Dixon's Chili Parlor

 

Vergne Dixon opened a chili parlor on the corner of 15th and Olive in Kansas City in August 1919. It had a counter with six stools running along one side. Dixon's recipe was for a dry, thick chili, made with ground beef and beans cooked together and seasoned lightly. He did not allow catsup in his parlor, nor did he allow smoking, reading a newspaper (no newspapers were allowed), or talking on the telephone (there was no telephone). He wanted his customers to eat their chili without interruption and make room for others on the six stools.

Dixon's became a favorite place of Truman's perhaps beginning sometime in the 1920s. When he was President, Truman sometimes ordered takeout chili from the presidential suite at the Muehlebach Hotel. His most celebrated visit to Dixon's occurred on December 23, 1950. Reporters and photographers watched and took pictures while the President of the United States ate a big plate of chili spread over tamales. Afterwards, Dixon and his wife wrote to Truman to thank him for coming to the chili parlor. "…Not only did we enjoy a visit from an old friend but had the honor of a visit from the President of the United States. Our patronage has almost doubled since your visit and we have had letters from all over the country." (Mr. and Mrs. Vergne Dixon to President Truman, December 30, 1950.) Truman responded, "I enjoyed the visit very much. It was like old-times…." (President Truman to Mr. and Mrs. Vergne Dixon, January 4, 1951. Official File.)

Vergne Dixon died in 1964. The new owners of the chili parlor sent a big container of chili to Truman every year on his birthday. The original store at 15th and Olive was closed in 1969. During the 1970s, Dixon's became a chain of as many as 16 parlors. By 1999, only one parlor remained, on the corner of U. S. Highway 40 and Blue Ridge Cutoff. Framed photographs and clippings on two walls reminded customers of the parlor's great days, when Harry Truman sat with friends and enjoyed Dixon's chili spread on tamales.

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