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Barney's Beanery Classic Chili

By Todd Wilbur


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Barney's Beanery, the self-proclaimed "third oldest restaurant in Los Angeles," has a long history of celebrity patrons dropping by for a hot bowl of chili and a beer or three. John "Barney" Anthony opened the first Barney's Beanery in Berkley, California in 1920, and seven years later relocated the restaurant to its current location on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Barney's soon became a popular watering hole for film stars from the 20's and 30's, such as Clara Bow, Clark Gable, and John Barrymore. In the 50's and 60's Lou Costello was a regular, and so was Donald O'Connor, Charles Bukowski, and Dennis Hopper. Jim Morrison and his Doors bandmates were frequent customers since the offices of their record label, Elektra, was nearby. Janis Joplin was said to have had a drink there the night she died. The Brat Pack of the 80's—Charlie Sheen, Rob Lowe, John Cusack, Emilio Estevez, and Demi Moore—would often come in to play pinball and video games. And Quentin Tarantino wrote most of his screenplay for Pulp Fiction while sitting at his favorite booth at Barney's.

This original chili was a favorite of Peter Falk's character on Columbo, who ate it often at the restaurant on the TV show. But the show wasn't filmed there. The Barney’s Colombo viewers saw on TV was a sound stage replica.

The secret to the flavor of this Barney's Beanery chili recipe comes from two chili powders that were popular in the West over 100 years ago around the time Barney's first opened—Gebhardt and Mexene. Chili powders were new at that time, and there were very few on the market, so it's highly likely these were ingredients used in the recipe that made Barney's Beanery famous. Find those and you're well on your way to hacking a classic chili. 

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  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds 85/15 ground beef
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