanced chili flavor without too much heat. If you yearn for the sublime experience of a Chicago-style chili dog, you needn't look further than West Colfax.
2500 East First Avenue
True to John Elway form, the former quarterback's namesake restaurant aims high, whether it's in the staff or the cooking. So even a simple bowl of chili must be of the highest quality and worthy of the Elway brand. According to culinary director Tyler Wiard, “John Elway always strives for excellence and guards against becoming complacent with success.” The spicy steak chili is a game-changer that lives up to Elway's reputation. At its heart is USDA Prime steak, which is trimmed and cut by hand to the proper size for chili. The flavor is bright and bold, with a Broncos amount of kick. The heat will get your attention, as it should, but it’s not overpowering. The bold flavor is enhanced with great texture and a deep mahogany-brown color. If you go for a bowl, you're definitely going to score big; it’s accompanied by crispy tortilla strips, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and finely diced red onion.
2995 West Jewell Avenue
At its current location since 1948, this popular neighborhood diner is best known for serving breakfast all day, so an egg-topped skillet could be lunch or dinner, too. But Newbarry's also serves fantastic red chili. New owner Luis Colin recently reworked the recipe to cut back on the fat a little without sacrificing mouthfeel and that hearty stick-to-your-ribs quality. The makeover has been a smashing success that hits all the right notes. It’s well balanced and well seasoned,so it can stand alone, but you can also get it on a wide variety of menu items, including burgers and dogs.
3500 Morrison Road
Great stories abound from Peppers owner George Strompoulos, such as how he met his wife on a skiing trip to Aspen in 1972 (and their marriage is still thriving today). Or how his diner's time-tested chili was adopted from his original partner, Milt Latsonas, who got it from his father-in-law as a Coney Island hot dog recipe, which is one way to order it here. This chili is available with or without beans and offers a rich combination of versatile flavors and textures.