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Hard Times Cafe - Local Chili House and Dive Bar Now In Numerous Area Locations


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"What's our collective verdict on Hard Times?", Al asks as his stomach rumbles from a lunch of Texas 5-way with a side of jalepenos.

Chili-cheese dog with Cincinnati style chili and onions. The eating is almost worth the aftermath. Plus, they have Dominion root beer on tap.

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"What's our collective verdict on Hard Times?", Al asks as his stomach rumbles from a lunch of Texas 5-way with a side of jalepenos.

Terlingua Red 4-way or Frito Pie. Keep them there beans away from the chili - them's fightin words! (wife is from Texas...)

Actually, the wings are quite good, if you get them grilled rather than fried.

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'Texas 5-Way Chili Mac with extra onions, pour on the vinegar sitting tableside.' That's what Jim Parker, one of the founders, told me the best thing was at Hard Times. We used to have some friends in common (I even went sailing with him once) - he's still somehow affiliated with the company, but I believe his ownership was sold years ago. His competition/cook-off chilis are great, but I've never been a huge fan of the gut-busting food that comes out of the restaurant.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Actually, the wings are quite good, if you get them grilled rather than fried.

I agree, BUT - in fact, they are fried and then grilled :P .

I was very disappointed to find this out one evening as I sat at the bar. From my vantage point, I watched them dump the wings out of the fryer, into the sauce, and THEN throw them on the grill. All my virtuous illusions of eating a 'healthier' version of wings, went up in a puff of greasy smoke over that grill...

I still order them.... :lol: AND enjoy them with just a hint of guilt.

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Terlingua Red, wet, with jalapenos and onions. It's pretty mild to my tastebuds; the vinegar-based hot sauce on the table only helps a little. My husband goes for Texas-style, and doesn't understand why anyone would put chili on spaghetti. I'm fond of their onion rings, and keep meaning to try the wings.

Get on their mailing list for occasional special offers.

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This year, I believe, is Hard Time's 25th anniversary. Get this, 25 cents drafts of the house lager on the 25th of every month this year. Only two more chances to get your drink on, on the cheap. And I'm only speaking for the Herndon location 'cause that's the only one I've been to.

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This year, I believe, is Hard Time's 25th anniversary.  Get this, 25 cents drafts of the house lager on the 25th of every month this year.  Only two more chances to get your drink on, on the cheap.  And I'm only speaking for the Herndon location 'cause that's the only one I've been to.

Craig...shut yer yap and get driving mate...

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I still do not understand why people enjoy Hard Times chili. Am I in the minority?

I WANT to love Hard Times, but it's really tough at times. We went there a couple weeks ago and while the cheeseburger was huge and pretty tasty, the chili was greasy and awful. I do a far meaner Cincy chili-mac at home.

It's disappointing because I want to support the HT in Old Town, but it didn't surprise me when I was reminded why it's usually a lengthy period of time between visits.

edit to add: the buffalo wings were servicable....not bad, not bad at all.

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I still do not understand why people enjoy Hard Times chili.  Am I in the minority?

I like the wings there (grilled), reasonable prices, lots of things my kids eat, and it's 5 minutes from my house.

My wife, who is from Texas, says that their chili is good, but not great. However, she also says that it is BY MILES the best chili in the area that she's had (other than her own). Texans and their chili...

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The food used to be better than it is now. I like their chili dogs, they are 2 minutes from our pool, and kids eat free on Thursday nights. If I order just chili it's usually the vegetarian. And the Dominion root beer on tap is pretty good.

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There's on ein Laurel near my home. My wife and I dine there when we want a quick meal and have a hankering for their chili (I go Terligua, my wife goes for Cincinatti), usually as a chili mac or frito pie (I tried it as a bubba once and it was too much). Ilike their wings well enough, but have'nt had them for quite a while, but agree with the grilled comments. Their onion rings are greasy and huge, but good (especially with that side sauce). But oooooof can you get full there but quick.

Generally though, I prefer to make my own chili.

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It's not listed on their main page, but a friend on the Hard Times email list forwarded me a notice that this upcoming Thursday (July 27th) is free chili dog day (with purchase) in celebration of National Chili Dog Day. Hell, if we have Arbor Day... well, don't look at me like it's outlandish.

