Border Food Bordering on Boring – Chili Willi’s

chilli willi chips

09.11.09

Ron Says…

Chili Willi’s - is one of those places that I truly associate with West Virginia’s second largest city and probably first that will be placed in recievership, also home of the Greater Huntington Area Community College. 

( YES – I’m like Butter!!!  ….  on a Roll )

Chili Willi’s to me is a neat little place that used to reside in the true downtown section near 9th and 8th streets.  But since has moved to a less cramped place down the road near 14th street.  But still serving up the same Tex Mex fare.

What the hell is Tex Mex?   Mexican American?  What?  Neverthess they do have some decent dishes and even if you get a hamburger it’s going to have a south of the border twist to it.  Note the hamburger reference :-(   I’ve always liked Chili Willi’s, but I never really went there a lot, in the old place it was always packed and cramped, and well I’m a a messy drunk and tend to spill a lot.   So if it was crowded I went someplace else. 

But now that it’s down the road in a larger building, I can spread my elbows and enjoy my Dose Ekee brewski.  

Well this Friday eve Susan and I find ourselves in Huntington, having to make some last minute errand running prior to heading to Morgantown and the TRUE University in this great state, to watch the Mountaineers beat up on their first Conference USA foe of the season.  Can’t wait till the second one… HAH – but this is a food blog and not a College Football Blog.

So we decided to eat here, plus it will give us some content.  Plus maybe give us some exposure in the greater Barboursville area.   ( come on would anyone be surprised if Barboursville was to annex Huntington in the future – asuming of course they would want it? )

Well first I order a beer, a “Dose Ekees” draft for $3.50.   But it was a decent size draft,  I forget the size but I wasn’t truly offended, and it was Friday, and this is Huntington home of the Original User Fee ( yes people it was Huntington that came up with this rape of your income

Susan orders some chips and salsas.  The chips are homemade, I don’t know about the Salsas but I assume they are too.  Both are pretty good (the two Salsas that is), the chips are excellent – ours came out warm even, and of course very crispy.

Well having enough of the Dose Ekees, I move on to Bud Light for $2.75 bottle – yes we’re approaching rape zone here, but in my old age I’ve mellowed somewhat.  Perusing the menu I decide on the Burger.  After all, I had been wanting to go to one of those non-dining destination big mouth burger joints all week, and have never made it.

That decided, I begin to enjoy my upper income level priced beer, and listen to Susan describe what she’s going to have.  She can tell you later.

Our server comes by to ask what we would like (BTW, the server was usually pretty quick and friendly so no complaints there) I say the Burger, and she says ….

wait for it….

“We are no longer carrying that.  Took it off the menu about a week ago.”

Think about that for a bit…

Focus on the portion about “the menu”.  You see maybe it’s just me being a dork Engineer and looking at things in a more thought out manner, but wouldn’t “taking it off the menu” imply actually “taking it off the menu” ?  On my menu it was clearly still on there, same with Susan’s.  (Editor’s Note:  the burger still appears on the on-line menu, too.)

When one decides to take something off the menu why is the menu the last thing that gets changed?   Seems this happens a lot.   Keep in mind I understand about running out of a supply of something that can’t be helped.  I understand those unforeseen issues.  No, I’m talking about when someone is having an “it’s not broke, so let’s fix it” moment and consciously decides to take something off the menu for whatever reason on a certain premeditated date.   Would it make too much sense to first fix the menu?

I think it does.

But wait,  let’s say you did fix the menu and the new menus have not arrived in time.  Well hmmmm, my secretary makes these things called “LABELS”, and prints them out for me.  It’s truly amazing as they’re like little stickers too, you can stick them on things that you intend to draw attention to.

