Saturday, May 9, 2009

Welcome to Chili Town

The sign as you cross the Ohio River and into Cincinnati reads "Welcome to Chili Town." Cincinnati hails it's self as the chili capital of America. A banner that must curl the toes of many a Texan. The truth is, as far as chili parlours go, Cinci probably is the capital. The other truth is, about the only thing it has in common with a bowl of red is meat. Beef of course.

Invented in the 20's by brothers Tom and John Kiradjieff. Cincinnati Chili is more of a spaghetti sauce with unusual flavours. There are no beans in it and it's main flavours are allspice and cinnamon. Other flavours include garlic, cocoa powder, onion and tomato sauce. The brothers started serving their concoction at their restaurant, the Empress.
Empress cook, Lambrinides, a Greek immigrant continued to play with the formula and eventually perfected the modern chili recipe and opened Skyline Chili on a hill overlooking the city. A chili craze was born.

Cincinnati chili is essentially served two ways. One as a Coney sauce over small hot dogs or "Pups" and topped with an absurd amount of cheese. As shown in the following photo.

The second way is served over spaghetti known as a "3-way." (As seen in photo below) Adding onions or red kidney beans makes it a "4-way" and the addition of both makes it a "5-way." Also topped with an absurd amount of cheese. A vinegary hot sauce and oyster crackers are the typical sides.

When I say, "An absurd amount of cheese" don't get me wrong. It's an absurd amount. Cincinnati consumes more cheese per capita than any other city in America.

This unique type of chili has led to many discussions and debates about whether or not it really is chili. It's unique combination of flavours is somewhat of an acquired taste and not really to be compared with the chilis of Texas and for that matter, the rest of the world.
Call it what you like but if you're in the Greater Cincinnati area and are looking for an interesting dining experience, give Cinci chili a try. Just don't expect it to taste like anything you've had before.
Featured restaurant is Skyline Chili, 7899 Mall Rd. Florence, Ky.
Skyline Chili on Urbanspoon