Location: 102 North Chauncey Street, West Lafayette, IN (map it)
I mentioned on Facebook a few weeks ago that while out and about, I ran into one of the owners of the new School House of Chili. I had heard this restaurant was coming, but didn’t know anything about it so I was happy to meet him. He was very pleasant, told us all about his chilis and how the restaurant would be opening soon. Turns out he was wrong about the opening date, it took a few more weeks to get open. And I have to admit, today was actually my second trip in there. I was a bit disappointed my first time, and wanted to try it again before I wrote up this review.
So today myself and two friends went to try again. It’s located right at the corner of Chauncey and Columbia in West Lafayette, directly across from the Morton Center. It’s a small little venue, but nice with a fair number of tables and chairs. Here’s how it works. There’s a long counter and you order cafeteria style. They have a selection of chilis. Today they had: Cincinnati chili, California chili, tailgate chili, spicy chili, and white chicken chili. However, you can also choose a “bottom” on your chili, so you can have something else on the bottom of your bowl. The choices today were pasta, mac n cheese, rice, pasta, or fritos.
So you pick your bottom, then your chili. Then your bowl gets passed to the “toppings” area where you can choose from a variety of toppings such as sour cream, cheese, onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos. Then once that’s done, you get to the register where you can add in a drink and corn bread or a roll.
The last time I went, I ordered the Cincinnati chili. When I ordered, I was asked what bottom I wanted. I said, “Doesn’t Cincinnati chili come on spaghetti?” He answered yes, so I said I wanted that. But they didn’t have spaghetti, they had macaroni. Their own spin, he said. That’s fine, I’m not partial to one shape over another when it comes to noodles. So I topped it off with cheese and onions and went to eat. And I was utterly unimpressed. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t anything special either. I’ve had better Cincinnati chili. In fact, I make better Cincinnati chili.
So today I wanted to try something different just to be fair and give this place an honest review. I decided to order the tailgate chili, on Fritos, with cheese and onions. Since last time I got the corn bread, I choose rolls this time. One friend got the Cincinnati chili and another friend got the spicy chili. The tailgate chili was also unimpressive. Like the Cincinnati chili, it was okay. But it wasn’t anything special and it actually wasn’t even hot. It was warm, but I feel like chili should be served hot. My friend who ordered the Cincinnati chili gave it an “eh” review. So she was also unimpressed. My other friend ordered the spicy chili on rice and said it was quite good and she enjoyed it. After eating, I asked for a sample (they are happy to give you samples) of the California chili. It seemed like more of a soup to me, and it was okay. Again, nothing special though.
We tried both the rolls and the corn bread and we all agreed the corn bread was good. However, there was no butter to be found anywhere. And corn bread just needs butter. The rolls might have been okay, but again without butter they were dry and bland.
While the staff was very pleasant, and very apologetic about the wait, the system they have for ordering is not exactly the most expedient system I’ve ever seen. When there are only a handful of people there, it is smooth enough but at one point, there was a line to the door and the ordering process was painfully slow. There was one person dishing chili, one person doing toppings, and then one person checking you out. Seems like maybe they need to work out a better system to get the food moving faster. It’s not like they have to go back and prepare each meal individually. I think this can be chalked up to being new and just opened, and will likely improve over time.
They also had a chalk board with the various menu items on it, but no real descriptions of what the chilis were. I think it would have been helpful if next to “tailgate chili” there was a description so I’d know what was in the chili. I had no idea what to expect when I ordered it.
The staff was very pleasant. One young man, who I think maybe was an owner, came over after the line died down to ask if we needed anything and make sure we enjoyed our meal. So I think there’s a lot of potential here. I just think the chili needs to get a little better.
From the friends: @kristenrielly “had lunch @House_of_Chili Very good spicy chili, it’s named appropriately; friendly staff; needs butter for roll/cornbread” @khaskett93 “Ate lunch @House_of_Chili. So-so Cincinnati chili. Good cornbread (though butter is desperately needed). Friendly staff. ”
Kid Friendly: Yes, so long as your kids like chili. (Although I think they have hot dogs.)
Price: Around $6-8 per meal it seemed.