Last updated on October 29th, 2020
In the July 2020 issue of Better Homes & Gardens, I have a big (8-page!) feature sharing some of my favorite recipes, stories, and illustrations inspired by our monthlong cross-country trip on Route 66.
But there was so much more to eat along the route than could fit in a single magazine story.
Here’s one more to wet your whistle, and it’s a tale as big as Texas.
The GoldenLight Café is an unassuming, dimly lit diner and bar along the historic main drag of 6th Street in Amarillo, Texas. They say it’s oldest restaurant in the city, and “perhaps the oldest restaurant continuously operating in the same location anywhere on Route 66.”
Along with that provenance, The GoldenLight has always been known for its Texas red chili. The recipe has changed with every owner that takes over the café, so I can’t speak to how it’s changed since 1946.
But I can tell you that the current incarnation is deeply savory, slow-simmered, stick-to-your-ribs, and saucy. True to Texas style, there are no beans to be found anywhere in the blend.
The GoldenLight offers its chili up a bunch of ways: in a bowl on its own, garnished with onions and cheese; as a topping for Frito pie, hand-cut fries, or burgers; or as a chili cheese burrito filling.
The “Halfway to Albuquerque” option will get you a heaping ladleful with the requisite diced white onion and shredded Cheddar cheese, all cradled in a huge flour tortilla.
But why stop halfway to Albuquerque? What you really want, if you’re on Route 66, is the “All the Way to LA” chili cheese burrito.
This one goes further with the addition of lettuce, tomato, and sour cream, but its crowning glory is a pile of griddled jalapeño slices.
As we sat at the bar waiting for our plates, I watched the cooks add the peppers to the sizzling griddle until they were charred and slicked with grease.
With a flick of the spatula, the peppers tumbled on top of the chili cheese burrito. And just before the platter slid across the bar, they added a generous handful of Fritos, in case we weren’t hungry enough. It is Texas, after all.
For my homemade version of the GoldenLight’s chili cheese burrito, I make my Texas-style chili from scratch (and my tortillas too!), and griddle up my jalapeños right before serving just like they do.
My only swap-out is that I prefer shredded iceberg lettuce and pico de gallo on the side instead of romaine and tomato slices. But any salsa would work well here too—pick your favorite!
The chili makes enough for six burritos, but it freezes well if you want to portion it out for future meals.
And like I said in my BH&G story, even if you can’t spend a month traveling from Chicago all the way to LA, you can still get a taste of the road with these.
- 2 tablespoons pure ancho chile powder, New Mexico chile powder, or other pure chile powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt + more for seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
- a scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, ground turkey, or a blend of the two
- 1 tablespoon lard, bacon fat, or olive oil
- 1 onion (any color), finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 2 medium to large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 12 fluid ounces dark beer, such as a bock, brown ale, or Vienna lager
For the Burritos:
- 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil (optional, if griddling your jalapeños)
- 1 12-ounce jar pickled jalapeño pepper slices, drained
- 6 fajita-sized (8-inch) flour tortillas
- shredded Cheddar cheese
- diced white onion
- shredded iceberg lettuce
- pico de gallo
- sour cream
Make the chili:
- Whisk the chile powder, cumin, oregano, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, black pepper, chipotle powder, and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat the canola oil in a medium (3- to 4-quart) Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add the ground beef or turkey in handfuls. Cook until browned, breaking into smaller pieces with a silicone spatula as you stir occasionally.
- Transfer the meat to a bowl, leaving any fat in the pan.
- Reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the lard or other fat to the pan.
- Stir in the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7-8 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the reserved spice blend and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly.
- Add the beer and stir well, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Add about 2 cups water—enough to loosen the mixture to a stew consistency, but not too soupy.
- Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook, simmering, for about 90 minutes, until the chili is thick and richly deep in color.
Make the burritos:
- If you'd like to griddle your jalapeño peppers, heat the canola oil in a large (10- to 12-inch) cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.
- Carefully add the peppers in a single layer and cook without stirring for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir and cook until charred in spots on both sides, about 2 minutes more.
- To assemble the burritos, warm the tortillas in the skillet, a microwave, or toaster oven briefly to soften them.
- Place a tortilla on a large plate and ladle about 1/2 to 2/3 cup chili down the center.
- Sprinkle shredded Cheddar and diced onion over the chili, then roll the tortilla loosely to close.
- Top with (griddled) jalapeño peppers.
- Serve with iceberg lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and Fritos on the side.
Chili can be made up to 3 days in advance—refrigerate in a covered container as you would any leftover meal and reheat when it's burrito time. Or freeze for up to 3 months.