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Easton contest crowns Lehigh Valley's best chili in annual Super Bowl Cook-off

pearly baker's chili contest
Ryan Gaylor
Competitors prepare samples for attendees of the Pearly Baker's chili cook off Sunday.

EASTON, Pa. — A contingent of Lehigh Valley chili lovers crowned Riegelsville Inn the people’s favorite Sunday at the annual Easton cook-off hosted by Pearly Baker’s Alehouse.

Every Super Bowl Sunday since the restaurant opened in 1994, co-owner Branden Davis said Pearly Baker’s Alehouse has brought some of the Valley’s best chili makers to Easton’s Centre Square with competitions for restaurants and fire departments.

A panel of judges ranked Mueller’s General Store and Kitchen — along Route 611 at the Williams Township-Riegelsville line — first in the restaurant category. It was followed by Riegelsville Inn for second and Kabinett Wine Bar of Easton for third.

chili samples
Ryan Gaylor
Samples of Kabinett Wine Bar's chili ready for tasting at the Bank St. Annex in Easton Sunday.

Attendees and judges both gave top marks to Forks Township Fire Department’s chili in the first responder division.

Participants filed past a long row of chafing dishes full of chili on Sunday, wrapping around three sides of the room, to collect their tiny sauce-cup-sized samples and evaluate the day’s contenders.

"I can't see us going back to Pearly Baker's."
Pearly Baker's and Bank St. Annex co-owner Branden Davis

The cookoff benefits a different Easton nonprofit each year, raising between $3,000 to $7,000 depending on attendance, according to Davis. This year's beneficiary is Pa. Water Rescue, an Easton-based volunteer company specializing in rescue and dive operations.

“We were looking towards first responders, and then we came across the Pennsylvania Water Rescue and realized that they are a pure nonprofit. And they really do a heroic job throughout the year,” said Pearly Baker’s and Bank St. Annex co-owner Jonathan Davis.

Funds raised will mainly be used to certify first responders in using their search and rescue drone, according to company chief Branden Bachman, along with new scuba diving gear.

This year, the cookoff moved across Third Street from the restaurant to the much larger Bank St. Annex, an event space with the same owners as Pearly Baker’s.

The event had “long outgrown” the Pearly Baker’s dining room, Davis said, and the new venue also means organizers don’t have to wait until closing to start setting up.

The new venue has proved a success, he said: “I can’t see us going back to Pearly Baker’s.”