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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘Cincinnati Chili’ 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’

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 @ 08:01 AM

Well another year has come and gone and Pop Culture Cuisine is officially a two years old!  This year our lives have changed dramatically in many ways, including the addition of a new family member.  We also may not have traveled as far as in the past, but Adam and I still love finding new ways to seek out culinary hot spots wherever our travels take us.  We have compiled a list of some of our favorite and not so favorite spots to share with you with links so you can read our reviews for yourself.  We STILL love food and hope to continue to share lots of great finds with you all along the way.

Signature Dish:

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1. Al’s Beef’s “Italian Beef Sandwich” – Chicago, IL

2. Kim & Scott’s Café Twist’s “Twist Your Own” – Chicago, IL

3. The Varsity’s “Chili Dog” – Atlanta, GA

 

Taste:

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1. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL

 

Ambiance:

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1. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

2. Slow’s Bar-BQ – Detroit, MI

3. Lynn’s Paradise Café – Louisville, KY

 

Service:

1. Tufano’s Vernon Park TapJoe and his staff – Chicago, IL

2. KouzzinaJohn – Orlando, FL

3. Emeril’sSpencer – Orlando, FL

 

Price:

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1. The Varsity – Atlanta, GA

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. South Side Soda Shop – Goshen, IN

 

Overall Top 5:

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1. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

2. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL (A VERY close 2nd place)

3. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

4. Kouzzina – Orlando, FL

5. Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

Top 5 Biggest Letdowns…Not worth the Hype:

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1. The Whale’s Rib – Deerfield Beach, FL

2. Brennan’s – New Orleans, LA

3. Camp Washington – Cincinnati, OH

4. Graeter’s – Cincinnati, OH

5. The Loveless Café – Nashville, TN

Best of the Rest…Honorable Mention:

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Most Fun Kim & Scott’s Café Twist – Chicago, IL

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Most Memorable Kouzzina – Orlando, FL

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Most Worth the Wait Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL

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Most Outrageous Dish Bub’s Burgers – Carmel, IN

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Best Excursion Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – Orlando. FL

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Best Sandwich (Burgers Included) The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL

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Best Sweet Treat Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

Friday, July 29, 2011 @ 08:07 AM

093Man it’s HOT out there! I know if you are anywhere close to the Midwest you know what I am talking about; and this segues nicely into our next topic, Chili… Cincinnati chili to be exact. If you know anything about this kind of chili, you know it really has nothing to do with heat at all, rather is a Greek style spice. However, this next spot definitely sets itself apart…but we’ll get to that.

If you have been following the blog for any length of time, you know I don’t do spicy. I will take a little bit here and there for flavor, but I really don’t enjoy the spicy foods, which is partly why I enjoy Cincinnati chili so much. It’s a much sweeter chili, and along with its lack of beans makes it a favorite of Adam’s.

Now many cities are known for specific dishes, with many places being known for a that unique specialty. When it comes to chili in Cincinnati, this is no different. There are quite a few famous spots, probably one of the most notable being Skyline, which we will showcase at a later date, and PCC has already featured Blue Ash Chili a few months back. So we knew that when we were back in the Cincinnati area, we would definitely have to pay a visit to one of the other of the city’s famous favorites…, Camp Washington Chili.

Camp Washington Chili is a true legend in the area, with its patriarch Johnny Johnson (who we had the privilege of meeting) manning the helm since 1951 when he emigrated from Greece. Open 24-hours, six days a week, this chili parlor is no joke in how many coneys and 3-ways they are churning out in a day. It’s so popular, Travel Channel even saw fit to feature it as #65 on its “101 Tastiest Places to Chowdown” (Chowdown Countdown). So we knew it certainly was a place we needed to try.

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We were in downtown Cincinnati for a whirlwind birthday weekend for Adam and planned our visit to Camp Washington on a Saturday. We found it fairly easily, but noticed when we arrived it seemed to be pretty popular given that the whole parking lot was packed. Now granted… the parking lot wasn’t huge, but we definitely had to wait a little bit to get a spot. Luckily, once inside we noticed it was not as packed as the parking lot would have you believe, so we were easily led to a table. Our waitress was super sweet and chatted with us all about their chili vs. the other popular spots in the area, and it didn’t take us long to decide on our order. I went with my typical order of one coney with onions, but this time decided to give their onion rings a go since they sounded tasty. Adam went with his typical order of 2 cheese coneys (mustard only) and a 3-way, which if you are unfamiliar, is served over spaghetti noodles and topped with a mountain of shredded mild cheddar cheese.

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Like most other Cincinnati chili joints, the orders come out quick. The first thing we both noticed with each or our respective first bites is that Camp Washington definitely has a bit more “bite.” In other words…it’s hot! While I would hardly say it was too spicy for me to eat, I was considerably taken aback by the impactful flavor of their chili. It’s not that it wasn’t good, it just was not what I was expecting based on my other Cincinnati chili experiences. It just was much spicier than any other sweet Cincinnati chili I am used to; and while I was so hungry that I practically inhaled my coney, I have to be honest in saying it just wasn’t my favorite due to the amount of spice. In my opinion, it just took away from the typical sweet aspect I so enjoy about the other local chili I’ve had.

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Adam definitely agreed. He said the hot sauce or whatever it contained made the chili a lot more watery, therefore not adhering it to the noodles as well. Plus, unlike Skyline or Blue Ash, these noodles were not cooked in the sauce either, a big fault in his book.

The one saving grace of the food was the onion rings. These were AMAZING and all but made up for the unfortunate chili. They were perfectly brown, crispy, and sweet, while not losing all the breading from the onion in one bite. We both agreed these were some pretty awesome-tastic onion rings, maybe not the best ever, but still SOOOO good.

Sadly, even the rings were not enough in the end to overcome the spice that lingered in our mouths, and unfortunately we left Camp Washington feeling a tad disappointed and dissatisfied. I had a hard time feeling as if I ate when I really didn’t enjoy my meal to its full capacity. So while I enjoyed the experience of visiting Camp Washington Chili, it definitely does not rank highest on my list.

SIGNATURE DISH: Cincinnati Chili! While like the other chili joints in the area they do have other items on the menu for you non chili fans. But, they don’t call these Cincinnati Chili restaurants for no reason.

TASTE: We’ve made it our goal to try the major players in the Cincinnati chili discussion and Camp Washington was far from our favorite. Unfortunately, the spice they gave it completely overpowered the sweetness we have come to love in its typical flavor. However, if you are a “standard” chili fan…this might be right up your ally.

AMBIANCE: Where I felt Camp Washington lacked in the traditional flavor I was looking for, it definitely made up for in charm. The restaurant was very clean, yet had a certain old fashioned feel about it and you certainly did get the sense that it has been around for a long time. In fact, their logo alone is quite fun and Adam even bought a t-shirt to commemorate our trip.

PRICE: Another perk of Camp Washington was it was not very expensive, so while it wasn’t our favorite meal, at least we didn’t leave feeling as if we had hurt the pocket book.

SERVICE: As I mentioned above, our waitress was another good selling point. She was super cheerful, talkative, and helpful in guiding us in some options of things to do after lunch. It is always nice to have a waitress who genuinely seems as if she wants to be there helping you out.

Unfortunately Camp Washington just didn’t pan out and this time around…we vehemently disagree with The Travel Channel’s experts. However, that isn’t to say that many people in the area don’t love it and maybe you might too, especially if other Cincinnati chilis have not been something you’ve enjoyed. Who knows…maybe this one is for you. We just didn’t really enjoy the flavor; so while I still urge you to try it for yourself, I give Camp Washington 2 ‘Little Piggies.’

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