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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Great Start to a Culinary Adventure

Friday, October 22, 2010 @ 01:10 PM

040It’s your lucky week folks…Because I was on vacation last week and unable to get a post out, this week you get to read up on two of pop culture’s culinary treasures.  And not only is there a double dose of PCC this week, but this next spot is straight from our very last whirlwind culinary adventure to and from Central Florida.

Knowing that we would be driving to Orlando, we figured it would be a great opportunity to incorporate some PCC worthy stops along the way.  So we studied our route and realized that we would be driving through Cincinnati right around lunch time on our first day, and if you lived in our household, you would know that Cincinnati holds something near and dear to Adam’s heart…chili!  But this ain’t your ordinary ol’ chili…no-no. This is Cincinnati chili, which is a VERY different concoction.  Not only does it differ in texture from a lot of chili out there, but it also has dramatically different tastes and is served in a unique way.  Standard Cincinnati chili has a variety of spices that are common to other chili recipes, but there are also a few key ingredients that truly change the flavor.  Although the exact amounts and types of ingredients are typically kept secret by the variety of restaurants that serve it, cinnamon and chocolate are well known key players. So to those of you who haven’t tried it, don’t go in thinking it is going to taste like “chili,” or you will be disappointed, because Cincinnati-chili just has such a different and amazing flavor.  The other thing that makes this chili stand apart is that it is most often served in a certain “way”…2-way, 3-way, 4-way, etc.  If you are unfamiliar, let me explain. This chili is most often served over spaghetti, making it a 2-way. Then a variety of ingredients can be added from beans to onions and most famously cheese.  A 3-way of chili, spaghetti, and cheese seems to be the most popular with the 4-way’s addition of onions coming in at a close second.  Coneys are also another very popular way to consume the chili…basically just an ultra flavorable and cheesy chili cheese dog.

Now Adam isn’t the only one who enjoys this dish in our family…I am a fan too thanks to my upbringing. My father is from Cincinnati and grew up eating it on a fairly regular basis. He actually even took my mom there when they first met to see if she liked it and would thus be a “keeper” :). Thus, I also grew up eating it on all of our visits back to my dad’s hometown, although I’m not sure I am quite as big of a fan as he is…at least I wasn’t. 😉

Growing up I had only ever heard of Skyline Chili.., a Cincinnati favorite and staple around the city, and what my dad lived off late nights in college.  Naturally when we would go back to visit, Skyline would be where we would stop.  Adam too had frequented the chain, having traveled a lot for work before he met me and had fallen in love with the stuff.  Lucky for us, you can buy cans of it at Kroger, and if I happen to be out of town you know what will be cooking at the Davis house. 🙂

That being said, I have to admit that I was not very open to trying other Cincinnati chili places. However, when we saw the following clip on Food Network’sDiner’s, Drive-ins, and Dives,” I knew I might have spoken to soon…

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Looks good don’t it?  This clip introduced us to Blue Ash Chili. Opened in 1969, they have been serving their famous though well-guarded Greek-style family made chili recipe to hungry locals non-stop (only two people know the recipe…the owners…and it was only passed down from owner to owner).  During our visit, we had the privilege of meeting Charlene, who now owns the popular restaurant with her husband.  She explained that when they bought Blue Ash a few years back, it had kind of been mistreated by its then owners. But not anymore…they have done a fantastic job bringing back the old regulars and new faithful followers alike; and with their amazing homemade chili and a million other delicious menu items, they are truly a contender for best Cincinnati-chili spot in the city.

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So we made it to Cincinnati and Blue Ash by lunch time on our first day of travel and after hitting the road bright and early at 6, we were definitely hungry.  It was definitely bustling inside the restaurant, but we were able to be seated right away and quickly attended to.  Of course we already knew what we would likely be ordering, but we still took a moment to peruse their very extensive menu; and although I knew what I wanted, from the looks of their gigantic and awesome looking club sandwiches (which they call ‘Double-Deckers’), I can tell you those items were not just on the menu as filler…plenty of people were ordering them and they looked delicious! (so I know what I’ll be ordering on my next visit ;))  Still, needing to test out the chili, Adam ordered a traditional 3-way and 2 cheese-coneys (his standard order) and I got a cheese-coney and cole slaw; and our waitress Anna had them out to us in a flash. It all looked almost too good to eat…almost ;)…

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That first bite sure took me back…as eating Cincinnati chili usually does, because until you have tried it, I can honestly say it’s unlike anything you have ever had before.  But there was definitely something different about this taste. Blue Ash’s chili is quite different than the Skyline I grew up eating, and the best way I can describe it is that is tasted…well….more homemade…fresh.  What stood out to me was how you could tell it was fresh and made in house, never frozen.  It was thicker and meatier than others I have tried, and you could taste the “chili” aspect, which I personally enjoyed a lot better.  I think this is because I typically eat coneys and I liked the fact that the chili was not as runny or messy.  Adam also greatly enjoyed it, and pretty much couldn’t stop thinking or talking about over the next week!

Maybe it was the mountain of cheese…maybe it was the REAL chili…maybe it was all of it together in a homemade way, but overall I was just so impressed with the environment and quality of the Blue Ash Chili product.  It truly felt like it was time honored and appreciated; and needless to say, by the end of our meal we were sufficiently stuffed!

SIGNATURE DISH: Definitely chiliI think the name of the restaurant speaks for itself…and chili they do have, from their coneys and Chili Philly (featured on Triple-D) to the 2-way through 6-way! They are even making lasagna with chili…come on!  I guess it clear to see that they aren’t afraid to tackle a dish with their signature chili. They know their chili is “where it’s at” and that means it can go on anything.

TASTE: I wish I could find the words to describe how much I liked this in better words than “I REALLY LIKE IT!  Of the two of us, I was just glowing after we left, because something about their chili was just better for me; and although I Adam really liked it…I LOVED it. You can’t beat the fresh, wholesome and good taste while still sticking to its good ol’ Cincinnati flavored roots.

AMBIANCE: I like the feel of this restaurant a lot. Typical of many of the other Cincinnati-chili staples in the area, Blue Ash felt like a diner would…but definitely updated.  Everything was clean, orderly, while still feeling like a good local hangout.  It was nice and buzzing at lunchtime, which added to the feeling of it being a place that people just want to frequent and hang, which I love.

PRICE: For 3 cheese-coneys, an order of cole slaw, a soda and a traditional 3-way…less than $15.00. That is AMAZING for two people for lunch!

SERVICE: I mentioned above that the service was very quick and very friendly.  Anna did a great job of answering our questions, checking in with us, and overall just being patient with the “out of town tourists.” We also had another server who was just as good, and Charlene was so sweet and just a joy to talk to.  It was great getting to know a bit about the restaurant straight from the source; and you could really tell just how much love she and her husband have for Blue Ash, and they convey that to their customers through providing a great product and working hard to please each and every person that comes through the door.

We had a wonderful visit at Blue Ash Chili and I really hope we can stop by for a visit again soon.  So if you’re looking for amazing food, wonderful service & hospitality, and a down-home yummy experience, I definitely recommend Blue Ash Chili.  I am happy to give Blue Ash Chili 4 1/2 ‘Little Piggies.’

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2 Responses to “Great Start to a Culinary Adventure”

  1. too fun! my mom and I were just talking about Cincinnati chili the other night! 🙂

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