Illinois Tourism honors Taylor’s Mexican Chili Parlor of Carlinville

Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor

The Illinois Office of Tourism and the Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau this week honored Taylor’s Mexican Chili Parlor in Carlinville as an “Illinois Maker” for emphasizing a visitor experience and inspiring travel.

Taylor’s beat 18 other contenders for the title this year, reported the Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat. A total of 146 businesses are designated as Illinois Made in the state.

“Last year, our staff member Stephanie Tate nominated Taylor’s Mexican Chili as an Illinois-Made recipient,” said Great Rivers and Routes president Brett Stawar. “When the nominations came up last year  we thought Taylor’s had a great story.”
Kemmerling stated that the office of tourism created the Illinois Made program in late 2016 to honor artist and craftsman who have a passion for their business.
“All we hear lately is that people want local, authentic experiences,” Kemmerling said. “That’s why they’re traveling. Those are the types of things they want to do while they’re on their getaways. So we created this program as a way to find those makers we think we can use to get people moving. Then we add them to itineraries, so people traveling down Route 66 can come and find Taylor’s.”

Here’s a video Illinois Tourism produced about Taylor’s:

Here’s the history of Taylor’s, straight from its website:

Carlinville native Charles O. Taylor, working at the Mexican National Exposition during the St. Louis World’s Fair, had his first taste of Mexican food. He tried the chili. He didn’t like it. He learned to make the tamales. They were better, especially because they soothed Taylor’s indigestion. Sensing an opportunity, Taylor turned entrepreneur. He scurried back to Carlinville, began making his own tamales and with the help of a two-wheel pushcart, began selling the tamales, from saloon to saloon, all 25 of them. Needing an extra hand, Taylor forked out three dollars to bail a Mexican vagrant out of jail, but demanded the vagrant work for him at 50 cents a week to pay off the fine. Taylor got an unexpected bonus. During that six-week period, the Mexican showed Taylor how to make chili con carne frijoles as his mother had made them in Mexico. Did Taylor like the chili? The answer seems obvious. He purchased the recipe from the Mexican and opened a tiny chili parlor at 218 West Main Street in Carlinville. It wasn’t a big spot in the road, but in no time it was filled with hungry customers.

Taylor’s dates to 1904, several years earlier than the much-vaunted Ike’s Chili of Tulsa founded in 1908. Taylor’s had flown under my radar for years, and I long had assumed Ike’s was the oldest continuously running restaurant on Route 66 — although the Sycamore Inn, which dates to 1848 in Rancho Cucamonga, California, also can make a claim.

I suspect I, as well as other Route 66 travelers, overlooked Taylor’s because it sits on the obscure 1926-1930 alignment of Illinois’ Route 66 from Springfield to Staunton.

That part of central Illinois also boasts a significant number of chili parlors, including Dew Chili Parlor and Joe Rogers’ Chili Parlor — both which hold long histories on the Mother Road. Springfield long has been considered a chili hotbed that’s comparable to Cincinnati.

Taylor’s Mexican Chili Parlor sits on the north side of the square in downtown Carlinville.

(Image of Taylor’s Mexican Chili logo via Facebook)

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