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Katie Davis

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Archive for the ‘Coney’ Category

Monday, June 4, 2012 @ 09:06 AM

017Well it’s officially June and in my book that means it should feel like summer, but while we have had a few warm summer like days, when it is only a high of 55 like it was last week, I would much rather curl up and eat a bowl of hot chili than the summer salad I brought with me to work. But, I’ll guess I’ll take advantage of this weather (and thinking about chili) and use this occasion to share with you a version of the comfort food (chili) that I have grown up eating and am very fond of…”Cincinnati” chili.

Now I’ve had chili all around the country in all kinds of varieties, but I don’t think it is more popular in any other place than the Cincinnati area. In fact, the city of Cincinnati serves up more chili per year than any other place in the U.S., and it is not what you would typically think of when thinking of chili. “Cincinnati Chili” is a version of the dish that has a lot of Greek spices and is served over spaghetti noodles and covered in shredded cheddar cheese…yum!

If you regularly follow PCC, you’ve read about 2 other Cincinnati locations (here and here) that specialize in this signature dish; and while there are still many places in the Cincinnati-area that focus on this style of chili, one place is definitely king among them all and easily the most well know. I’m, of course, referring to the iconic Skyline Chili.

The first Skyline was opened in 1949 by Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides, and is typical amongst Cincinnati chili his chili had a wonderful sweet Greek taste. Lambinides named his spot for the view he had of the skyline from his first restaurant. Probably little did he know at that time this small chili shop would grow into the chain it has become today, with more than 100 locations now and its chili even being sold in grocery stores. So…how does Skyline compare being that it is so mass produced?

Adam and I have visited plenty of Skyline locations, separate and together. Most recently we got the opportunity to meet for lunch with our friend Garrett in Louisville while he was on his way from Dallas to Cincinnati of all places; and while Skyline isn’t necessarily a hot to hit up in Louisville, when you get the chance to see an old friend and one of his favorite restaurants is Skyline…you take it. Plus, we had yet to actually take any pictures of us dining at a Skyline, so it was win-win. So we arrived in Louisville on that Friday mid-day, picked up my dad (also from Cincinnati) and headed over to their local Skyline to meet Garrett.

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While I’m sure the original Skyline location was as quaint and homey as the other two local Cincinnati spots we have featured, a lot of the Skyline locations nowadays are very “chain-like,” and feel like any other fast food type restaurant. But while this might turn some people off, I encourage you to still try it based on its history and they are still churning out a great product. I ordered my typical cheese Coney and this time opted to also add on an order of fries. Adam, also, stuck to his standard Cincinnati chili order…a “3-Way” (spaghetti, chili, shredded cheese) and 2 chili & cheese Coneys w/ mustard no onion.

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These Coneys (and the standard 3-way) are always just as good as I remember and I consider to be the “gold standard” I compare every other Cincinnati chili against. There is something so simple yet so delicious about their recipe and I have never found another who gets it quite as perfect as they do. Part of that could be nostalgia talking…, I have been eating these since I was a kid, but I also think they have found the perfect combination for their recipe (hint…I think it’s the chocolate) and have never tried to mess with a good thing. I’m kinda glad we don’t have one by us, because I can’t imagine it’s that healthy…and as much as Adam loves it…it would not be good! Smile

SIGNATURE DISH: While their menu is pretty similar to every other Cincinnati style chili restaurant out there, they also order a variety of other dishes since they now a restaurant that is scattered throughout the Cincinnati area, they have realized they also need to cater to other people and tastes if they want to continue to bring in steady business from chili and non-chili lovers alike. However, Cincinnati Chili is still the main attraction and makes up a vast majority of why people frequent.

TASTE: I mentioned that I may be biased since I have been eating this chili since I was in the womb, but as far as Cincinnati chilis go, this to me is the best and what I compare all others too. If you remember I really did LOVE what Blue Ash had to offer, but Skyline’s still outranks it!

AMBIANCE: As I mentioned above, please don’t enter a Skyline and expect to feel all nostalgic and original anymore. Although there still exist a few that have the old feel, due to the sheer number of them, they have branded themselves in such a way as to allow for recognition and modern appeal. There are still touches from their early days, but it does lack a little bit of that original charm.

PRICE: Like most other local Cincinnati chili favorites, it is hard to beat a couple of bucks for a Coney or a little more for one of their “ways.” To feed the four of us was under $30, which is a steal these days!

SERVICE: Our server was very good. I can’t say she was memorable, but everything came out fast and our drinks were always full. To me, that’s good service.

