I’ve been to Palookaville Chili twice, both times during lunch. The first time was late summer, a period which in theory is not “chili weather.” I work in Parma, so, if I can get off work early, Palookaville is basically on my way home.
Despite the fact that there’s only really one specialty here, their menu is actually a lot more diverse than, say, Chipotle’s. There are five kinds of chili including pork, beef, chicken and two vegetarian options, with a variety of spice levels. You can have your chili in a bowl, over chips (“nacho grande”), on a hot dog, over pasta or in a burrito. They also offer pulled pork and BBQ chicken sandwiches. Optional toppings include fresh jalapenos, cheese, red onions, sour cream and bacon.
Thus far I’ve only ordered vegetarian options as I usually prefer light lunches. Their spicy veggie chili is amazing. I did a quick inventory of my palate after having a bite to verify that they hadn’t snuck meat in there, but apparently it’s based in garbanzo beans and barley. I talked to the owner afterwards to figure out how he pulled off such a spicy, rich, complex chili with only vegetables. He told me that it was based on months of taste-testing various mixes of dried chilies.
On my next visit I got the spinach paneer chili featuring cubes of fresh Indian cheese (sort of a dense solid ricotta) over adobo chips. The combination of Indian and southwest flavors was really unique. This was milder than the standard veggie, but still very richly flavored. The adobo chips are also excellent, thick, crunchy and covered with hot (but not too hot) chili spice.
I came with Jonathan, who ordered a plain hot dog both times. This is a convenient alternative for those less adventurous.
My biggest complaints about Palookaville are that they close at 4:00 pm and don’t have an east side location. I asked the owner about the early close time, and he said that business seemed to dry up in the evening. He also mentioned a BYOB policy that never seemed to catch on. Maybe because people didn’t know about it?
The service has been excellent during both visits.
If you do want a dinner option, they offer quarts of chili to go. Ideally, though, people will start pestering the owner about opening back up for dinner. They’re already pretty crowded at lunch.