Chili parlors have been culinary staples in Cincinnati since the 1920s and there are currently more than 200 of them in the region. Though National Chili Day may have been last week, every day is National Chili Day in Cincinnati! Cincinnati-style chili is so popular there are even potato chips made after it.
I was never big into chili growing up — it was fine, but the older I get, the more I like it and the less I understand why people so vehemently hate something as trivial as meat sauce on top of spaghetti or a hot dog. Some even argue that Cincinnati-style chili isn’t “chili,” to which I say, “Is deep dish not pizza?”
Wait, don’t answer that. Hear me out.
If there can be Chicago-, St. Louis-, Detroit-, and New York-style pizzas, surely there can be more than one kind of chili. Just because Cincinnati chili doesn’t look like Texas chili, doesn’t mean it’s not chili all the same. The defining ingredients of this delicacy are chili powder and meat and, well, those bases are covered here. It’s our own special version and, while there are multiple iterations of Cincinnati-style chili, I have to say that I like them all. What differentiates themselves from each other isn’t the flavor of the chili so much as the different chili dishes featured at each parlor. And, until I have a side-by-side taste test of each type of chili, I’ll instead swear by menu items when judging how I like each style of chili and how to compare them.
Here are my Favorite Five chili dishes:
I love plain cheese coneys, chili cheese sandwiches, and coneys with mustard and onion alike. It’s my favorite chili dish and, while I think they’re good everywhere, my favorites are from Blue Ash Chili, Camp Washington Chili, Gold Star, and Pleasant Ridge Chili (PRC).
Chilito with spaghetti and sour cream
This is one of my recent favorite chili dishes, and it’s served at Skyline. Delicious.
Chili Cheese Fries
These are also good most places, but I absolutely love them from Blue Ash Chili, Gold Star and Chili Time — crinkle fries allow for maximum chili and cheese in all their divots.
Layers of chili and cheese and carbs? Yep, I’ll take it. Served at Blue Ash Chili.
Chili and Cheese Omelet
Get your Cincinnati-style chili and breakfast fix at Price Hill Chili, where you can kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.
Honorable mention: chili dip from Dixie Chili.
I do want to note that, while I am not big on ways, they’re perfectly fine chili dishes. Some of my favorites (three-ways or, if I’m feeling froggy, four-ways with onions) come from Camp Washington, Empress, and PRC.
Visit idea: Does your dinnermate not like Cincinnati’s flagship delicacy? Go to Blue Ash Chili for double deckers; Camp Washington for 24-hour breakfast (six days a week); Chili Time for a burger and cheese fries; Dixie for their deli goods; Empress for the original Cincinnati chili; Gold Star for salads and sandwiches; PRC for gravy cheese fries (it’s a local institution); Price Hill Chili for a cheeseburger; and Skyline for a wrap and those delicious oyster crackers.
Disclaimer: I have not been to Covington, Delhi, Gourmet, or Park Chilis; or had chili from Blue Jay Restaurant.
Featured image: A coney and crackers from Skyline on National Chili Day 2017.