If you’re hungry for ‘normal’ chili; you know, the kind with a thick tomato sauce base and lots of spices, you won’t get that at Dixon’s Chili Parlor in Independence. What you will get is a nice, hearty plate of some of the most unique chili you’ve probably ever had.
Dixon’s Chili Parlor first opened in 1919, at 15th and Olive in Kansas City. It was one of Harry Truman’s favorite restaurants, and he ate there often before, during and after his presidency. Photographs and newspaper clippings from some of Truman’s visits line the walls.
Dixon’s Chili is definitely not a fancy restaurant. You seat yourself at formica tables with chrome chairs, or at one of the few spaces at the counter. Dishes are thick, bone-colored restaurant ware, and the glasses are plastic. The food is most likely not what you expect either.
Order a large juicy chili, and you’ll get a plate of beans, layered with seasoned ground beef, and the meat juice or grease. You can also order your chili soupy, with the water from the beans; or dry, which is just that, with no soup or juice. There’s also an all-meat version. For smaller appetites, there is also a regular size. You can get onions, grated cheese, and even sour cream on the side, for an extra fee. Vinegar, chili spices, and crackers are available on each table. These days, ketchup is also available, but in the early days, when the original owner was around, ketchup was outlawed in his restaurant.
One of their most popular dishes is the tamale spread, which is a plate of tamales covered with a layer of chili meat. Besides chili, you can also get tacos, burritos, nachos, and chili dogs; all made with their famous chili meat. There’s also the Dixon burger, a loose meat sandwich made with their chili meat and placed on a toasted bun.
My family has been going to Dixon’s Chili for as long as I can remember. We used to go there after Kansas City Royals games, since the restaurant is located practically down the street from the ballpark. My favorite dish there is a regular all-meat juicy chili with onions and cheese. Their tacos are also really good. I recently introduced my boyfriend to Dixon’s; he’s from Indiana and has never had anything quite like the chili at Dixon’s. He’s now a lifelong fan and I’ve heard him tell members of his family that when they come to visit, we’re going to Dixon’s.
Currently, there are two locations, in Independence and Lee’s Summit. The Independence location has been open probably close to 50 years; the Lee’s Summit location opened in 2003. The Independence location is open Monday through Saturday while the Lee’s Summit location is open seven days a week. Carryout is available at both locations.
If you are going to be visiting the Kansas City area and want a unique dining experience, I recommend a trip to Dixon’s Chili Parlor!