The "chili size" and other restaurant terms

I’ve had the chili size–chopped grilled hamburger slathered with chili, and topped with cheese and oinions–a few times. Where did this name come from?
There are other words from restaurant jargon that are puzzling…

Well, at Chili’s Restaurants, back in the Dark Ages when they only had 14 different kinds of hamburgers (no full dinners, just burgers, fries and chili), that was called the Chili’s Trip IF it also had every other imaginable burger accoutrement on it. (Lettuce, tomato, bacon, mushrooms, pickles, etc.)

With just bun, meat, cheese, chili and onions, it was a Chili Size (Medium).

That was on their first ever menu. Back in the Dark Ages, like I said. Early '70s. (Dinosaurs and I were roaming the Earth.)

I am hard put to imagine a “chili size” with all those other things on it! I think it’s a bit much to add mustard to a chiliburger, let alone put all those other things in a “chili size.” :smiley:

I find it odd how items named after a geographic region are rarely found in that region.

I’ve lived most of my life in Michigan. A few years ago, while traveling in the east, I discovered a Michigan sandwhich. Never had one here.

Remember the old-fashioned diner order lingo?
Don Martin, at Mad, memorialized two phrases thus used:
“American Charlie with red pants! Burn fifty, and no name-tag!”
“Cold pig on a green sea! Dust the roof, and hold the pom-pom!”

“Where’s the men’s room, Mac! Gotta go, and no foolin’!”


(That was the sound of me spitting Diet Coke at the monitor after dougie’s and Ike’s lines.)


Well, personally I’ve never heard the phrase “chili size” until reading this post. Hmmm…Friendly’s has the “big beef” and the “colossal burger.” Are these close? :slight_smile:

I’ve never heard of ‘chili size’ either. If it has chili on it (as yours did), it is simply a ‘chili burger’. Around here (Colorado) it has nothing to do with size.

There’s a difference between a chili size and a chili burger. A chili burger is closed and usually has the usual hamburger condiments on it, while a chili size is served open-faced. The usual method (from my observations) is that one half of the bun and one burger patty is cut in half. The half-slices are put on either side of the round central bun and patty. Chili is poured over the top and should obscure everything beneath. It’s topped with cheese and chopped onions. So chili burger = closed, chili size = open-faced.

Back to the OP, where did the name “chili size” come from? The “chili” part is obvious, but I’m confused about the “size”.

thatDDperson, the term goes back somewhat further than that. It appears in a old Tex Avery Droopy cartoon (late 40s/early 50s) on the menu of a drive-in catering to covered wagons headed west.

AFAIK, the chili size is a LA thing; I’ve never seen one on a restaurant menu anywhere else. Back in 1987, I worked briefly near downtown LA – I used to go to a little stand on 6th near Vermont for chili sizes or the occasional order of chili cheese fries.

However, ISTR there being a chili size Budget Gourmet frozen dinner – just a patty covered with chili and cheese, with fries on the side.

I usually order chili size as a take-out item; the dish is a heavy, square or oblong aluminum foil bowl. The grilled chopped hamburger is put into the tin; then the chili is added; last, the cheese and onions.
In an episode of Emergency! I titled “Station 51 Enterprises,” in which Johnny and Roy consider buying a fast-food business, a short-order cook (Ted Gehring) offers to make them “a chili size on me.”

What’s on a Michigan sandwich, Odinoneeye?

Not just L.A. I remember the term from my servitude in the restaurant biz in during my days as an Impoverished Student™ in Montana.

Also from Montana (specifically, the Oxford in Missoula), two of my favorites:
“Under the Bridge!” (beef stew)
“He Needs 'Em!” (calves’ brains & eggs)

Never heard of chili-sized either, but at every diner I waitressed at in my younger and poorer days, small side bowls were called “monkey dishes.” Say, the type you’d put a lemon wedge or bit of sour cream into.
No one could ever explain that one to me.

It actually **IS **an L.A. thing. Back in the 1920s, there was a chili parlor called Ptomaine Tommy’s and he is credited with creating the first chili burger. His beanless chili was served two ways: 1.) in a bowl with beans and other fixins; and 2.) over a hamburger, much like the chili burger we know today. He had two different sized ladles for dispensing the chili, so he hung a sign up that read, “Hamburger size: 15¢” and another sign, “Chili size: 20¢”.

If someone wanted the chili burger, he’d get the hamburger size ladle; for a bowl of chili, the larger “chili size” ladle. WELL, somewhere along the way, he began serving an open-faced chili burger with the CHILI SIZE ladle so that it smothered the burger and bun with a bowlful of chili. This is how the CHILI SIZE menu item came to be.

Other restaurants began copying the new creation. I have seen menus with “Cheeseburger Size” and “Hamburger size” as well as “Chili Size” but they all seem to mean the same thing: and open-face chili burger. The biggest mystery is why people began calling chili “size,” as in “Gimme a bowl of size!” I guess the two terms just became synonymous for a while.

Chili comes in two sizes, cup or bowl. Who would ever only want a cup of chili?

This one is just too old to be revived. If you have an interest in the latest research, you can read the one the OP also revived today. Closing this one.