For example, one could have been printed and pasted on the menu and said something like:

Sorry valued customer, due to customer surveys and input, Chili Willi’s has decided to no longer serve the old favorite HAMBURGER, as it was felt it had too much Tex, and not enough Mex for your fine dining establishment, so as of 09/05/09 we will no longer be serving this beast of a burger for  this valued price, instead for a more meatier product we suggest you try our overly cheezy steak quesadilla, and yes if you don’t like cheese and even if you say you don’t want much cheese, we’ll gladly throw a little bit more on it for you

Ok, I went a little long with my suggested note, consider it foreshadowing of what’s to come.  But you get the idea.

So once informed our server suggested I try the quesadilla for $10, and I do.

chilli willi quesadilla

It is big, the steak was tender, but it was too cheesy for me, and I did mention I didn’t want much cheese.   I’ll take the blame for the quesadilla fail, but for the menu fail I’m blaming that on Huntington and the local mentality.

I didn’t like my quesadilla.  Period.  Most of the time the food I get at Chili Willi’s is pretty good.  I was just flustered and rushed into making this decision based on outdated information, and ordered an item that in hindsight knew I would not like.  My fault.   

THREE FORKS – Service was good, food was, well there was a lot of it.   The chips were good.  I would eat here again, I’m just usually the one that doesn’t suggest eating here.  It’s a cool place, could use some better beer prices, maybe they have a Happy Hour, maybe not.  Go try it out and comment below on what you think… (btw, try to come up with something more original than the “Heather Bresch” and “bought my degree” jokes that have been run in the ground over the last year )

Susan says…

First of all, I couldn’t believe Ron was even suggesting this place.  I want to go to East Tenampa in Milton all the time and he vetoes me because in his messed-up mind, he thinks we eat Mexican too often.  I have tried explaining, on numerous occasions, that “Mexican twice a week” does not equal “too often”.   I figured he was ok with Chili Willi’s because it wasn’t “real” Mexican, it was Tex Mex.  (I know there will be comments about how our local Mexican joints don’t serve true Mexican food…that’s why I used quotation marks around the word “real”.)

I had been to this establishment only once before and it did not leave a memorable impression on me or my tummy.  I remembered thinking we had paid too much for what we got.  But all that aside, I’d much rather have Mexican or Asian food than a burger joint, so I accepted his suggestion quickly.

The chips were crispy, hot and lightly salted.  The spicier of the two salsas was tasty, but the mild one was too sweet for my liking. 

I chose the chicken enchiladas and asked to substitute tomatillo sauce for whatever sauce was listed in the menu and they accommodated my request for no additional charge. 

chilli willi enchiladas

When I received the steaming hot enchiladas, I instantly noticed the dark blue corn tortillas and thought they added a cool novelty touch to the dish.  The two blue tortillas were filled with shredded white-meat chicken.  Melted cheese and tomatillo sauce surrounded the rolled bundles.  Taste was good, and they had a decent heat level but the price was steep at $9.95 – with no accompaniment.  That’s right – no rice, no beans, no nothin’.  Unless you count the green onion garnish.  I don’t.   This might be why I only remembered we paid too much last time…

Take a look at that photo.  These weren’t giant-sized enchiladas.  Does that look like a $10 plate of food to you?  I just don’t believe that the blue color doubles the price.   How much can rice and beans cost that you can’t slap some on the plate?  A handful of cold, crisp lettuce would have been nice, too.

The service, as Ron mentioned, was friendly and prompt.  She even joked around with us as Ron was giving her hard time about the menu blunder with the non-existent burger.

The bottom line for me is that I really didn’t note anything special about Chili Willi’s that was worth the additional cost and I wouldn’t drive past East Tenampa for food only half as good.   Even though Dan doesn’t like it when I compare places like that, I can’t help but do it.  I usually have an appetite for a certain TYPE of food, not a particular restaurant, and then I pick the best place for that type of food within a reasonable distance.  If I want a turkey sandwich, I go to Deli Fresh.  If I want chicken with garlic sauce, I go to Taste of Asia.  If I want an enchilada with tomatillo sauce, I won’t go to Chili Willi’s.  TWO FORKS.

Check out what the folks at WV Gourmet thought about Chili Willi’s for a second opinion by reading their review here.