This review may be short and to the point, but it really doesn’t take much to describe this chili. Adam and I both love it and think everyone ought to give it a try. They are truly a favorite and while we have tried others from the area, I am not sure they will ever really compare for us. That being said, I urge you try any Cincinnati chili to decide first and foremost if this is a dish you even enjoy. I know it isn’t for everyone and on the sweeter side, but I would say give it a try before you automatically decide you don’t like it; and if you want to start with a great base line standard, then Skyline Chili is the where it’s at! For that reason I am giving them 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies’

Monday, April 9, 2012 @ 09:04 AM

You all still with me? Well if you’ve been waiting for the results of our favorite Detroit Coney with bated breath, today is your day. However, if you are just joining us, two weeks ago we began with part one of a two part review of these famed D-Town dogs in competition where the focus was on one of the much loved originators of this dish, Lafayette Coney Island. While I won’t go into great detail about the history, since we have already discussed it in part one, I will mention again just how unique these restaurants are. Both owned by the same family who decided to go their separate Coney ways back in the day, literally just splitting the restaurant down the middle and birthing two very well loved Coney spots, literally right next door to one another; and while I mentioned last week that they are both beloved and each have their own set of fans, I thought it would be fun for you to see a clip of just what we mean…

 

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmnGTkYQmBg

 

You don’t have to watch the entire clip to see just how crazy each spots fans are for their signature dish, and with that love comes great competition and heated discussion. So we figured that being right in the heart of Detroit for a weekend last summer, what better way crown our favorite than to taste-test them both…back to back!

You can read all about what we thought of Lafayette. But after that initial Detroit City Coney experience, it was off for round 2 at American Coney Island…the originator of the dish. Of course it didn’t take us long to arrive at the next destination, being that it was literally right smack dab next door; and I must admit I felt a little silly eating a hot dog at one spot and then just picking up and walking a few feet to order another….silly but fun.

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The first thing I noticed different was how immediately more welcomed I felt upon entering. It was clear that in the past decade American had made not only huge décor changes and updates, but their staff seemed significantly younger and…well I hate to say it…more friendly. It was clear that American, unlike their counterpart, had grown over time…in all sense of the word… and embrace some of the more modern customer appeasing touches.

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We ordered immediately after being seated…2 traditional Coneys…dog, coney sauce, onions & yellow mustard. My mouth just begins to water listing off the ingredients!

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Now this being our 2nd Coney experience of the day, I was really trying to take each bite in and make sure I really examined the difference in flavor. It was pretty hard to discern a huge difference, but American’s chili was a bit sweeter, something I really enjoy in a Coney. Well, we gobbled those suckers down and at this point I knew I was Coneyed out for the day…, Adam on the other hand was still looking for possibly one more at the game. Smile

Because I’ll be the first to admit that first impressions are almost a make or break in the whole experience for me and that I can get pretty turned off pretty quick by a place that isn’t really trying very hard to win me over, I knew I already had a different feeling about the whole Coney situation when we walked into American. However, trying my best to keep all that aside, this is really about the food, so I made sure to keep an open mind…which I’ll share shortly.

SIGNATURE DISH: Coney’s are still the name of this game and if you stuck around from last week you know we are going to share which was actually our favorite at the end of the day!

TASTE: First and foremost, very good! Detroit Coney’s are an easy 2 for 2 after this. On the taste, however, American’s Coney sauce is distinctly sweeter…very much like a Greek-style chili. All the flavors come together very well and it is a very crisp taste.

AMBIANCE: I liked the modern updates American Coney Island had to offer and it is definitely bigger than its neighbor. Also, another thing I liked was the natural light with all the windows…great in the city.

PRICE: Possibly a few cents different, but still not a bank breaker…definitely worth it!

SERVICE: This was where American stood out. They were friendly, helpful and downright chatty…interested in where we were from, what we were doing, etc. It was clear they took customer service seriously and didn’t just stand on their popularity to keep people coming back.

I give American Coney Island 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies’

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THE COMPARISON & VERDICT

Alert the critic authorities…we have a split decision in the way of differing opinions in the PCC family! When it was all said and done, Adam was a fan of Lafayette Coney Island while my favorite was American Coney Island far and away. The deciding factor for him was that he felt the sweeter Spanish onions and vinegar mustard worked better for the overall taste of the Coney. Also, he liked that it still had that same early 20th century appeal.

