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Cincinnati Chili

We're staying at the HI Express in Blue Ash. We've been recommended Blue Ash and Skyline Chili's. Which is better and more convenient??
I'm looking to get a 5 way and be a rootin' tootin' Reds fan that night!!


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  1. Both will be convenient as Blue Ash Chili is obviously in Blue Ash and there is a Skyline on practically every corner in Cincinnati. Skyline is better known since there are so many, but Blue Ash Chili is great as well - it has been here as long as I've lived here which is over twenty years. Now if you have a big appetite and want to try both, you could get a regular 5 way at Blue Ash Chili pregame and then get a coney from Skyline at the game as they have Skyline concessions at the ballpark!

    2 Replies
    1. re: cincinnatilisa

      Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!!!
      I think we have a winner.


      1. re: Davwud

        Or, at the very least, a wiener.

    2. You want Blue Ash Chili. Make sure you get at least one cheese coney. They also have make arguably the best double deckers in the city

      1. Don't know if you are interested, but Marx Bagels is just down the street from Blue Ash Chili and they make an AWESOME tuna salad bagel sandwich. Fun atmosphere as well.

        2 Replies
        1. re: cincinnatilisa

          Since my wife won't eat meat on Fridays, I may have to check that out.


          1. re: Davwud

            Marx bagels are the BEST i have ever had in MANY cities I've lived in. Love them. The service (intentionally - it's schtick or something) is bad but get some bagels! I went to hs right there and spent a lot of time at Marx. Also love Blue Ash chili (they're right - get a double decker too) and Skyline as well. Personally I don't like Gold Star but it's all preference. Have fun!

        2. The primary competitor to Skyline in Cincinnati is Gold Star Chili, and they offer a vegetarian version of their chili as well as a few other non-meat options

          Like Skyline, Gold Star locations are all over Cincinnati, very easy to find

          Check it out


          5 Replies
          1. re: TJ Jackson

            Skyline has a vegetarian version as well. I enjoy it in a burrito.

            1. re: TJ Jackson

              Not sure where to post this...but i lived in Columbus Ohio and love skyline chili and crave it constantly. I am not in L.A. area and would like to try to replicate the chili and open a business- my biggest problem is finding the small hot dogs buns and weiners. Can anyone help me with a supplier.

              Thanks so much

              1. re: Bev Stone

                If memory serves from my days working there, Skyline gets theirs from Bluegrass Meats.

                That said, more than one person has praised the links Gold Star uses. Of those surveyed, none of them actually enjoy Gold Star's chili so I take from that worthwhile praise.

                I don't know the source for buns but my guess is Klosterman Bakery in Cincinnati. Look them up online. If they don't carry them, they can tell you where to find them.

                The buns are held in a steam try to soften and warm. Don't skip this crucial step! Not sure how to replicate that at home, maybea steamer basket over very warm (not boiling!) water?

                1. re: Bev Stone

                  First off, if you really want to open a restaurant, you should easily be able to contract a bakery to make the dog buns.
                  Another option would be to make a full size dog and then cut it in half before pouring the chili on it.

                  Secondly, the same could apply to the dogs. Just go to a local butcher or two and see about a special order.

                  Thirdly, I'm sure you could contact Skyline and franchise.


                  1. re: Davwud

                    While all this is true, there's nothing like the real thing.

              2. OK, this is probably sacriligious to ask - but here it goes anyway - do any of these places make a beanless chili? We're heading to Cinncinati soon and while I want to try a Cinncinati speciality, I don't do beans.


                5 Replies
                1. re: kroppinkris

                  You're in luck. The beans in Cincinnati chili are an option, not a standard. The "3-way" is spaghetti, chili, and cheese (top with oyster crackers if desired); for a 4-way add either onions or beans, and for a 5-way add both (the acme of chili experience IMHO).

                  1. re: Jim M

                    Confirmed. Standard cincinnati style chili is meat, spices, and water. No beans. Beans are added seperately.

                    That said, some chili purveyors in Cincinnati have - in addition to and NOT in place of the standard chili - a chili that either includes beans or a chili in which beans are used in place of meat for a vegetarian meal.

