A recent column about Mary Lou Martin’s fantastic chili dogs at Lumberjack football games got me thinking and somewhat challenged by the younger generation discussing the merits between Wayne’s Confectionary and The Corral.
Wasn’t Wayne’s and The Corral about the same, one younger generation questioner probed?
No. I quickly stated. The two restaurants were not very alike, so I responded.
So how were they so different, the probing questioner continued, Weren’t they owned by two brothers from the same family and served about the same food back then?
No, I again quickly stated and not being stymied, but simply pausing for the correct answer.
I thought I would change the tenor and dynamic of the conversation with this:
One had a real Frito-Chili-Pie right in the chip bag, I replied.
Wayne’s on the other hand, had a steamy bowl of thin, almost watery and vinegar based red-hot chili that would scald your palate on the cold, winter’s day. It took a double-handful of saltine crackers to eat this bowl of chili goodness at the old lunch counter at Wayne’s Confectionary.
The younger person looked awfully dumbstruck.
The Corral had a what? Was the only reply the questioner could muster.
Thus, the question and mention of this tasty Pastime treat ended the endless questions that the younger fast-food generations have when talking about former Warren eateries and how each one was significantly different from others.
But it spawned as a Pastime of a truly delicious way to eat a bag of salty corn chips.
A favorite of the early 1970s crowd was the simple Frito-Chili-Pie made right into a pack of Fritos. It was a cheap, but tasty treasurer.
And straight from The Corral, these delightful packs of salty chips, chili meat, a little drier than mom’s soup bowl chili, but were so very good.
These concoctions were cheap, about $1 back then for the six-to-eight-ounce bag of chips, retailed about 35-50 cents and then the rest was the chili, cheese, and flavor. After a recent internet search for throw-back cuisine from these highly toned restaurant chains, the same Frito-Chili Pie is about $12.50 today.
First off, included in this Pastime are some photos of the Frito-Chili-Pie – with the red, gold and white sack of chips as a bowl for this tasty treat.
Either the front or back of the package was split open with a pair of scissors (or a sharp kitchen knife) and the chili mix was added within the packaged container.
Cheese, if available, was often added as well, sometimes sliced jalapenos or red peppers, perhaps a shake or two from the black pepper shaker and maybe a tad of chopped white onions.
And at The Corral it was always placed in one of those little oblong red and white paper baskets, although the package if prepared correctly would not leak and all the goodies could be consumed within the packaging.
Kay Wisener, who held culinary sway in The Corral kitchen and the dining room. He was the master chef of all good things to eat. Neil Wisener, the son, learned how to make delicious Frito-Chili-Pie concoctions from the best.
While not sure if this is the exact chili recipe used at The Corral, the recipe must be very close to using this enclosed chili recipe if wanting to re-created this throw-back delicacy.
Ingredients for the Chili:
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped and divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 lb. ground beef
1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (4-oz.) can green chili
My only suggestion is not to make this too runny with too much liquid. Let it cook down not to a paste, but not runny before adding the mixture to the chip bags.
For serving this, have on hand:
6 (1-oz) bags Fritos
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
2 c. shredded Cheddar
Sour cream, for serving (optional)
I can’t for the life of me remember eating these too far into the summer, but I knew some in my crowd, who did, in June and July, scarf these down when working at the Tomato Shed.
Me, I was always a hamburger, cheeseburger kind of guy. Plus, the Corral on occasions had some really great pulled pork barbecue and sliced brisket sandwiches.
For many a Bradley Countian, The Corral had some of the first fried shrimp and boiled shrimp to be eaten in my generation.
Pizza, tacos, burritos – they were food to imagine for the future.
And forget that two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-on-a-sesame-seed-bun – that was years away.
So was something called a Fish-O-Fillet sandwich.
Warren people have always “kicked against convention” on some of these later food styles – chicken fingers, even corn dogs and those oddly shaped nuggets.
But back in the day, a Frito-Chili-Pie was a delicious salty, meaty treat.
And a Pastime that on a cool, fall night, just might have me slicing open a paper-foil pack of those salty corn chips.