Texas Chili Queens combine chili, culture

Chandler Gibson

Drag culture and Texas chili culture cross paths at Texas Chili Queens in Austin. Popping up in different Austin spots regularly, the food truck is basically RuPaul meets the Terlingua
Chili Cookoff.

Since 2015, Texas Chili Queens has been serving up chili, the classic Texas street food, but with a twist. Owned and operated by Edward Hambleton, the truck pays homage to a group of entrepreneurial women in early 20th century San Antonio.

“They were women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who were actually located in San Antonio,” Hambleton said. “Depending on what you read, they’re either body whores — like women of the night — or they were these entrepreneurial women.”

Hambleton made the decision to open the truck in 2015. He has done extensive research on the original Chili Queens and their legacy.

He said he first got into drag in high school, and was voted Prom Princess, an event which he attended in drag. After college, he created Edie, a flirtatious southern queen with a culinary flair.

“I did a drag deviled egg performance on stage (for QueerBomb),” Hambleton said. “Another one I did was a Heaven and Hell trifle. It’s angel’s food and devil’s food cake with this peanut
butter filling in between with a chocolate ganache. I was just talking to people, making cake, squirting ganache into people’s mouths.”

The menu includes five different types of chilis: the San Antonio and the El Paso, which are more traditional beef chili. The Dallas and the Houston are venison and pork, respectively. The Austin is a vegan lentil chili. Lauren Taylor works at an office park Texas Chili Queens
was visiting.

“It’s just really good chili,” Taylor said. “I really like the El Paso, but I’ve had the Dallas before. I would recommend that if someone doesn’t usually eat venison.”

Eddie Cantu works in one of the office parks that Texas Chili Queens visits regularly. He said he enjoys their El Paso chili in particular.

“I always go with the El Paso because it’s spicy, and I like spice,” Cantu said.

Hambleton explained that he was connected to his food truck lunch circuit through the Columbia Business School’s alumni network, where he attended college and initially got into chili.

“One time in college we had a chili and hot chocolate night so (a friend and I) went to a recipe and we doubled it,” Hambleton said. “We had a measuring cup that was like a shot glass and we doubled and used the max range so it wound up being basically a shot glass of cayenne pepper.”

Despite his original experiences with chili, he worked at it and stumbled across the history — or rather, the herstory — of the original
Chili Queens.

“The Chili Queens were shut down by the (‘30s) and (‘40s),” Hambleton said. “Depending on how you see it, (the health departments) were either righteous health crusaders or sexist a******s and that’s when chili moved more into the cookoff arena. It became more of a
man’s sphere.”

He says the future of the truck is uncertain, for now it will be business as usual.

“(The truck may end up) in a ditch — just kidding,” Hambleton said. “I don’t know, we’ll see. I can’t predict the future, I don’t have a
crystal ball.”