                    1. re: TJ Jackson

                      We will definitely track down some Cinncinati chili on our visit then and I'll definitely have it "3 way"!


                    2. re: Jim M

                      I was always a fan of the three-way and the cheese coney during my Cincinnati years, but I have always wondered:

                      How do you order if you want chili, spaghetti, cheese, and beans, but NO onions? This is not a four-way ( a four-way would have onions but no beans).

                  2. My personal chili favorite is Skyline for convenience but you really have to try Dixie Chili if you're in Covington. Dixie is one of the best in the region.

                    DO NOT, under any circumstances go to Gold Star. It is rotten stuff.

                    1. There's nothing wrong with Gold Star. It isn't the best Cincinnati has to offer, nor is it the worst. To say it is "rotten stuff" is pure culinary snobbery. Said another way, if someone truly finds Goldstar to be "rotten stuff", the more accurate statement is "all cincinnati style (CS) chili is rotten stuff", since there are only slight degrees of difference between the best CS chili and the worst CS chili.

                      To my point about Gold Star - Gold star is one of the few local chili parlors to offer a vegetarian version of their chili. The original poster expressed a concern about meat, so I mentioned Gold star. Had he not expressed such a concern, I would continue to point out the better parlors. Gold Star was only brought up by me because of this expressed concern.

                      Confirmed that a three way with beans is actually ordered as a 4-way bean. A 4 way is a three way with beans OR onions (not both) added. A 5 way has both. So on a 4 way, you specify if it is beans or onions you want added.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: TJ Jackson

                        There are a lot of Cincinantians - myself included - that STRONGLY prefer Gold Star (and Empress) to Skyline Chili. The portions are better (like they actually put some chili on a 5-way) and the quality os more consistent.

                        The absolute worst chili parlors are some of the Skyline locations outside of the Cincinnati area.

                        1. re: jlawrence01

                          I'll assume that jlawrence and TJ are both Cincinnatians. I happen to be particular to my brands, as many people in Cincinnati are. I call Gold Star "rotten stuff" because it is sub-par to the qualities I prefer in other brands.
                          Admittedly, the differences in Cincinnati-style chili can be subtle but it is those subtleties that make a difference when you're dealing with a population that consumes up to and above five meals a week at their preferred supplier (my uncle and his associates, for one). I was using the term as an illustrative one, not a definiative one.

                          PS- it may be worth noting that Frank Bruni descibed his meal at Gold Star as the single worst in his fast food odessy several weeks ago.

                      2. Holy smokes have I opened up a can of worms, or chili as it were.
                        Thanks everyone for your help. I'm pretty sure we're gonna go to Blue Ash for a 5 way for me and Marx Bagels for my wife for a tuna (Or whatever she decides). Then I'll try a coney at the game (She can eat peanuts). Assuming I don't just absolutely not have a taste for your chili that is. I'm guessing it won't be a problem though.
                        Afterwards we plan on going to Arnold's Bar. Can we get a bite there after the game??
                        I also would like to know if I can pick up some goetta in a supermarket around there. It looks really good and I'd love to take some with us.

                        Thanks again


                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Davwud

                          Just a warning. Do not expect CC to taste anything like Texas chili, Mexican chile, or chilies (the capsicum pods).

                          Years ago in Columbus, a bunch of my friends were ecstatic that a CC place was finally opening in town. Having grown up in the west, I was really missing chili, so I eagerly accompanied them. To my pre-conceived notions of what chili is, CC has no right to the name.

                          Maybe these days, knowing that CC is not in any way related to what I consider chili, I would like it, but my mouth was so disappointed after that experience that I never had CC again.


                          1. re: Davwud

                            Re: preconceived notions of what chili is. A friend who grew up on the west side had never tasted Texas-style chili until she went to college. She'd had no idea the rest of the world ate something vastly different from Cincinnati Chili and considered that the 'real' chili.

                          2. Yes, you can get goetta in supermarkets. Look for the Glier's brand in the refrigerated meat sections; it comes in long tubes, like Bob Evans sausage, that you can slice and fry. If you can possibly make it to Findlay Market, Eckerlin Meats has the best in the city. Camp Washington Chili also has excellent goetta, made by a local butcher who is a defector from Glier's. Also also, Goettafest comes to the Newport riverfront Aug. 4-6. Also also also, Eckerlin says the trick to frying goetta (it falls apart) is to flip it in the pan just once, letting a good crust form before you do.

