The first Chili Bowl opened in 1931 on Crenshaw Boulevard. It would eventually expand to a chain of 23 restaurants, all built in the distinctive circular shape of a bowl of chili. According to founder Art Whizin, the idea came to him when he was talking with a friend at a burger counter about his theoretical restaurant’s design. His friend simply pushed his chili bowl over to him and said, “Here, Whizin, do something with this.” Inspired, Whizin claimed he drew the design on his corduroy overalls, and the rest was history.
Chili Bowls soon sprang up all over Southern California. Whizin even claimed that the Long Beach Chili Bowl was spared in the devastating 1933 earthquake because of its unique design. “It’s because of the circular shape,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “It gave evenly in all directions. The place was full and all 26 customers ran outside. After a couple of minutes, they peered inside the window, saw everything was OK and came back and finished their chili.”
Whizin eventually closed the Chili Bowls after World War II. Four of the distinctive buildings exist today, including one on San Fernando Road in Glendale, which is now owned by the Valley Dealer Exchange.