Nothing beats the summer heat like a steaming bowl of spicy chili. OK, so maybe it’s not the first dish we turn to these days, but hey, spice has been scientifically proven to cool our bodies. Plus, why not indulge in chili when there’s a café specializing in this rare delight? Chili Parlor 9 is an uncommon surprise in the metropolitan area, so much so that recent news channels around Japan have shuffled disbelievers to their doors. Believe it. As chili recipes are as varied as casseroles, Chili Parlor 9 has its own secrets and variations, but most meat-lovers and veggie-lovers both will emerge with a happy tummy, a wee bit cooler and maybe considerably gassier. (They use a lot of beans.)

Located in Kudanshita directly across from Yasukuni Shrine, Chili Parlor 9 occupies a small space, akin to a hipster eatery. Wooden tables and rustic minimalist decorations add to the atmosphere, as R&B quietly pumps through the speakers. The cooks, predominantly women, work diligently at the nearby counter, sometimes running off to gather fresh bread from the adjoining bakery called “Factory.”

(Photo by Tamatha Roman)

(Photo by Tamatha Roman)

Most eaters come for the chili, offered in small or regular size, both of which are substantial portions. Four bowls are available (up to ¥1,200): standard beef, vegetarian, daily special, and green bomb bowl, offered with beef or as vegetarian. Chili is served with brown rice, “corn bread,” or bread bowl, as well as onions, cilantro, and either cheddar cheese or sour cream as toppings. Of course, patrons are more than encouraged to customize their bowls and even add toppings like avocado (¥100), lime (¥60), or homemade jalapeño (¥60). To ensure maximum sweating—and beat the heat, of course—homemade coleslaw, piccalilli, and a variety of hot sauces crown each table to use with or without discretion.

If chili isn’t your thing, Chili Parlor 9 also offers hot dogs made with homemade sausages. The “John” is topped with tomato and jalapeño salsa, while the “Lucky” is a vegetarian dog adorned with cucumber, salsa, and chickpea paste.

Be it chili or dog, Parlor’s delicious drink concoctions help quench your thirst and offer some spice relief. Their homemade ginger ale (¥400) is always my go-to, but their hand-drip coffee also hits the spot (¥350). Alcohol, including a fantastic bourbon organic lemonade (¥720) or SanktGallen Golden Ale (¥910) from a local microbrewery, work just as well.

Chili Parlor 9 is also one of the few places that’s awake by 8am, serving up a hearty, cost-friendly breakfast. Most popular is the avocado toast breakfast set (¥750), which includes flaxseed brown bread, an egg, coffee, and juice. Takeaway and local delivery are also available.

3-7-12 Kudanminami, Chiyoda-ku. Open, Mon-Fri 8am-10pm & Sat 9am-6pm. Nearest Station: Ichigaya.