                            And not to start another argument about chili, but we had a discussion at work a few years back on what is a "natural" four-way. That is, if you just ask for a four-way, does it come without onions or without beans? I think somebody finally called Skyline, and the answer is that a natural four-way has beans, no onions.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: johnbycz

                              You guys must have been really, really bored to have a discussion about default config of a 4-way :-)

                              To be honest, anytime I have seen someone order a 4-way, the person taking the order has always asked the question rather than made an assumption, so I would think this rarely if ever comes up....but I'm now guilty of dragging this topic further off track, so let's get back to it rather than belabor this fine pont :-)

                              1. re: johnbycz

                                At Montgomery Skyline, an order of a "Four Way" gets you onions.

                                Agreed about Eckerlin Meats. Their goetta is well worth the trip.

                                1. re: johnbycz

                                  Findlay Market is worth a trip, but there are butcher shops all over Cincy (I'm trying to think of one right in Blue Ash but I know one will be close - Madeira where I'm used to isn't far) and almost all of them have better goetta than the prepackaged grocery store kind IMHO if you can't get to Findlay Market.

                                  1. I prefer Skyline over Gold star, not even close. But I know lots of people who prefer Gold star. My father in law says Gold star is much better, so one day we went to Skyline, got some coneys, and then got a Gold Star bag and told him it was Gold star. I guess its a southern ohio thing, bickering about goldstar versus skyline. That, and playing cornhole.

                                    1. Just started business travel to Ohio this year. One of the things I always like to do is get a taste of regional cuisine - local favorites. With that in mind, since I had heard so much about Skyline chili, I had it on my checklist.

                                      Sorry folks, I tried it (3-way) and can now safely cross it off my list. Maybe it is my Minnesota taste buds, or maybe you have to aquire a taste for it, but I just didn't understand the appeal.

                                      I'm sure I'll find many wonderful meals in Cincinnati, but I'll steer clear of the "chili" (might try a coney though)

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: Minnesotapix

                                        Try some goetta on your next trip <g>.

                                          1. re: Minnesotapix

                                            Go here:


                                            I'm a native Cincinnatian and I admit I've only eaten goetta once or twice, but it's not as bad as it sounds! Really. Trust me <g>. I think it's best as a sandwich, liberally doused with ketchup. But lots of folks consider it a breakfast food.

                                            1. re: Emm

                                              Thanks - it doesn't sound bad to me - I'll give it a shot next time I'm in the area.

                                              1. re: Minnesotapix

                                                yummy for breakfast - but keep in mind it's all in the cooking. Some slice thick and like it only mildly cooked on the griddle. I like it sliced pretty thin and griddled till it gets all crunchy. My favorite treat with some fried eggs and good toast.

                                        1. re: Minnesotapix

                                          I found that out of towners are often put off (as you seemed to be ala your use of the quotation marks around the word) by their own preconceived notions of what chili is. Not that this is odd - the topic of what is and is not chili and what does and does not belong therein has been a hot debate topic on foodie boards for as long as they have existed. That said, people generally like it better if they are told not to think of it as chili, but rather a type of hot dog and/or spaghetti topping - a gravey, a sauce, whatever - anything but chili as they understand it. With that adjustment, people tend to like it better in part because they don't have to try to figure out how this food could possibly be referred to as chili

                                          1. re: TJ Jackson

                                            exactly tj. i always think of cinci chili as greek diner spaghetti instead of chili. i can't tell any difference at all execpt ambiance in the various outlets, but i love the stuff.

                                            not to mention this reasoning is not limited to cinci chili. for example, i hope our op studies up before putting those minnesota taste buds into such a regional dish as chili in a place like texas too. "beans? whut the hail?, that's not chili, that's yankee food son!" -- lol!

                                            1. re: mrnyc

                                              I appreciate your concern for my well-being if I made the same mistake in Texas. I have had many a bowl of red in Texas, and in fact make a pretty good bowl myself fashioned the Texas way. Actually I think I've sampled chili most everywhere in this country and found nothing like what I had at Skyline. I agree - in the future I'll think of it as something we like to call in Minnesota - a "hotdish" (but I'll probably still steer clear of it).

