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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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The Standard Order

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’

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