The 6 things we'll remember about the MKE Chili Bowl (with photos)

The 10th Annual MKE Chili Bowl is a wrap! We couldn't be more excited to have been a part of it, and after spending the day with 3,500 other chilihounds trying to choose from 40 or so options, we wanted to document the six things we agreed we'll remember about the day. Read our list, and if we missed something you'll remember, share your stories in the comments!

1. The line for the Villa at Heaven City. 

Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd, and nothing draws people to a line at a food event like...a long line. But in this case, the cowboys and their friends at the Villa at Heaven City TOTALLY delivered with their two chilis. If you attended, you know that the line for this table stretched across the event hall pretty much from the start. It moved rather quickly, and the thing that we loved to see from this group - and every other brave soul that signed on to sling chili for five hours - is that friendliness and hospitality reigned supreme throughout all the craziness.

2. The muffin tins. 

Within the first five minutes, it was clear who were the Chili Bowl veterans, and who were the Chili Bowl rookies. Knowing the challenge of corralling their 3 oz. chili cups would test even the most sure-handed foodie, the veterans arrived with muffin tins, which would serve as their chili carrying tray. This gave them the option of picking up more than one sample, finding a place to set up temporary camp, and enjoying their bounty without fear of spillage. It is resourceful, it is brilliant, and it is a tradition that has now been passed down to a new crop of Chili Bowl alumni.

3. Gunnin' for Mulligan's.

You don't win a chili cook-off four times without being legit, and the team at Mulligan's didn't disappoint. They came with two chili options - one traditional, one vegetarian - and we witnessed both elicit the closed-eyes-knee-melting-OMG reaction from many, many patrons. But the rest of the restaurants weren't coming in with plans to concede anything, and it was awesome to see the challengers putting their best out there in hopes they'd be taking home the coveted Golden Ladle award. 

 The vegetarian (left) and traditional chilis from Mulligan's, simmering at the ready. 

The vegetarian (left) and traditional chilis from Mulligan's, simmering at the ready. 

4. Taking photos of 40 chilis in 90 minutes.

The hankr team had the honor - and challenge - of photographing every chili to display on the app so that everyone attending could get a good look at what they might be getting before picking a booth to visit. We love capturing photos that bring out the best in any plate of food, and seeing every bowl come through our impromptu food photo studio (and sneaking a taste after each shot) was like a dream come true for our photographers, John (pictured, below, standing on chair) and Mark. 

Real time photo shoots and then online in less than 4 minutes.

A photo posted by Dan Early (@danearly6564) on


5. The chili accoutrements.

Fresh cheese curds. Deep fried cheese curds. Thin, swirly sweet potato curly crisps (we think that's what they're called). Fresh avocado and tomatillo. Oyster crackers. Parmesan croutons. Loads and loads and loads of cheese and sour cream. 

6. The hankr launch!

Of course, a big part of the Chili Bowl experience for us was the rush of seeing hankr downloaded and used by so many of the event attendees! Watching people all around us using hankr to see the chilis they wanted to eat before or while they stood in line was awesome,  and hearing the great reaction to the experience and photography was invigorating for our team. In short, mission accomplished!