Gary has speculated that Ramova Grill's chili is really Hormel. I trust his taste enough that I thought this might be true.
I stopped by Ramova (3510 S Halsted) to pick up a pint to go (without beans, $4), then to my local supermarket for a can of Hormel. Not having purchased Hormel chili for ages, I was surprised to see there are now at least a dozen varieties (more if you include different sizes). I bought the classic "No Beans" version. Also some oyster crackers and a six pack of Anchor Steam. Then home to enjoy. Maybe enjoy is too strong a word but I ate.
The Hormel was, well, Hormel. A slightly sweet bland taste with evidence of tomatoes. The meat was nastier than I remember, consisting of very loose meat nuggets, reminiscent of animal droppings, that contained quite a bit of filler. Not a pleasant experience.
The Ramova was darker brown and probably contained no tomatoes. There was much more spice than Hormel but it was not hot, with cinnamon and clove predominating. The meat, seemingly chopped rather than ground, was head and shoulders above the Hormel pellets. Real chili purists would be horrified by this midwestern rendition but I kind of enjoy a bowl every now and then.
There is no question that even though there are clear similarities between Hormel and Ramova they differ substantially. I vastly prefer Ramova's version. I know I am not alone in wishing that truly good chili was available in Chicago.
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