                                              1. re: Minnesotapix

                                                Yum! I've read about hotdish in that hilarious book "How to Speak Minnesotan." I'm not sure it's the cuisine that's regional, though, maybe just the name. (I bet you'd feel right at home at my Lutheran church's potlucks.) But I bet you could make an excellent hotdish if you just baked a three- or four-way for a half hour at 350!

                                          2. re: Minnesotapix

                                            minnesotapix, the first thing anyone not from Cincinnati needs to do is not think of Cincinnati Chili as =chili=. It's a greek-style meat sauce for spaghetti. If you approach it that way, it's a whole different experience.

                                          3. I was wondering Davwud, this post has been going on now for over a month, have you tried Cincy Chili and if so what did you think?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. I got turned onto Skyline back when I was in college. A wise old student (picture jeremy piven from PCU) introduced me to Skyline and showed me a neat trick I've been showing people ever since. When youre sitting in the Skyline, grab a dirty old penny out of your pocket and put a small drop of Skyline hotsauce on it. Eat your meal, then wipe off the hot sauce with a napkin. Your guest will be amazed at how clean that little spot is on the penny! I know, you can do this with other stuff, but its part of the Skyline experience, at least for me!

                                              1. Apologies in advance to Cinn. Chili Lovers, but this is a true story. Several years ago colleagues took me to Blue Ash Chili for lunch. They made me order two Cheese Conies and Chili 4-way. Then the four of them ordered grilled cheese. I knew I was in trouble.

                                                Bite one of the Cheese Coney was immediately followed by a gag, no more coney for me. Pushed aside. :-(

                                                Bite into chili was immediately followed by gag number 2. Couldn't do it. :-((

                                                Since we were in Blue Ash I told them after they finished their grilled cheese could they please drive me to Montgomery Inn for a King Slab to bring back to the office for lunch. There is always a few bottles of MI sauce in the pantry. :-)))

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  Blue Ash Chili was under different management back then. The new owner is bringing the old Blue Ash chili back by using better food products (not skimping on the quality of the meat now). This was confirmed on my recent trip this weekend. The food was great, ham and beef double decker, 3 way and coneys were terrific.

                                                2. jfood...an amazing post. We went to the celebrated Montgomery Inn Friday night ONLY because we had gift cards. The food is amazingly bad. I guess if you like the sauce, which obviously you do, it'd be OK, but our biggest complaint was that everything tasted ovberwhelmingly like the sauce. The Saratoga chips are worse than bad. I think they were a good idea years ago, but now instead of crisp, thick potato-like thingies, you get thick, soggy, able to be bent-over things. And you get to dip them in THE SAUCE! I'm sad that we have 24.00 left on our gift cards. Don't know what we'll do...maybe stop in for a drink. This would be the last place I'd eat in Cincinnati.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: sudiepav

                                                    I've only been to the Montgomery Inn once (the one in Montgomery, not the one on the Riverfront). I didn't think the food was terrible, but I was underwhelmed enough that I wouldn't go back. You might try selling your gift card on Ebay. I've never bought or sold one there, but I think people do so routinely.

                                                    Some amazingly mediocre restaurants manage to stay in business in Cincinnati and some like the MI actually thrive. And when I say that, it's definitely not from the perspective of a food snob. In many ways it's a blue-collar town and I can only surmise that low expectations make this possible.

                                                    1. re: Emm

                                                      Montgomery Inn is probably the most overrated restaurant in Cincinnati. Most food is mediocre. Go somewhere else.

                                                  2. As the saying goes, 50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong. I've lived in Cincinnati for 22 years, and have introduced countless relatives and friends to both Cincinnati chili and Montgomery Inn ribs, and by and large they love it all. The chili isn't traditional chili, and the ribs aren't real BBQ, and if you can get past that, it's still pretty good eatin'. I've had bad experiences in lots of legendary eateries -- the Carnegie Deli heads that list -- but that's not to say they don't have some redeeming value (like the Carnegie's incredible open-face reuben), which is what I thought Chowhounds were supposed to look for.

