(WMC TV) - Bardog Tavern better look out.
The reigning Scorecard chili champion at 73 Monroe Ave. faces its sister restaurant plus three other contenders in our second Best Restaurant Chili competition.
* BARDOG TAVERN, 73 MONROE AVE., DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS (http://bardog.com/, Twitter @BardogTavern). The New York-style tavern defends its championship from last year's contest. Its rich, dark recipe with ground beef, crushed tomatoes, onion and garlic earned high marks for its flavor, consistency and presentation.
Garnished with tortilla chips, diced onions and chilled sour cream that counters the chili's subtle heat, Bardog Tavern's chili is the perfect appetizer partnered with an ice cold beer.
* THE SLIDER INN, 2117 PEABODY AVE., MIDTOWN MEMPHIS (www.facebook.com/SliderInn, Twitter @TheSliderInn). Owned by Aldo Dean, who also owns Bardog Tavern, The Slider Inn's servers and Chef Jesse Keenan have started some trash talk with Bardog's kitchen staff over his chili recipe. Like The Slider Inn itself, its chili bears no resemblance to its big brother's dish.
"It starts out a little hot, and then that heat gradually builds as you eat the chili," Keenan said, keeping the ingredients close to the vest.
"But it's a good burn, and it goes away quickly afterwards," said Seth Agranov, author of the blog Best Memphis Burger (www.bestmemphisburger.com) and one of our judges. "The chili itself, just outstanding."
* FRONT STREET DELI, 77 S. Front St., DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, (901) 522-8943. 36 years in the same spot, and few people know Lee Busby sells a killer seasonal sweet chili.
"Just a good, basic Southern-style chili," said a modest Busby.
"It's rib-sticking chili," said foodie Melissa Petersen of Edible Memphis (www.ediblememphis.com) and a Scorecard judge. "Nice. Thick. Meaty. Lots of beans."
"It seems like a hot dog chili," smiled Claudine Nayan, the foodie behind The F Word Memphis blog (www.thefwordmemphis.blogspot.com) and our third Scorecard judge.
* FUEL CAFE/FUEL FOOD TRUCK, 1761 MADISON AVE., MIDTOWN MEMPHIS, (http://fuelcafememphis.com/, Twitter @FuelFoodTruck). Scorecard fans nominated Fuel Cafe's Bison Chili as a finalist.
"It's a little leaner, so we do put a little chocolate in there to kind of give it the illusion of a fattier type of flavor," said Chef Erik Proveaux.
"Good, homemade-quality sauce," said Agranov.
* YOUNG AVENUE DELI, 2119 YOUNG AVE., COOPER-YOUNG/MIDTOWN MEMPHIS, (www.youngavenuedeli.com, Twitter @YoungAveDeli). Young Avenue Deli's Veggie Chili sure doesn't taste like a veggie chili.
"If your kids hate vegetables, they'll love this chili," said manager Gabriel Deranzo, slightly schizophrenic in describing the recipe. "It's like they took a garden, just shook it up and threw it in a pot."
Even though those descriptions sound mutually exclusive, Deranzo is dead-on.
The Veggie Chili really doesn't taste like a veggie chili, even though it's loaded with okra, green beans, corn and peppers. The spicy sauce and its consistency give it a full body.
"Great vegetables, but a good amount of spice," said Petersen. "There's some heat, and it's still staying with us!"
Stay with us next week, when we reveal the winner of the Restaurant Scorecard's second annual Best Restaurant Chili cook-off.