Keep in mind that the notice also pointed out that it's viable at all locations except at RFK. The thought of paying ballpark prices for chili makes my blood boil anyways. I'd be tempted to go out to the Vienna Inn, drop $50 on a hogshead of chili dogs, and bring them to Nats games so I could pay off my student loans.

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Has Hard Times fallen on hard times? I thought about swinging by Columbia for a free chili dog, but that location (and the Laurel location) is no longer listed on the website, and both phone numbers are disconnected. I seem to remember a lot more locations used to be listed in the website, icluding some outside of the DC metro area.

Perhaps the .25 drafts last year and the free chili dogs cut into profits. :)

Thanks,

Kevin

http://www.hardtimes.com/

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I was out in Beltsville to see if th Oriental Noodle House had reopned. Unfortunately for me it had not. The only place I could find other than a Burger King etc on my route home was Hard Times. Never having ben there, I went in. The Dogfish IPA 60 Minute was cold. Thats the good part...

Grilled wings came out fried and then grilled (wouldn't that make them fried and grilled wings?) and covered with a rank chili lime sauce that was mouthsearingly full of lime and yet curiously devoid of any food like flavor. The Terlinga chile was ground beef with what tasted like a bad store brand chili mix and shredded onions and shredded colby. I wish I had gone farther up the street for Popeyes wings.

At least the beer was cold!

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I was out in Beltsville to see if th Oriental Noodle House had reopned. Unfortunately for me it had not. The only place I could find other than a Burger King etc on my route home was Hard Times. Never having ben there, I went in. The Dogfish IPA 60 Minute was cold. Thats the good part...

Grilled wings came out fried and then grilled (wouldn't that make them fried and grilled wings?) and covered with a rank chili lime sauce that was mouthsearingly full of lime and yet curiously devoid of any food like flavor. The Terlinga chile was ground beef with what tasted like a bad store brand chili mix and shredded onions and shredded colby. I wish I had gone farther up the street for Popeyes wings.

At least the beer was cold!

I've only been to the Old Town location, and I'm wondering how quality might differ across localities. I've actually enjoyed the chili lime wings at the Old Town location: flavorful, "zingy", and with just a hint of lime at the end.

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My brother and I went to the Reston location last week. I have to admit, I use to love HT, but this trip was horrible. We ordered wings, onion rings and chili nachos (texas dry). The onion rings were really greasy (in a bad way) and we did not bother to eat them after one each. the nachos had 1/2 inch of chili grease on the bottem and really lack any flavor. The wings were overcooked and dry, lacking the traditional heat they usually have. Thank god the apps were 1/2 price becasue we left most of them there. Service sucked and we left, hopefully never to return.....

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I've only been to the Old Town location, and I'm wondering how quality might differ across localities. I've actually enjoyed the chili lime wings at the Old Town location: flavorful, "zingy", and with just a hint of lime at the end.

Me too - they're some of my favorites. I will say that, on a rare occasion, the wings have come out overcooked and dry. But that usually has a lot do with who's cooking them and we know who does them right (and he knows us). I like their regular Texas wings too. I haven't tried any of the other flavors besides the chili lime.

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I was out in Beltsville to see if th Oriental Noodle House had reopned. Unfortunately for me it had not. The only place I could find other than a Burger King etc on my route home was Hard Times. Never having ben there, I went in. The Dogfish IPA 60 Minute was cold. Thats the good part...

Grilled wings came out fried and then grilled (wouldn't that make them fried and grilled wings?) and covered with a rank chili lime sauce that was mouthsearingly full of lime and yet curiously devoid of any food like flavor. The Terlinga chile was ground beef with what tasted like a bad store brand chili mix and shredded onions and shredded colby. I wish I had gone farther up the street for Popeyes wings.

At least the beer was cold!

That's sad to hear. Back in the day when they had the 20 cent happy hour wings (before they raise the prices) my friends and I would be there every week. But that was also the regular wings, none of these fancy sauces.

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We needed a quick meal out tonight, and landed up at the Rockville Hard Times. We probably land up here once every other month or so.

We had the grilled wings as an appetizer. They had a chili/lime version, but that didn't sound like a winner, so we stuck with Texas flavor. They were very good - crispy, with a nice char from the flame, and the spice rub made them flavorful and only a bit spicy.

