Time for Pie
A favorite subject! Like the City Beat article posted above described, I’m an ex-Cincinnatian who is a Cincinnati Chili junkie. And I like to talk about it. So here’s some other stuff you may not know.
After 45 years in Cincinnati, I’m now living in Missouri and, other than my mom, the thing I miss the most is the chili! I’m also disappointed in the barbecue here, but that’s another story.
Like a previous poster said, Empress Chili was the first purveyor of Cincinnati chili. That chain still exists but is dwarfed by the top two: Gold Star and Skyline, which each have more than 50 locations. But not only are there the chains (the three I mentioned plus small Northern Kentucky chain Dixie Chili that others have posted links to), but there are many local neighborhood "chili parlors" as Cincinnatians call them. Most famous is probably Camp Washington, but there is also Dimitrios, Pleasant Ridge Chili, Blue Ash Chili, White Oaks Chili in Groesbeck, Chili Time in St. Bernard, Rhombe’s in Blue Ash, and the place whose chili I grew up eating, P&T Restaurant in Finneytown. And many others.
Most people have their favorites and it’s not hard to get a good Gold Star vs. Skyline argument going. For me, Gold Star is slightly better than Skyline because it’s a little bit sweeter. But Skyline is good too, and superior to Dixie or Empress. Your mileage may vary. I haven’t yet tried a home recipe that really nailed the Cincinnati chili flavor, although admittedly I’ve only tried a couple of dozen of them. 😉 The closest non-commercial version I’ve tried is from my friend Bruce, but he won’t turn loose of the recipe.
And most non-Cincinnatians don’t get it and never will. It is apparently an acquired taste, although it does help to do as others have suggested and try not to equate the taste with other things called "chili", because it is not the same thing at all.
And one of the beauties of it is the way you can customize it. I don’t care for the pasta and I’m non-dairy so I get the naked chili ("chili plain" in Skyline-ese) and put in a bunch of their (tobasco-ish) hot sauce and supplied oyster crackers. Or for variety, I’ll get "chili bean". BTW, you don’t order just a "4-way"…you need to specify, "4-way bean" or "4-way onion". And for the coneys I just order hot dogs ("wiener bun" or "double wiener bun" – with two dogs) and put some of my chili over it when I get home so the bun doesn’t get soggy too soon.
Oh, and I never heard of a "6-way"…I guess the garlic is a Camp Washington thing.
Any questions? 😉