Whether you love it or you hate it, Chili’s is an unavoidable constant in life. It’s there when you crave it, and it’s there when there’s nowhere else to eat and you’re starving, that giant chili in the sky leading you home. Or leading you to a stomach ache.
Though Chili’s is a chain restaurant that verges on fast food territory, you can still expect more from your dinner than some of the Chili’s dishes offer. With its extensive menu, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out which items are worth the price, and there are definitely some meals that are better than others at this chain restaurant.
More importantly, there are a few meals that you should avoid at all costs, thanks to Chili’s questionable preparation technique, liberal use of salt, and unappealing plating. We made a list of the worst items on the Chili’s menu so you don’t have to.
Chili’s Southern Smokehouse Burger
CBS News called Chili’s Southern Smokehouse Burger "so bad it should be illegal," and after a quick look at the ingredients, it’s easy to see why. On their list of the best and worst restaurant burgers, this Chili’s gut bomb came in dead last.
On top of the beef burger, the Chili’s masterminds added melted cheese, bacon, and Awesome Blossom Petals, otherwise known as onion rings. This might sound like a gluttonous heaven to most people, and if you eat enough of them, it will probably get you there sooner. This burger is packed with a whopping 2,290 calories and contains far more than the recommended daily amounts of fat, saturated fat, and sodium you should have per day. Between the deep-fried onions, condiments, and various meats, this meal contains 271 percent of your daily suggested sodium intake — that’s enough to keep you oversalted for a few days.
Chili’s Honey-Chipotle Crispers and Waffles
The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s 2018 Xtreme Eating Awards bestowed upon the Chili’s Honey-Chipotle Crispers and Waffles an embarrassing title: "Least Creative Mashup." Perhaps the problem with this Chili’s delicacy isn’t so much that it lacks any creativity but that the creativity of the dish lacks any semblance of artistry.
We’re all for chicken and waffles here at Mashed, and usually, we would highly recommend that perfect combination of sweet and salty for any meal of the day. But unfortunately, Chili’s created a monster with this particular version of the new classic. In addition to the usual chicken and waffle ingredients, this dish adds bacon, ranch, and jalapenos to add a kick to your … waffles.
While it’s inspiring to see a major chain restaurant take a big swing like this, we remain unconvinced that waffles and ranch dressing are a good match. Bring back the syrup, please!
Chili’s Baby Back Ribs
ABC News created a list of the most unhealthy items you can order at restaurants, and guess which beloved chain made the cut?
At the risk of getting the Baby Back Ribs jingle stuck in your head for the rest of eternity, this infamous Chili’s menu item is even more ridiculous than its theme song. Chili’s offers this dish as an add-on, so instead of eating a rack of ribs for dinner, you can have a burger with a side of ribs. While that might sound good in theory, the Chili’s half-rack of ribs is a meal in itself. By adding this to your meal, you’re consuming an additional 2,050 mg of sodium — just under the 2,300 mg recommended daily maximum.
But, hey — everyone needs their baby back sometimes, and for many of us, those babies come in the form of half a rack of smoked ribs at a reliable chain restaurant. Plus the main dish. We understand, we just can’t condone it.
Chili’s Boss Burger
Instead of having to choose between brisket, ribs, sausage, bacon, or a burger, Chili’s lets you have all five at once. It is, quite frankly, too much. Even a diehard carnivore would begin to worry about their arteries while staring this beast in the eye. There’s an obscene amount of sodium in this burger as well, as you might expect from a meal that contains several meals within it, so maybe stay away from the salt shaker for a while if you choose not to heed our advice and order the Boss Burger.
Aside from the nutrition deficits of this burger, we’re not convinced that throwing all these meats on top of a burger is the best way to enjoy them. While the flavor of the jalapeno-cheddar smoked sausage stands out (deliciously), it masks the more subtle taste of brisket. And you’ll almost forget the burger exists at all underneath all those overpowering toppings.
