The way chili works in greater Cincinnati is that you build your plate, according to the layers you like. You can get a dish of only chili and spaghetti, or you can get a 3-way (chili, spaghetti, and cheese), 4-way (chili, spaghetti, cheese, and raw onions), or 5-way (add beans). You can even get a 5-way, hold the onions, extra cheese. The possibilities are nearly endless.
A layered plate of Blue Ash 5 way is a beautiful thing. The chili meat is dark and resonant, not too spicy but with complex character; and the spaghetti noodles are always fork-friendly: not too long, and squiggly enough that they stay on the tines of a fork with virtually no slippage.
Good as the chili is at Blue Ash, this Naugahyde-and-linoleum eat-place is also a magnificent sandwich shop. “We think we have the best sandwiches in town,” the menu advises; and in Cincinnati, sandwiches are a big deal, almost as big as chili. As in every Cincinnati chili parlor, double deckers reign at Blue Ash. A double decker means two ingredients of your choice are sandwiched in three slices of bread, making a sandwich that is so tall it is a challenge to lift from its plate. Ingredient choices for double-deckers range from bacon and egg to hot ham and cheese, turkey, and roast beef. Any combo is possible, including “turkey and turkey,” “beef and beef,” etc., meaning your double decker is simply a double lode of a favorite ingredient. We are especially fond of hot ham, which is sliced thin and loaded into the bread in moist clumps, especially when paired with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Bacon is quite wonderful in any double-decker; it is piled on thick and curly – great with turkey, eggs, or cheese.
On the side, for variety’s sake, many customers get one or two Coneys – small hot dogs in tender buns, customarily dressed with chili, onions, and mustard and completely covered with a great fistful of grated orange cheese.