Mike’s Chili Parlor (1447 NW Ballard Way, Seattle, WA)
THE Best Chili I’ve Ever Had. Period.
Aside from tasty food, they say the experience itself is what defines good dining. It’s not fine dining, but this place really blew us out of the water during our stay in Seattle. This parlor was on a street corner, that stood out in the industrial neighborhood where it was located.
After we parked, we wanted to take a photo outside to document our dining adventures. A stranger rolled up, got out of his car, and offered to take the photo for us. Once inside, we knew what we wanted to order: Anything chili! This parlor was featured in Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on The Food Network, and this was why we were there. I love chili, and we wanted to venture away from the beaten path to expand our chili horizons. Boy, did we venture out on the right path! We ordered our beer and then waited in anticipation. The atmosphere in this place was very laid back and casual. It was about 75% full when we got there, and it was around lunchtime.
We were approached by a man wearing a Mike’s Chili Parlor jacket, asking if anyone had taken our orders, and he made sure we got our IPA’s. He continued to talk to us throughout our visit, and we soon discovered that this was Phil Semandiris - the grandson of the original Mike who opened this place in 1938. It’s been passed down since from generation to generation, and now Phil has also passed it down to his son, who is also named Mike. A few moments later, Mike introduces himself to us - it turns out that he was the kind man who offered to take our photo outside! To see the passion these two had for their modest chili joint was so amazing. Mike and Phil are so genuine - they make an effort to talk to everyone who comes in. It made us think of how many places were like this in Vancouver. And sadly, there aren’t enough.
We ordered 3 things. A bowl of chili, a small order of chili fries, and the deluxe cheeseburger. Phil passed along a helpful tip - eat the chili before anything else, and while it’s still hot. And that’s exactly what we did. There’s nothing better than gooey cheese, aromatic spices, and onions and jalapeños that will warm up your insides. The jalapeños added just the right amount of heat. Remember the Gastown Blues & Chili Fest in the summer? While we agree that Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar’s award winning chili (<— trophy picture) was good, it’s nothing compared to the chili at Mike’s. This chili is nothing fancy, and it’s not trying to be something its not. It’s just good, hardcore, old-fashioned comfort chili. The chili fries were amazing, and they were topped with diced onions and jalapeños as well, and layered throughout with gooey cheese. The deluxe cheeseburger was also good, but it wasn’t what we came for. I didn’t get a picture of it either. I was tempted to order the chili burger but I felt it might’ve been chili overload.
In the end, the food was delicious, and the hospitality was great. We still would have been satisfied if neither Mike or Phil were there, but they both made our experience that much more special, and it was a real treat to meet them. We’ll definitely be back to try their chili dog and chili burger!
I’d like to thank May (@Miss_MayC), my lovely partner in crime, for her contributions to this piece.