"All chili parlors should be this versatile, attractive and plain good"

-- Penthouse Magazine

Since 1980, when it opened its doors for the first time, in Old Town, Alexandria (Virginia), Hard Times Cafe has established itself as one of the premier names in the world of chili. Over twenty years later, Hard Times has thirteen franchises around the United States, and is now in the process of opening one in London, England.

"Thirteen?", you might ask, "why, that's hardly an accomplishment at all!".

Well, that's most likely part of their way of thinking.

Hard Times Cafe "was conceived as a continuation of a family tradition, a desire to maintain an important part of America's culinary history"1. There is but one focus at Hard Times, chili, and they dish it up well, in a variety of different ways. The restaurants, all of which are decorated in a traditional "old west" motif, serve up four different types of chili:
  • Texas Chili - This is the stuff you are probably used to. Loaded with tomatoes, beef and spices.
  • Cincinnati Chili - Not so spicy, nor so familiar to most people, it is apparently a variant on the Texas tradition, concocted by Greek immigrants to the US. The surprising addition? Cinnamon.
  • Terlingua Red Chili - An award-winning chili named for Terlingua, Texas, home of the first chili cookoff.
  • Vegetarian Chili - Seasoned similarly to the Texas chili, it contains soy instead of beef, as well as a wide variety of other vegetables... including peanuts.
The vehicles for consumption of Hard Times' chili are equally impressive; whether you want it in a bowl, on nachos, on a burger, or even "five-way" (chili, cheese, onions, spaghetti and beans), all of these options, amongst others, are available.

Simply put, Hard Times' chilis are tremendously addictive, their prices are extremely reasonable, and their restaurants warrant a visit anytime that you happen to be in a city where a franchise is located. To find out where you might see a Hard Times Cafe, check out their website, at http://www.hardtimes.com/.

Works Cited:
1 - http://www.hardtimes.com/history.htm

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