The Chili Pie Palace pulled up last month on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, bringing with it a taste of down-home Texan cookin'. The house speciality is Frito pie ($5.50): big baskets of corn chips covered in spicy housemade chili, grated cheese, onions, a generous glob of sour cream and the pièce de résistance, seriously heat-packing house-pickled jalapeños. It's all vegetarian (and can be made vegan for $1), but my devoutly carnivorous dining companion said he couldn't tell as he wolfed down an entire serving. My only complaint is that the pie is served "walking taco"-style—not baked—which cuts down on wait time, but means the cheese doesn't really melt. For the authentic Texan dining experience, kick up your spurs on the back patio with an old Wild West magazine and a cup of fiery housemade jalapeño lemonade ($2). Then cool the fire in your mouth with a huge vegan "ice cream" sandwich ($4). Don't let the lack of butter or cream put you off—these desserts are every bit as calorific as their dairy-filled counterparts. And with flavors like the "Fat Elvis"—thick banana sorbet studded with salty tempeh bacon bits between fat, chewy peanut-butter cookies—they're way more fun.
- Best bite: Frito pie with all the fixinâs, plus avocado and cilantro ($6.25).
- Cheapest bite: Other than the ice-cream sandwich du jour ($4), you can get a simple bowl of chili for $4.50.
Chili Pie Palace, Southeast 32nd Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard, facebook.com/chilipiepalace. 11 am-7 pm Tuesday-Sunday. $ Inexpensive.