Chili Willi’s
1315 Fourth Avenue
Huntington, WV  25701
304-529-4857
Chili Willi's Mexican Cantina on Urbanspoon
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14 responses to “Border Food Bordering on Boring – Chili Willi’s

  1. TexMex uses a lot of beef and cheese and is all about chili (as in con carne), otherwise it’s not much different from any other mexican-american food. . . you can get tostadas and chalupas in any Mexican restaurant in Texas, but not so in other places.
    I agree that Chili-Willys is not all that great, but then, I’m a food snob and demand strict authenticity in all cuisines.

  2. Say what you will about Chili Willi’s (though if you didn’t try the ice cream taco you missed the whole point of the place,) but leave Huntington out of it,willya? We have enough troubles here without some football-obsessed Mountaineer fan piling on. I’m not sure I grasp your reasoning about how a menu not being timely updated is related to the “local mentality” either.

    P.S. Quesadilla has “cheese” in the title! It’s the equivalent of ordering a grilled cheese sandwich. What did you expect?

  3. I’ve enjoyed Chili Willi’s in the past, but I’m with you on the food being a little too expensive for what it is. (Although they need to work harder if they want to catch the Tricky Fish in the coveted Not Enough Food for the Money race.) But the real problem I’ve had with Chili Willi’s is that the food is often under-seasoned. I’m not talking about exotic seasonings here either — just salt, pepper and acid. Basic stuff that’s the difference between great and bland.

    Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll be back. It’s a HTN landmark.

  4. Ron does tend to order stuff that he should know he won’t like.

    Jimmy Jr. is exactly right – everybody knows that quesadillas are full of cheese. However, in Ron’s defense: when he got shot down on the burger, our server told him that if he wanted something really “meaty” he should get the fajita steak quesadilla. At which point he asked her if they could hold back on the cheese and she said “yes”.

    But he’s ordered something silly many times of his own accord.

  5. Jim…

    First, as for my “local mentality” line.. well I was just looking for something to put there and that’s the best I could come up with, I’ll try harder next time.

    For my not knowing what I got with a quesadilla, well let’s just say I paid for my grade in Spanish and didn’t actually attend, or maybe I was burning a couch that day I can’t remember.

  6. Chili Willi’s is one of my all time favorite restaurants, but I tend to choose from the same few items every time I go. My favorites are the queso dip, pollo flauta, ice cream taco, Original Red chili and in the winter, the Mexican hot chocolate.

    My best friend from college lives in Ohio and occasionally when I visit, I bring her some Texas Red chili, which I think may be her absolute favorite food ever (and I’m thinking what keeps me at best friend status). Every time she comes in for a football game or just to visit, we have to go there. For us, it’s also the nostalgia factor, reminds us of the wonderful times we had at Marshall University.

    However, Chili Willi’s does have its negative points. I am not a fan of their margaritas as they are kind of “foamy” and their prices do tend to be a bit on the high side. Also, I miss the old location, even if it was less convenient and much smaller. It’s just not the same leaving there not smelling like deep fried food. Nobody can tell that you’ve been to eat at Chili Willi’s now! Complaining about the smell was part of the fun.

  7. I agree with HippieKiller — the food is way underseasoned. What is TexMex or Mex or anything else but plain, unseasoned chicken? Just because you serve it in a tortilla, that doesn’t make it special. Or good. I have lived in H-ton for 9 years, and I have eaten there maybe 10 times. It’s like Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti to me — people who grew up and/or went to college in H-ton think CW and JSS are phenomenal because that’s what everyone always told them. Really, though, neither one is special in any way. And you’re right, CW is overpriced. I guess Ron Whatshisface is still trying to pay off the move to the new location.

  8. Let me tell you my experience today that guarantees NO MORE CHILI WILLIs for me. First, I typically always go for bean and cheese something. Usually, a burritto. I pay full price just as if it had chicken or steak and all the fixings they put on it. They always charge me for the little bit of sour cream I order to go with it (even though I’m paying the price for a fully loaded burritto.) As for size, it’s more than I can eat. One of the waitresses suggested I order off the kid’s menu the last time I was there.

