When I first got out of college I worked for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and many of the guys I worked with on a regular basis trekked to the Chili Den to try out the “firebrand chili” with hopes of adding their name to the famous wall. Years later this was a place that we would sometimes meet our friend the late Mike Hammitt, it was one of his favorites.
The Chili Parlor has been around since 1945 when on New Years Eve, 1945 Joe Rogers opened a little diner on South Grand Avenue. Later Joe and Pauline’s daughter Marianne moved the location to the current one on 9nth street, then a little over a year ago, Roy and Stephanie Beal purchased this Springfield legend. “We bought the diner on December 1st from the original owner,” Roy said.
Business has been good for the Beals who have kept the original recipes intact. “The customer base has been better than I imagined,” Roy said. “I always loved to eat there when it was the Den back on South Grand. When Marianne opened this place, I was one of the original customers.”
After putting a bug in Marianne’s ear about interest in purchasing it, Roy came to work at the diner and worked there for a year before buying it. It was a surprise, to everyone when they purchased it, Roy said it was almost like an Undercover Boss episode! With many of the long-term employees still at the diner, the only real change is a new face at the helm, but Roy and Stephanie wanted to keep the original charm intact.
I visited the Chili Parlor along with Jeff Berg of Visit Springfield while doing research for an upcoming article in Senior News & Times about local places to eat during the Illinois State Fair. The chili was as good as I remembered and the list of names on the Firebrand wall of fame remind me of the stories that have taken place here and at South Grand over the years. Our memories of eating here with a friend we recently lost made the visit a bit bitter sweet, but making memories and having old and new stories to tell is what it is all about.
When in Springfield, while you may be trying out a Springfield tradition, the Horseshoe, don’t forget the Chili Parlor and see if you are man or woman enough to have your name emblazoned on the Firebrand Wall. You won’t see mine, I like my chili mild please!
Keep in mind this is a lunch or early afternoon stop open Monday through Saturday between 11am and 4pm. Check out their website at http://www.thechiliparloronline.com for more information!