Chili’s Shrimp and Seafood
A Reddit user who worked as a chef at Chili’s for five years, does "NOT recommend the seafood." Chili’s offers several seafood dishes, but the ex-chef implores you to think twice before you order it. "You’re at a chain restaurant, and one that sells themselves as a Tex-Mex grill. Are you really expecting decent seafood in this situation?!"
That’s a good point. After all, Chili’s probably isn’t the first place you think of when you decide that you want to indulge in some freshly caught seafood.
The former Chili’s employee (Reddit user I_Want_My_Babyback) explains that a chain restaurant like Chili’s, which sells Tex-Mex cuisine, is likely not dedicated to perfecting their shrimp options. "Understand that every establishment has an identity," they write. "Things they will focus on, and things that are there because they have to be. It’s not that it’s bad… it’s just that it’s not going to wow anyone."
Chili’s Beef Bacon Ranch Quesadilla
The Chili’s Beef Bacon Ranch Quesadilla is the epitome of Tex-Mex food: a little spicy, a lot of meat, and ranch dressing to top it all off. Unfortunately, this quesadilla is, according to Michael Moody’s fitness blog, the worst item to order on the Chili’s menu. With as much fat as you would consume in ten hot dogs, we can understand why.
But lucky for you, you won’t be missing much, if one Reddit user’s experience is any indication. While the official photograph of the Beef Bacon Ranch Quesadilla looks crispy and stuffed full of cheese and meat, in reality, this quesadilla looks less than desirable.
Moody suggests skipping all the Chili’s quesadilla options, all of which are high in calories, fats, and sodium — but if all quesadillas at this restaurant chain are as sad as this one, we don’t think avoiding them will be too devastating for you.
Chili’s Chocolate Lava Cake
A good lava cake is a life-changing experience — spongy chocolate cake with a warm liquid chocolate center and, ideally, a scoop of ice cream to cool down the cake’s temperature. But a good lava cake is a work of art that requires care and attention — not a few seconds in the microwave.
If you order a lava cake at Chili’s and expect it to be a homemade, fresh-from-the-oven delicacy, think again. If you order a lava cake at Chili’s and expect it to be baked in the oven, you should also reconsider your assumptions. Reddit user and former Chili’s employee MeredithGreyMD revealed that Chili’s prepares this famous dessert by giving it a few minutes in the microwave before it’s served.
We’re certainly not trying to degrade simple (even microwaved!) cakes — we endorse easy recipes and boxed cakes. We’re just saying, your taste buds (and your wallet) would probably thank you if you skipped the Chili’s lava cake just baked one yourself.
Chili’s Ultimate Smokehouse Combo
The Chili’s Ultimate Smokehouse Combo is just as ridiculous as can be expected from any food item dubbed the "ultimate." In 2017, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Xtreme Eating Awards claimed that this shareable dish had the "worst visceral effects" of any chain restaurant’s menu item.
The amount of meat here does seem a little excessive. According to CSPI, this dish contains the equivalent of three sirloin steak dinners all on one giant platter and enough sodium to exceed your daily limit for three days straight (if you’re sharing, the sodium here would only be worth a day or two of the recommended amount).
And let’s not forget the visceral effects, which are, well, not great. A pile of meat on a platter might sound good in theory, but once it’s plopped on your table looking like a giant lump of steaming barbecue sauce-covered mysteries, you might have second thoughts. But, hey, if that’s your thing, we’re not here to judge.
Chili’s Skillet Queso
We know the Chili’s Skillet Queso is a fan favorite, but before you dig in next time, we want you to have the facts. Chili’s markets their queso in such a way that it seems homemade — as though each serving is made fresh right in the skillet it’s served in. But according to a former Chili’s employee, that’s not exactly how it goes down.
"It’s delivered to the restaurant in a bag. The cooks would just heat it up and dump it in a skillet."
A Reddit user confirmed this, stating that the queso "came in giant bags."
Chili’s has been making their famous queso dip for 25 years, so perhaps it doesn’t matter whether it’s made in-house or appears at each restaurant in plastic bags, left there as though by magic (the magic being a corporate factory with industrial-sized cooking equipment). Whether it’s a blessing or a curse is up to you to decide.