Mary Muehlenhardt of Sparetime Tavern will be bringing the tavern’s popular chili to the Wizardz’s annual chili cook-off Saturday (Feb. 18) at Oak Crest Elementary School in Belle Plaine. Judging begins around 4:30 p.m. and chili will be served  beginning at 5 p.m. Proceeds of the event will benefit the Wizardz, an area Special Olympics team.
Mary Muehlenhardt of Sparetime Tavern will be bringing the tavern’s popular chili to the Wizardz’s annual chili cook-off Saturday (Feb. 18) at Oak Crest Elementary School in Belle Plaine. Judging begins around 4:30 p.m. and chili will be served beginning at 5 p.m. Proceeds of the event will benefit the Wizardz, an area Special Olympics team.
Mary Muehlenhardt and the crew at Sparetime Tavern aren’t relying on a secret recipe to enter in a chili cook-off to benefit the Wizardz Special Olympics team Saturday afternoon (Feb. 18) at Oak Crest Elementary School.
“It’s a traditional chili, no beans” Muehlenhardt said.
Sparetime will be one of 10 entries in the cook-off. Last year, the tavern’s entry finished behind Coborn’s. Judging starts around 4:30 p.m. Chili will be available for people to enjoy from 5 to 8 p.m. A hot dog dinner will also be available for those who don’t enjoy chili, said Dawn Halverson, one of the event’s co-chairpersons with Ashley Larson.
The friendly competition will include a winner named by a panel of judges and a people’s choice honoree named by those attending the benefit. The judges will include Belle Plaine Mayor Chris Meyer and Police Chief Tom Stolee. Jordan Mayor Tanya Velishek and JPD Chief Brett Empey, Arlington Mayor Rich Nagel and Savage Police Chief Rodney Seurer are also scheduled to help judge the cook-off.
The cook-off is a benefit for the Wizardz, a Special Olympics team of residents from Belle Plaine, Jordan, New Prague, Montgomery and Sibley County. All the money raised will go to support the Wizardz.
Muehlenhardt enjoyed the entries from the other chefs during last year’s cook-off. She was impressed with the Coborn’s entry, although her preference is for a milder blend. “It was good, but too spicy,” she said. “I like a little kick.”

Entries Expected
Halverson said this year’s entries include Johan’s Bar, Prairie Grill, Coborn’s, Scott Renne and Sparetime from Belle Plaine, Henderson Road Haus, Jordan Tap Room, Double Tap Bowling Alley from Arlington, and Velvet Touch Catering of New Prague. People’s choice winner Willie Larson of Arlington is also expected to enter the contest again this year.
Muehlenhardt says there’s nothing special about the Sparetime chili. Its distinct flavor comes from a grill that has been used to cook hamburgers for over 50 years, back to the 1960s when Harold “Porky” Westphal owned the bar and grill. The rest is chili powder, some red peppers, salt and pepper. “Just the basics,” she said.
It’s the same chili Sparetime serves its customers. The bar and grill goes through three five-gallon pots of the chili during a typical week. The cold winter months are when the chili is in high demand, said Julie Savage, one of the family members that operate Sparetime Tavern.
The biggest variable in Sparetime’s chili is who makes it. Sparetime owner Don Savage tends to make a spicier version of the chili. During the weekday, the chili Bev Fahey and Deb Legg prepare tends to be a bit milder, Muehlenhardt said.
The crew from Sparetime isn’t worried about winning the competition. They have no worries about vying for bragging rights among the local establishments.
“We always give the community as much as we can,” Muehlenhardt said. “We love to help out the Wizardz. The best part is seeing the looks on their faces.”
Oak Crest Elementary School is at 1101 Commerce Drive W. in Belle Plaine. Tickets for the event are $8 for adults, $5 for children and $32 for a family.