I, on the other hand, much preferred the sweeter Greek-style chili. Also, I just enjoyed my entire experience there a whole lot more, which may or may not have made that Coney taste a whole lot better…you be the judge. Smile

In the end, I guess you will have to try both (in one day if you are daring) of these spots to make your own decision. For me it will always be American when I return (I guess Adam will have to go next door!), but I really enjoyed the entire experience of visiting both back to back and so glad we were able to experience this almost century old feud first hand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 08:03 PM

074Can you believe how warm it has been lately? I know the weather hasn’t been amazing for all of you, but if you live in the Midwest it has been downright awesome! We have had the mildest winter I can remember in a LONG time and now in the last two weeks it has been just like summer…, I mean 80 degrees in March…, it’s crazy!

One thing this weather is doing for our family (well Adam in particular) is helping to set the mood for the season…the baseball season that is. With the start of the season less than 2 weeks away, Adam is giddy with excitement, and it is taking me back to last summer when we shared a baseball themed trip to Detroit, which is where this week’s post is from.

To me, nothing is more synonymous with summer AND baseball than hotdogs. Well, if you’re from Detroit, those dogs come in the form of a Coney Dog. That’s right…these things are everywhere in the Detroit metro area and everyone has their favorite; and perhaps the most famous of them all are two that share everything in common from family to a location and have been in competition with one another for the best Coney for generations. I’m referring to Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island.

These 2 Coney Island landmarks got their start by the Keros brothers in the early 1900’s and officially began their rivalry when one brother decided he’d strike out on his own and open his very own Coney sport right next door to their current location….and I mean RIGHT NEXT DOOR! He named the new Coney spot Lafayette Coney Island.

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Lafayette’s (or American for that matter) wasn’t really on our radar screen until we saw both the The Food Network and The Travel Channel visit them for their “Food Feuds” and “Food Wars” shows respectively; and since then they’ve also shown up on an episode of “Man vs. Food.” Needless to say, they’ve both gotten a lot of publicity through the years…major PCC cred; and while these 2 aren’t the only Coney restaurants in the D-Town area, they are the most famous and creators of the original “Coney Style Hotdog,” a hot dog with chili, diced yellow onion, and yellow mustard.

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Others around the state and country have duplicated the un-trademarked dog, but none seem to be as popular or widely known. So on last summer’s “babymoon” weekend getaway to Detroit for a baseball game, I knew a Coney taste test was in our future.

Our first stop/taste test was at Lafayette’s (for no real reason other than it was the one to the left Smile). It is quite comical when you pull up and see these two restaurants literally smack dab right next to one another. When we walked in, one thing we immediately noticed was how nostalgically “old” it was. I don’t want to say dingy, but it was clear that not much had changed in the décor since 1917 (a vast difference from its counterpart, but we’ll get to that next week). It is very much a “no frills” kinda atmosphere. Since it was just the two of us and we knew this wasn’t going to be a lengthy meal, we thought it would be easy enough to just sit at the bar and see the process first hand, a very quick process I might add. The guy at the counter came and took our order, but it was pretty clear we should be ready when he came over and that he wasn’t up for a lot of conversation. It wasn’t that he was mean, just pretty no nonsense. The order was pretty simple…a couple of Coney’s the way Lafayette’s intended, diced onions & yellow mustard; and, no joke, they were in front of us within two minutes, and five minutes later our plates were empty!

I knew I wouldn’t dislike this dish, since I love Cincinnati style chili Coney dogs. But the big question would be which of these two famed Coney dogs I would like best; and although I don’t want to ruin the surprise, I will say I found the Lafayette’s Coney pretty tasty. Still, you will have to wait until next week for the comparison and big reveal on which is best. In the meantime I will give you a basic review below…

SIGNATURE DISH: Coney Dogs all day long…since 1917.

TASTE: While I won’t say if this was my favorite, I will tell you it was for sure tasty and definitely hit the spot. While different in flavor than Coney style dogs I have had in the past, if this is how Detroit does it, than they have found a fan in me!

AMBIANCE: I mentioned above that the feeling you get when you walk into Lafayette’s is pretty unique…, unique in the sense that it feels like you are stepping back in time a little bit. It is clear that not much has changed in the décor over the last 80 plus years and people like it that way. Hoping I’m not offending anyone, I’d say Lafayette’s very much reflects Detroit blue collar feel. It’s a no-frills no-fuss place…all about the Coney.

PRICE: While I can’t remember specifically, I know each of our dogs was not much more than a couple of dollars…, a deal any day in my book!

SERVICE: While I would not say we received bad service, I will definitely say they weren’t as welcoming or friendly as I would have hoped. This is not to say I didn’t expect it, especially with their D-Town demeanor. I’d almost say this is part of what makes Lafayette’s so popular…it’s Detroit to the core, like it or not.

…Stay tuned for my review of American Coney Island next week and I’ll fill you in on which was our favorite!