Bean counter - or not!

  • Will Shilling photo
From the 01/21/2009 edition

What: CaBoom's Texas-style and Chicken chilis ($5)

Why: Messin' with Texas

Dualities coexist copacetically at a counter-ordering shop in the North Market. There, Holy Smoke, an upstart (though pedigreed) barbecue operation shares space with ready-to-eat goodies from the nationally famous CaJohn's Fiery Foods.

What's more, CaBoom - the spicy CaJohn part of this split-personality - offers two kinds of flavor-explosive chili seemingly as different as night and day. But just as sunset and sunrise are equally vital, there's plenty of room for CaBoom's divergent styles.

Their gumbo-like Chicken Chili has a thick, blonde and poultry stocky base that's chunky with white beans, chicken meat and chicken sausage. It's also packed with verve, from chopped celery, onion, a little tomato, herbs and a back-of-the-throat-tickling presence of threateningly hot peppers. It's really good.

But don't neglect CaBoom's beanless "Texas-style" chili - its rich tomato base is dense with ground beef and its unique pronounced fruity sweetness is offset a bit by garlic, onions and bell peppers. So do spicy blondes have more fun than sweet Texas reds? You be the judge.