Happy Burro Chili & Beer

January 14, 2019

by Jenny Hohner

Today we were going to use our last hour of daylight to hike, but it started to rain.   So, we stopped in at the Happy Burro Chili and Beer.  A tiny establishment in Beatty, Nevada.  There’s room inside for one six-top, a two-top and four seats at the bar.  I read about the eatery in our Death Valley National Park guide book in a section titled “Beyond the Boundaries.”  

 At four o’clock in the afternoon the place was crowded. Everyone was smoking cigarettes. Family Feudwas playing on a corner television set.  A local invited us to sit at the open two-top. As I climbed on the stool, I noticed one of the wall decorations next to my seat was a metal antique.  The odd undergarment included a heart shaped tag line identifying the piece as Dr. Polasky’s Approved Chastity Protector - Guaranteed Virginity. It didn’t look comfortable.

 Patrons were crowded around the second table and I could hear the familiar sound of dice rattling in a felt-lined Yahtzee cup.  The waitress/proprietor was in the middle of dice game. When she finished, she brought us menus.  Entree choices were limited to chili, chili over Fritos, chili dogs, hamburgers, cheese burgers, or hotdogs.   All foods we edited out of our diet back in 2010.  

 When Joe and I started our Southwest Odyssey, we talked about eating from the vegan end of the food spectrum.  We went the other way.  Ham was our gateway meat.  Before Christmas we stayed with friends in Mesa, Arizona.  The day we arrived dinner was already on the table.  We ate all the courses, including the baked ham.  As my mother would say, it was the polite thing to do.   Before we knew it, we were eating whatever our hosts put in front of us: hotdogs, brats, flank steak soup, and barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches.  All delicious dishes, but all foods I haven’t eaten in years. I didn’t go as far as Joe.  Once we were back on the road, he stopped at a MacDonald to use the bathroom while I ran into the nearby grocery store.  An hour later I suggested we stop for lunch. Joe wasn’t hungry.  A puzzling bit of info, until he confessed to eating a quarter pounder while in the Golden Arches.  His reasoning, “I used the bathroom.  I need to buy something.”  

 In the Happy Burro the back wall was plastered from floor to ceiling with chili cook off awards won in 1999 through 2003 in three different states: Nevada, Arizona and California.  When the waitress asked, “What’ll you have?”  I followed the wall’s advice and ordered the chili.  It was tasty.