The TasteBud Report: Chili with the Works

Saturday April 10 marked the first chili cook-off I’ve ever attended.  Area restaurants battled head to head with their best chili dishes at Chili with the Works.  Mother nature cooperated well as a mob of Pittsburghers sampled the best chilis in Pittsburgh.  Aside from chili, an “I Made It” marketplace was setup inside a vacant storefront.  Overall it made for a nice day out in Pittsburgh.  Kudos to SouthsideWorks for hosting.

And as far as this TasteBud is concerned the winner is … PITTSBURGH SPORTS SAUCE.  For those of you who have never heard of this company – we hadn’t either until this festival.  Pittsburgh Sports Sauce made chili with their very own award winning sauce for the base.  It was smoky and sweet with a nice flavorful heat to it.  My vote for best chili went to them.

After leaving the festival, I was at a loss for how to contact them as their website does not appear to work, which is disappointing.  Since I can’t offer much insight on how to enjoy what I thought was the best chili Pittsburgh had to offer, I will describe some close runner-ups and one establishment that really underwhelmed.

Honorable Mention #1 – Tusca Tapas
Tusca Mediterranean Tapas on Urbanspoon
Tusca had a very unique offering which is sometimes very advantageous at cook-offs likes this.  A Colorado Chili was featured.  The food, service and presentation were unique to all other vendors present.  This chili was slightly sweet and very well flavored.  It was not like a traditional thick chili, it was fairly brothy.  One highlight to the sampling was that instead of cornbread, the chili was served with a small sticky bun.  I feel Tusca took a traditional blue-collar dish and added a white-collar class to it.  Congrats!

Since I can’t direct you to Tusca to try it, because I can’t find it on their menu, I found a similar recipe.  Don’t forget to bake some sticky bun’s either.  The cinnamon complements this chili well!

Honorable Mention #2 – Triangle Bar and Grill
Triangle Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon
This traditional chili was served piping hot, had plenty of meat and felt very Pittsburgh.  It was very hearty and perfectly flavored.  I like my chili to have a kick and Triangle Bar and Grill didn’t disappoint.  I may even have to go see about visiting “The home of the battleship” to see what they are all about.

Better Luck Next Year: Southside 86
I had high hopes for the Hines Ward restaurant – what Steelers fan wouldn’t.  But I was very disappointed in the offering.  The chili tasted like they used all tomato paste and no tomatoes.  The meat chunks were large but gritty as if they really scraped the blackness bottom of the skillet after browning the meat.  Perhaps the chili on-site is much better, but their offerings in mass quantities need refined.  Sorry #86!

I look forward to more cook-offs this summer.  Wonder what is next … if you hear of any, let us know!

While "TasteBud B" doesn't feel very photogenic, he certainly gets out and about to snap pictures of his food. He's passionate about sharing Pittsburgh events, food talk topics, restaurant recommendations and travel destination finds. (@PghTasteBudB On Twitter)

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