Food Truck Friday: T’s Chili Wagon Brings the Meat but Not the Heat

T's Chili Wagon

By Elina Shatkin | LA Weekly

The concept of serving chili — liquidy, meaty, messy — from a truck initially seemed odd, but it turns out to be perfect truck food. It can be cooked in advance without losing its appeal. In fact, chili tends to taste better after it’s left to soak for a day or two in its own juices. Once it’s on the truck, there’s very little prep work: Keep it heated and dish it out. That makes the service at T’s Chili Wagon (@hotsaucetruck) lightning fast, faster than any other food truck I’ve ever tried.

T's Chili Wagon

The truck is an outgrowth of T’s Hot Sauce, a local line of organic hot sauces founded by Tony Thomas, which makes their chili even more baffling. For a company founded on the power of spice, they don’t bring much heat to their chili.

T’s Chili Wagon serves two varieties of chili, turkey or tri-tip, both of which seem to be made with the same exact base, differing only in the type of meat. It’s a decent base. A hearty base. Tangy, low in cumin and not overwhelmed by pinto beans, it’s perfectly solid but bland — in heat and flavor.

T’s chili lacks oomph, the alchemy that somehow transforms cumin, tomato paste and chile powder into a residue of fiery intoxication. Chili doesn’t need to be earth shatteringly spicy to be great, but it needs to have some kick. Bottles of T’s Hot Sauce stand at the ready. Even after liberally dosing my chili with two separate sauces, a standard orangey-red and a wasabi-jalapeño, nothing could breath life into it.

The portions are reasonable, and each bowl of chili comes with chopped white onions, cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips, if you want them. You can also order the chili on top of fries, which would probably make excellent drunk food.