Popular East Side chili stand spices up longtime San Antonio tradition
JD’s Chili Parlor owners John and Diana Anderson are not Texas natives. But as the old saying goes, they got here as fast as they could — and they’re making a mark on San Antonio’s food scene with one of the Lone Star State’s most iconic foods.
Although John is from Minnesota and Diana is from Oklahoma, they fell in love over chili, Texas' signature dish. When they began dating, the two often made chili for dinner. “I’m a competitive person, so I tried to make an even better pot of chili each time,” recalls Diana. Over time, a romance grew both in and out of the kitchen.
Although neither had experience in the food business (Diana was a decorative artist while John had a career in aerospace engineering), the couple got so good at their recipes that soon a business was born. With help from their son Wade Beck, JD’s Chili Parlor first began selling its dishes at farmers markets and microbreweries.
Since launching in 2015, JD’s Chili Parlor has built a reputation around San Antonio for its tasty range of chili dishes. The chilis vary from a traditional “bowl of red” to a pecan-smoked whiskey chili to a vegan chili to cater to San Antonio’s growing plant-eating populous.
Now, they’re about to make a big splash on November 16 with the grand opening of a permanent location at LocalSprout Food Hub, the East Side collaborative for small culinary businesses.
Through their culinary adventures, the Andersons met entrepreneurs based at LocalSprout, which connects area food producers with local restaurants and other business opportunities.
The Andersons pitched LocalSprout CEO Mitch Hagney on the idea of joining the collaborative. Since JD’s Chili Parlor emphasizes grass-fed meat and locally sourcing its ingredients, the couple thought it would be a natural partnership.
“It’s about making sure we’re part of the local sourcing [and] sustainable food market,” says Diana, who grew up on a ranch. (Meanwhile, John was raised on a farm.)
It took the Andersons more than a year to build JD’s Chili Parlor workspace at LocalSprout. In August, JD’s launched a pop-up in the space, offering fresh food from a custom-built stand at 503 Chestnut St., on the southern side of the LocalSprout building. On October 28, the couple announced the stand will now be a permanent feature.
The stand, open 11 and to 6 pm on weekdays, serves a group as eclectic as its menu, including neighboring businesses and residents, bicyclists, and scooter riders passing by.
In addition to chili, JD's also offers chili dogs, pulled pork tacos, brisket sliders, barbecue plates, a popular mac 'n' cheese, and kale salad, among other treats. Patrons may dine around the stand or get their food to-go.
For the Andersons, the company is not just a chili stand, it’s a makeshift tribute to San Antonio's so-called chili queens. From the mid-1800s through the Great Depression, generations of local women would head to the Alamo and plazas around downtown San Antonio to set up tables and cook large pots of chili over open fires.
The chili queens drew crowds of residents, businessmen, civic leaders, ranchers, soldiers, tourists, and troubadours — a tradition Diana hopes JD’s will continue.
“[Chili queens] have inspired us to create chili recipes based on chili paste instead of chili powder,” explains Diana, who added the dishes at JD’s permanent stand sources ingredients locally, including those from fellow LocalSprout participants, such as Deep River Specialty Foods and Chef Stephen Paprocki and his Texas Black Gold Garlic.
On November 16, JD's celebrates its grand opening with a special a five-course tour of some of JD’s signature chilis. From 5-9 pm, sample such delights as a seasonal applewood smoked apple cider turkey chili or a mesquite-smoked goat chili, all served in mini fresh-fried hash brown bowls.
Additionally, each $25 admission ticket will include a mac 'n' cheese brisket bite, a baby kale salad by LocalSprout tenants featuring local pecans and grapefruit, and beer samples from Ranger Creek Brewing.
Diana says the grand opening not only signifies the start of another big chapter for her family and JD’s Chili Parlor, but as a thank the community of chili fans. “It’s been an interesting journey,” she says. “We love giving good food to everyone.”