When deciding where to eat on a Saturday night, don’t decide when you’re extremely hungry. If you do, you just may spark a 3-day Cincinnati style chili tour. You’ve been warned. The next few posts will chronicle our visits to four Cincinnati chili parlors and two Kentucky chili restaurants. Of course, there are dozens more in the Tri-State, and if you’re really obsessed with this idea, let us suggest you check out Chilinati (http://chilinati.tumblr.com) for a wonderful and comprehensive list of just about every hole-in-the-wall Cincinnati style chili place on earth. This post will serve as an introduction and focus on the gold-standard of all Cincinnati-style chili joints: Skyline.
If you grew up in the Cincinnati area, you can probably skip this entire section of rambling. I, however, did not grow up in the Nati, so I was a little older when I first learned about Cincinnati style chili. I understand some may need a little background on what the heck Cincinnati-style Chili is. Without going into it too much, Cincinnati style chili basically consists of a couple things: spaghetti with chili & cheese on top & cheese coney dog (typically mini-dogs). Your spaghetti with chili & cheese is referred to as a 3-way and if you add beans or onions you get a 4-way, and if you’re really gross and get beans and onions you call it a 5-way. Your typical cheese coney comes with mustard and onions. I, of course, hold off on the onions. There… now you have the basics. (If you want more info, check out Skyline’s signature dish webpage)
Love at first bite with Cincinnati style chili
Our group of high school friends had one friend with significant roots in Cincinnati as his family was from the Queen City and his dad even played for the Reds back in the Big Red Machine days. Of course, he adored Skyline and suggested we all try it one day while in Indianapolis, the closest city to Muncie with a Skyline at the time. I had always equated chili with lots of onions, so I was skeptical to say the least, but you never forget that first bite of Skyline. Unlike the chili we grew up on as kids, Skyline was sweeter and uniquely delicious- we were all hooked. Lucky for us, Skyline opened a store right up the road in Muncie, but unlucky for them our band of high school devotees could not keep them open. It closed shortly after it opened, but not before my father and grandmother both told me how disgusting they found it to be. Some people just don’t have the taste for it, I suppose.
Reunited with Skyline
I would never have imagined when I tried Cincinnati style chili, specifically Skyline, several years ago that I would actually end up living in Cincinnati, with a Skyline on every corner. I’ve been to dozens of Skylines at every imaginable hour of the day, and it certainly never disappoints. One of my fondest spring break memories is trekking through Ft. Lauderdale to find the Skyline, probably the only one in all of Florida. We couldn’t make it a week without it. When the Skyline up the street opens each morning the sweet smell of chili fills the air, and I can’t help but smile. When friends from college come to visit, a late-night trip to Skyline is always a must. There’s just something about it… hard to explain.
A Cincinnati-style chili adventure
Lately though, I’ve been fretting over the fact there are literally dozens of Cincinnati style chili parlors in the area, mostly mom & pop places that have been around for decades. Why haven’t I been giving them a chance? Why am I a one-trick Skyline pony? In the next few posts we will give the spotlight to a few other well-deserving Cincinnati style chili parlors.
First one up… Camp Washington Chili.
(Some people may be offended I haven’t mentioned Gold Star. I don’t care for it, and I find their commercials to be extremely annoying. I will not speak of them again in this series.)