Kids got, I don't know, kids stuff, and on Thursday that's all free. I had a bowl of the Terlingua Red, with cheese, onions, and sour cream. Sure, it's ground beef rather than slow cooked cubed beef of some cut, and it's not spicy, but it was a reasonably decent meal. Wife had Chili Salad, basically a bowl of chili (Texas) poured over a garden salad. Sometimes the chili here tends towards greasy, but not tonight.

There was food left on the table. Service was fantastic - friendly, informative, and water/tea glasses never got below half full.

Total check was $35 AFTER tax and a pre-discount-over-20% tip. It's not haute cuisine, it's not great chili, but it's a perfectly decent family dinner for under $40.

FYI - Wednesdays and Sundays are $0.30 wing days. That would be a VERY cheap meal - the wings are large and meaty, and the menu price of $7.50 includes about 10-12.

We'll be back.

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We didn't have enough time to grab dinner at EatBar before the show at Iota on Sat so we ended up at Hard Times Cafe (arlington location, natch) for some chili. Lisa and I both had the terelingua red with jalepenos and onions (Lisa also had cheese) and we split a side of fries.

After all the raves I've heard about it, this place was somewhat disappointing. The chili was neither spicy nor hot (it can be one without the other) and I'm not a fan of ground beef chilis. The jalepenos gave it the requisite heat and a liberal dose of green tabasco sauce game it some semblance of flavour. Let me put it this way....the chili in our workplace cafeteria is better than this stuff. That's a damning statement.

On the upside, the fries were hot and crispy (the chili vinegar went perfectly with them!) and you can't beat the prices or service with a stick. Cheap meal, and very prompt, friendly service.

I'd go back to Hard Times if and only if I had 20 mins in which to grab a meal. I'd also like to try the chile lime wings - that sounded really good!

Overall....It's not bad - it's just not good.

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We didn't have enough time to grab dinner at EatBar before the show at Iota on Sat so we ended up at Hard Times Cafe (arlington location, natch) for some chili. Lisa and I both had the terelingua red with jalepenos and onions (Lisa also had cheese) and we split a side of fries.

After all the raves I've heard about it, this place was somewhat disappointing. The chili was neither spicy nor hot (it can be one without the other) and I'm not a fan of ground beef chilis. The jalepenos gave it the requisite heat and a liberal dose of green tabasco sauce game it some semblance of flavour. Let me put it this way....the chili in our workplace cafeteria is better than this stuff. That's a damning statement.

On the upside, the fries were hot and crispy (the chili vinegar went perfectly with them!) and you can't beat the prices or service with a stick. Cheap meal, and very prompt, friendly service.

I'd go back to Hard Times if and only if I had 20 mins in which to grab a meal. I'd also like to try the chile lime wings - that sounded really good!

Overall....It's not bad - it's just not good.

I have not been in years as the chili has never done anything for me. I never understood the raves, although I am not sure that folks were proclaiming it the best around.

Folks do enjoy the wings as I think they finish them on the grill.

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I have not been in years as the chili has never done anything for me. I never understood the raves, although I am not sure that folks were proclaiming it the best around.

Folks do enjoy the wings as I think they finish them on the grill.

Four years ago on our last visit of the three chilis we tried the only one that came close to being good was the vegetarian. It was good for the price and service.

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Four years ago on our last visit of the three chilis we tried the only one that came close to being good was the vegetarian. It was good for the price and service.

I like their vegetarian chili. I had a hankering for some when I was in Clarendon recently, then changed my mind once I was there and decided to get nachos instead. They come topped with chili but I opted for Texas chili instead of the vegetarian. (The vegetarian has ingredients like peanuts and mushrooms, which just didn't seem to go with nachos.)

The nachos were ok, not spectacular but better than I've had at some places. They had some kind of greenery on them that I liked but couldn't identify--maybe a chimichurri sauce? The Texas chili was fine as a topping, but I don't know how much I'd have liked a bowlful of it. Thinking about it, this is one of the places (at least the Clarendon one--haven't been to any others in a while) that I go to for the environment more than for the quality of the food.

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Doh! free dogs.....

Checkout the You Tube advertistement!

It's National Chili Dog Day and you are the winner!!

That's right, this Thursday, July 26th is National Chili Dog Day and anyone

and everyone gets a FREE Chili Dog (with any purchase) compliments of

your friendly neighborhood Hard Times Cafe!

