Real friends eat Real Chili

Back when Marquette students had few options for bar time snacks,  they used to line up down Wells Street for hot bowls of Real Chili.

The simple menu offered some options, but the 2 a.m. crowd rarely diverted from the classic spaghetti, beans, cheese and sour cream selection, making good use of the bottomless cup of oyster crackers to sop up the sauce.

In 1984, my husband and his Marquette roommates enjoyed the dubious convenience of a basement apartment located directly across the street from Real Chili. Their $77-per-person monthly rent left plenty of spare change for regular infusions of their greasy favorite.

Though that apartment no longer exists, having been condemned and then bulldozed a long time ago, its former residents still crave that chili and belly up to the long white table inside any chance they get. Their annual reunions always include a stop at Real Chili on Wells,.

A few weekends ago, Vince and I found ourselves in Milwaukee with empty bellies and a little time to kill. I mentioned brunch and Vince’s eyes lit up.

“Let’s go to Real Chili,” he said.

Momentarily blinded by a wave of misguided nostalgia, I agreed and we made our way to the campus from which we’d both graduated in 1986. At noon on a Sunday, we had the place to ourselves and I wandered around taking a photo or two.

Your only real decision when you dine at Real Chili is what level of spice you think you’d enjoy. We both went with medium, and set to work assembling our bowls.

Vince’s first bite took him right back to his halcyon days, when Dick the engineering roommate shot spit balls out the apartment window, accidentally nailed a police office and landed first in jail and then on the morning news.

My first bite reminded me that my roommate Trish the Dish and I preferred popcorn for our late night snack.

Real Chili doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. You get chili at Real Chili — on hot dogs or in bowls. It’s a little greasy, but it tastes like college, and friendship, and fun.

That’s the taste that brings me back every time. Ring Out Ahoya for a bowl full of joy-a.

I took this picture during our 25th reunion at Marquette, which would not have been complete without the obligatory trip to Real Chili.
It’s serious work assembling those bowls.
The man loves his Real Chili.
It’s simple, it’s clean and it brings back really good memories. I like the people who like Real Chili.
Here’s a classic bowl.
I took this picture on a more recent trip. I liked the newspaper cut out “Welcome it’s real” in the Real Chili window, and the reflection of the apartments across the street, which are far nicer than the nearly condemned apartment building that stood there in 1985.







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