    So, that’s what I did. Today I ordered two bean and cheese (with sour cream included!) burritos from the children’s menu – the cost was $2.95 per burrito. One was actually the perfect size for me. I was with friends, so we split the chips (which are free at every other Mexican restraunt) and I had a coke. The waitress brought me a bill for $15.00 and whatever cents. When I ask her to please check my bill that it was apparently wrong, I was informed that for each item an adult orders from the children’s meal there’s a $2.75 charge. (My bad, I just didn’t read the really fine print warning me and the waitress failed to point it out!)

    Naturally, I complained. I wanted a manager. My reasoning – there’s no extra food (in fact, much less), no extra labor in the preparation. I can go to any established eating place and pay for a child’s meal if it’s allowed to be ordered and pay ONLY the price of the meal. I was told. “That’s our policy.” Excuse me? I have a policy too – specifically not being ripped off. Again, I explained my position and added that I was being charged extra because I was an adult and not being charged based on the food I was receiving. I was told “That’s our policy.” I told her that my policy would be to no longer frequent Chili Willi’s. Her response was that she was sorry I felt that way.

    So, goodbye Chili Willi’s. I’m not paying for a meal based on my status as an adult (almost a senior in fact!) I’m sorry you don’t want my business and that of my friends. There are others that do and I won’t have to look far for better customer service.

  9. I’m going to help uphold Sam’s Policy.

    I’m not frequenting Chili Willi’s again either. I hopes Sam’s policy becomes a “Movemement”.

    This is the kind of nonesense that I can’t stand. I’m sure someone like Diane will pipe in and say she loves this place and I have no right to be upset at Chili’s policy, but this is outrageous.

    NO MORE CHILI WILLIE’s for me.

  10. This policy is ridiculous.

    I don’t mind if a restaurant adds a dollar or two to the price of a lunch item if you order it in the evening and I understand adding a surcharge on kids’ meals if you are an adult – I am sure part of the pricing structure on a kids’ meal takes into consideration the fact that the child cannot drive there alone, and therefore at least one other meal will be ordered.

    I could even see them adding $2.75 to the price of the order, but adding it for EACH burrito is a rip-off.

    I wasn’t impressed with Chili Willi’s anyway, so Ron’s boycott does not disappoint me. His numerous spelling errors do, however.

  11. Susan has a policy of accepting mediocrity or just plan crappy food and accepting it.

    I wish I had a dollar for everytime she’s complained about a meal after the fact, but doesn’t have the balls to say anything about it.

    Sam – I ‘m with you all the way.

  12. You’re a good blogger, but Fork You. The Huntington abuse was a thicker than mole.

    I’ve lived in Huntington 1/2 my life and Southern CA the other 1/2. I know Mexican. Chilli Willie’s is, nostalgia aside, proper American-Mexican. I can’t wait to go home every year and sample from their extensive tequilla list, eat a Vera Cruz/Tex style dish, and have an Ice Cream Taco (the best in the world). I’ve tried to find an ice cream taco REMOTELY par to CW’s, around the US, and can’t. The best in the USA is on 4th Ave.

    Okay, CW is local, decent, well-known: nothing to invite Anthony Bourdain to, but lose the Huntington bashing. That doesn’t help promote the better food that WV has to offer.

    Now if you want to win me back, write about RAMPS, that garlicy native herb known only to true mountain foodies. I can’t find a whole lot about them on the net, let alone purchase. Tony, never shuts up about garlic and shallots. Ramp is the offspring of the two. So if his NYC butt knew what a ramp was he’d be off to WV on the next flight.

  13. Roger LeMaster

    Wow! Major Morgantown superiority complex. Why represent yourself as a reviewer when you come to town with such horrific bias. You should be ashamed of yourself. Major failure!

  14. I’m very suprised to see no other comments that this establishment is closing. This weekend is the last it will be open. I don’t know why.

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