Meats, Trucks, Grits, and Open-Air Beer
Enjoying the Mythical Summertime at Slim's Last Chance
What's left to be said about the janky bullshit summer Seattle has had this year? It hardly even happened—it was cold, it was dark, and then, all of a sudden, it was so blisteringly hot for five seconds that we packed ourselves into Lake Washington like sardines in oil, except substitute WATER FREQUENTLY TESTED FOR COLIFORM AND ALGAL TOXINS for OIL, and also SARDINES ARE DISGUSTING. Then it got cold again. Hey, summer, why don't you just nut up and exist for once?!
My apologies if you enjoy sardines. I realize that they are somewhat de rigueur these days, what with the "foodies" trotting about "fooding" all over the place with their blogs and their garlic scapes and their drinking horns and their embossed leather cuirasses. And their heraldry. Wait—maybe I am thinking of knights. But either way, do you know what's the only thing more boring than you talking about how much you like sardines? ME YELLING ABOUT THE WEATHER. You drove me to this. Also, you got oil on your cuirass. Ha-ha.
Being a patriotic American and not some French-ass knight of the realm, I prefer to eat real food. Like chili. Like the chili at Slim's Last Chance in deep Georgetown—seemingly an ideal spot to enjoy both chili and summer. Slim's Last Chance (one wonders: How many chances came before, and how did Slim squander each one?) offers four kinds of chili, plus a spacious patio on which to slurp them. In the mythical "summertime," raucous bands play on the bed of an old Ford F-600 in Slim's backyard while happy people lounge ruddily at picnic tables, sweating over bowls of liquid meat then cooling down with pitchers of beer. It is—or at least it should be—summer perfection perfected. That is, if summer existed.
According to the Shaker spiritual "Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit," chili was invented in 1975 by some old lady who had too many beans. "What the fuck am I going to do with all these idiot beans?" croaked the crone. She was so angry about her annoying bean surplus that she murdered a cow out of spite and cooked its flesh in a stew with some spicy peppers. Then she threw all the beans in the garbage and threw the garbage into the sea where it was promptly devoured by throngs of disgusting tiny sardines. (Traditional chili doesn't have beans, dummy!) The recipe was lost for like 20 years, until it was discovered by Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, of the American girl-band TLC, who popularized the dish and named it after herself because she was hella conceited. To this day, Thomas receives 12 cents for every bowl of chili sold, the world over, even in France. That's why she is literally a millionaire. True fact.
The chilis at Slim's range from traditional (Texas Red: "traditional all meat chili made with certified angus beef") to slightly woo-woo (Turkey & White Bean: "ground turkey, white beans, and serrano chilies simmered in a hearty broth"). In between, you've got your Brisket 'n' Bean ("Pig Iron slow smoked brisket, ground angus beef, fire roasted tomatoes & red beans") and Chili Verde ("New Mexico green chilies, tomatillos, and slow simmered pork"). Each is served either straight-up or, ingeniously, ladled over your choice of white cheddar grits or jalapeño mac 'n' cheese—the savory equivalent of asking, "Would you like your pie liquefied and poured over a piece of cake?" (The answer is YES.)
We motored down to Slim's on a promising Saturday night, dreaming of meats and trucks and grits and open-air beer. On the way, it began to rain. WELL, FUCK. When we arrived, the band scheduled to play was setting up indoors on a small stage. The truck and tables sat outside. Empty. Wet. We commiserated with the lead singer about the rainy patio. "We're hoping some chili and beer will make us feel better," my friend lamented. "Oh, yeah," the singer replied, "Chili and beer make everything better! Just not before a show. I learned that the hard way." I wasn't sure what she was implying—did drunkenness disrupt her show, or intestinal distress? We seated ourselves and I tried to stop thinking about it.
Slim's has a pleasing country-time roadhouse vibe. A carved wooden bear hoists a case of Hamm's, his bear face frozen in an eternal "Ruh-roh!" A velvet painting of—what would you call him—a bandito?... judges silently from the corner. There's a pool table, daintily covered in plastic for the duration of the rocking. Staff: charming. We tried all the chilis except for the turkey one—all were adequately enjoyable, if lacking spicy heat, a problem easily remedied with hot sauce. The corn bread with honey butter was more cake than bread but possessed a bracing heft: "At a bar, late at night, it could save lives," someone observed. We sat, we drank, we munched, we rocked. Outside, the rain fell. IN AUGUST. September better be downright fucking tropical. If it is, get thee to Slim's!