Shak Attack

At the Chili Shak, a California boy makes the best bowl of red in Houston.

"That baked potato is going to take about ten minutes," he told me one rainy afternoon. "I hope that's okay." He added with a sheepish but unnecessary grin: "I don't like to cook them ahead of time; it makes them gummy."

Unless you're ordering something quick and easy — chili-topped nachos, for example, or a Frito pie — the general rule of thumb here is to relax and let Montgomery and his kids take their time prepping your food. Watch ESPN on the flat-screen TV or strike up a conversation with a friendly regular. It's worth the wait.

The cornbread that The Chili Shak serves is how I imagine Montgomery's own grandmother made hers: lightly sweetened and cake-like, ideal for crumbling into a hot bowl of Texas red. And the rice that goes into the massive chili burrito (along with beans and green onions) shows a deft, old-school touch in its fluffy texture as well.

Bernard Montgomery's chili — based on a secret family recipe — tops every dish served at The Chili Shak.
Troy Fields
Bernard Montgomery's chili — based on a secret family recipe — tops every dish served at The Chili Shak.

Location Info


The Chili Shak

9600 Fondren Road
Houston, TX 77096

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Outer Loop - SW


Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
Chili bowl: $4.50
Chili spaghetti: $5
Chili potato: $5
Chili burger: $5
Chili fries: $3.75
Frito pie: $3.75

SLIDESHOW: The Chili Shak: A Chili Parlor of Houston's Own
BLOG POST: Beyond Chili-Cheeseburgers at The Chili Shak

Not everything is homemade, of course, like the french fries that are best when topped with a dusting of cheese and a lava flow of chili. But that doesn't matter. As a friend pointed out during my second visit: "I don't care about the fries as long as they can hold up to the chili without getting soggy." These thick-cut, fluffy fries can — even if they come from a freezer.

You can even get chili on top of a mountain of spaghetti here, but don't expect it Cincinnati-style just because of the pasta base. Instead, you'll find a Texan version of spaghetti bolognese, with the thick meat sauce of the chili wrapping itself around every slippery strand.

No, Houston doesn't have a seminal chili-centric restaurant of its very own. But we at least now have a chili-focused restaurant with The Chili Shak. And given enough time, I think it could very well be the seminal — if still the only — chili restaurant in town.

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My Voice Nation Help

chili cook-offs* : P

As I am a certified sixth generation Texan...if you gotta have beans at least have the decency to eat them separate.


I love the Chili Shak.  The food is absolutely delicious.  The prices are a real deal.  The atmosphere is warm and friendly.  Of all the places I have had chili, this place is the BEST.   Kudos to the Shak.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with putting beans in chili, there are no "Texas chili gods," and there is no final arbiter of what is right and what is wrong when it comes to beans in chili.  It is strictly a matter of personal preference.

texmex01 topcommenter

You had me @ hello on this one.....

kshilcutt moderator editor

@StephenMaturin If there aren't any Texas chili gods, then who the hell have I been sacrificing all this meat to? Baphomet??

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@StephenMaturin You burn some mesquite
And when the coals get hot
You bunk up some meat
And you throw it on a pot.
While some chile pods and garlic
And comino and stuff
Then you add a little salt
Till there's just enough
You can throw in some onions
To make it smell good
You can even add tomatoes
If you feel like you should
But if you know beans about chili
You know that chili has no beans

If you know beans about chili
You know it didn't come from Mexico
Chili was God's gift to Texas
(Or maybe it came from down below)
And chili doesn't go with macaroni
And dammed Yankee's don't go with chili queens;
And if you know beans about chili
You know that chili has no beans

 You, good sir, should move.


@StephenMaturin  Texas' general distaste for beans in chili is an ongoing joke on the blog, not an actual serious statement.  Or did you think there were actual chili gods? 

On a sidenote, Have you ever said anything here that didn't make you sound like a giant weeping pansy?


@StephenMaturin Agreed.  I've come to appreciate the chili at Treebeard's on these cold downtown days, beans and all.  The fact my Mom didn't use beans in her chili doesn't make it wrong.  I'm surprised the author did not complain about the mayo on the burger, that's certainly not traditional TX style. 


@FRL713 @StephenMaturinTreebeard's chili is really good.  Chili is not chili without beans in my book despite fatty's foot stomping on the issue.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@FRL713 Um, yes, it most certainly does make it wrong.  Enjoy your bean soup all you want.  Just don't call it chili if you insist on putting beans in.