Did we say FREE??? Yep, we sure did. Just come in and buy anything and we'll give you a Chili Dog topped with cheese, onions and your choice of Chili!

http://www.hardtimes.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAzjHGzWPIo

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Karen, Jake and I went to the Hard Times in Rockville near Montgomery College. In a word, one of the worst meals I've ever had in my life. Admittedly the chili is ok, but when it is soaking greasy, limp fries, or on a hot dog that should have been left on the dog, it isn't. Karen's O rings were greasy, had no breading (it all fell off in the fryer apparently) and were cold. Jake didn't even finish half his burger, and for him that is a sign that things are very wrong. None of us finished even half of what we ordered, it was so bad we just wanted to get out of there. The chili on the dogs were running with grease that pooled on the plate, soaking the bun to the point that you couldn't even pick it up with a fork it was so saturated.

I certainly hope that this was not indicative of either that particular Hard Times, or Hard Times in general, since I have had some decent, if not great, meals at the one in Laurel, but this particular night, the only thing I could say that was good was that the beer was cold.

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I certainly hope that this was not indicative of either that particular Hard Times, or Hard Times in general, since I have had some decent, if not great, meals at the one in Laurel, but this particular night, the only thing I could say that was good was that the beer was cold.

This has been our experience at the Rockville location the last few times we've been there. I will not go back for other than the chili.

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Clueless about chili here. Does Hard Times Cafe's web site have a primer about all of these variations?

Ask them about the variations and they will bring out fairly substantial tastes all the varieties. Proceede from there....

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FWIW, the Hard Times in Clarendon recently opened a major addition upstairs; huge bar with about 30 stools and a couple dozen tables and booths. There is also a second room in the back that is designated smoking with a smaller bar with about 10 stools and a dozen or so tables. There is also the obligatory gaggle of TVs tuned to sports. The chili, I suspect, is the same.

click

click again

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Beware the Old Town location - last time I went, they were using ingredients that were clearly old. Also, the cheesecake we got for dessert tasted strongly of onions, like it'd be sitting next ot a bunch of them in a refrigerator or such for a LONG time. My favorite Hard Times (food-quality-wise) has always been the College Park, MD one. Of course, the last time I ate there was back in '07...

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We actually prefer to buy their spice mix and make our own at home. We favor the Cincinnati. It is great for leftovers.

http://owgb2.securesites.com/hardtimes/shop.htm

I've been able to buy the spice boxes in Shopper's Food Warehouse over the years. I don't go there often - when I do I look for the boxes and when I see them I buy a few. Recently my wife has insisted I used ground turkey instead of beef. It doesn't taste right. So my last batch of purchased boxes has lasted a while now as I don't make it a home anymore.

Plus at the table they have the vinegar with the chili flakes. I haven't mastered that recipe yet.

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I didn't want to believe the posts above. I went to the Hard Times in Gaithersburg this weekend. (aka the Magic Cue)

Awful. The service was messed up but I suspect the kitchen was missing a person or two - I can wait, that's forgivable. What's not was the tasteless, dry pate that was served as Cincinnati style chili and the dried cornbread on the side.

This was once a great place/chain -inexpensive, quality chili, good service, someone cared. Are any of the locations minding the store anymore?

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I didn't want to believe the posts above. I went to the Hard Times in Gaithersburg this weekend. (aka the Magic Cue)

Awful. The service was messed up but I suspect the kitchen was missing a person or two - I can wait, that's forgivable. What's not was the tasteless, dry pate that was served as Cincinnati style chili and the dried cornbread on the side.

This was once a great place/chain -inexpensive, quality chili, good service, someone cared. Are any of the locations minding the store anymore?

I got stuck (ha!) playing darts at the location in Manassas a few weeks ago. Service was friendly and prompt, both at tables and at the bar. My Cincinnati chili over cornbread was fine, jalapeno poppers carried decent heat, and the various dishes consumed by my five dining companions met their enjoyment. This is "assemble before serve" bar food, not gourmet nor even interesting fare, but given the expansive pool and darts hall and the live band setting up, lines right up with the atmosphere.

Was a Friday night, we enjoyed ourselves and the food, and the place was packed. Not sure if other nights or times would have the same result.

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