Celebrating National Chili Day

February 27, 2019
Hot Shoppe #1 JWM Sr and Smice 1927_500
My father (left) in front of the first Hot Shoppes in 1927.

Tomorrow is National Chili Day, a great day to celebrate one of my favorite dishes.

Chili Con Carne was always a big seller at the restaurant chain my parents, J.W. and Alice Marriott, started in Washington, D.C., in 1927. When they first opened their doors that year, they operated as an A&W Root Beer franchise selling cold drinks for 5 cents each during the summer months. Business was brisk, until the season changed. My parents quickly realized they needed hot food on the menu for the cold winter.

A Utah native, my dad loved spicy Southwestern/Mexican food. My mother, with a college degree in Spanish, knocked on the door of the Mexican Embassy in Washington and asked the chef there for some help and he shared his chili con carne and tamales recipes.

With those menu items and a few other staples like hamburgers and hot dogs, they launched The Hot Shoppes. At the time, some of the ingredients, such as Mexican beans and peppers, were hard to come by. My parents had to special order them from a supply house in San Antonio, Texas, suggested by the embassy chef.

Chili Con Carne was advertised on the window of the first Hot Shoppe. I have an old menu where The Hot Shoppe Special was Mexican Chili Con Carne, a small for 15 cents; a large for 25 cents.

Priorities changed and we eventually moved into the hotel business exclusively. We closed the last Hot Shoppe in 1999.

For old times’ sake though, my daughter, Debbie, still follows the Hot Shoppes Chili Con Carne recipe and will occasionally make a batch. It’s delicious. How good? Just last month, her entry won an internal chili cook-off here at Marriott – and I wasn’t even voting! 

I’m curious, did you ever eat Chili Con Carne at The Hot Shoppes? I’d love to hear about it.

Happy National Chili Day.

I'm Bill Marriott and thank you for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.


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