                                                    That said, y'all have every right to express a personal opinion, but when you start insulting the people who like these places with lines like "blue collar" and "low expectations," I think you've crossed a line. As I see it, Cincinnati's problem isn't low expectations, but intolerance.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: johnbycz

                                                      My apologies--no offense was intended, nor did I intend to insult the customers of any specific business. I moved back to Cincinnati six years ago from a more economically prosperous community, and since then I've tried out any number of restaurants which due to poor quality of food and/or service would not have lasted six months where I used to live.

                                                      I think there's probably another factor besides economics at work in the case of places like the Montgomery Inn, though. Cincinnati is also an extremely conservative place, and I think laurel-resting may be more prevalent here than elsewhere, too. In other words, it's gotta be a status thing for a lot of their return customers.

                                                      As for intolerance, I'm intolerant of wasting my money on mediocre food. I want decent value, which is why in patronize Pit to Plate or Barbecue Review instead of the Montgomery Inn's "not real barbecue," as you term it.

                                                    2. Might I suggest we start a new topic re: Montgomery Inn or BBQ in Cincinnati if we want to continue the current conversation? Not angry, just thinking that these comments would be easier to find under the right topic name

                                                      1. I was a hostess and Montgomery Inn in Montgomery during the summer when I was in college. The food isn't great and the ribs aren't "real" bbq and I can agree with the comment that often everything tastes like the sauce. I think it is because the sauce is so overwhelmingsly sweet. The restaurant in more of a local tradition than anything else. Not for foodies, but a place to meet with old friends, family and remember the first time you ate there when it was half the current size & you were still ordering off the kiddie menu.

                                                        Emm, I think you need to get out an explore more given your thoughts of Cincinnati. There are some really wonderful restaurants that are niether blue collar or conservative and the fact that this is your sole impression is a bit odd. I think every city has some areas that are more "economically prosperous" than others and there are certainly plenty of well to do areas of Cincinnati that would rival any town.

                                                        1. Lisa, I'm not sure what gave you the impression I haven't found any good restaurants in Cincinnati, or that I don't get out much. I just said I've found some really bad ones, and speculated on how they manage to stay in business. Probably local tradition, as you say, plays a role.

                                                          As for ones I like, for the sake of this discussion, I'll stick mostly to locally owned independents--Primavista, Ferrari's, Barresi's (when I can afford it!), and La Petite France are severak if my hubby's and my special occasion places. Sometimes Jack Ruby's although I hate paying a lot for dinner when there's a bunch of TV sets visible in the dining room. (Seriously, where but in Cincinnati? If that's not a blue-collar thing, I don't know what is!) We like the Chart House for seafood, although that's a chain. More often, though, we end up at less expensive places like Sebastians, the two barbecue spots I mentioned earlier, Kreimer's out in Miamitown, Arthur's in Hyde Park, Habits in Oakley, or Maury's Tiny Cove in Cheviot.

                                                          Could you please share some of your favorites?

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Emm

                                                            Since I didn't know that BBQ was being discussed here, I just posted a BBQ suggestion on the Tucker's area. My suggestion is Geno's in Milford.

                                                            This is a small family owned hole in the wall place with terrific ribs, chicken, etc. and really fine sides. The desserts are out of this world, too. And Geno and his family are great people. Their little foster daughter was there last time, and she is so cute and smart. This place started out in a defunct garage in Milford. It was good then and it is still really good.

                                                            1. re: Emm

                                                              Funny to see someone mention Barresi's on chowhound. I've actually never been (or went as a kid and don't remember) but a friend of mine from grade school just took over as chef/owner there and since I hope she does well, I hope it's fabulous!

                                                            2. I am surprised not to see anyone mention Chili Time in Saint Bernard 4727 Vine St Cincinnati. I believe there is a second location. I am from Florida and would get some from a relative, sometimes would get a few pints frozen to bring back with me . Much better than Skyline or Goldstar. When I get the craving for 3 way I have to settle for Skyline in the frozen food section of Publix.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: scottinotown

                                                                Sorry, there is a reason that Chili Time only has one restaurant in the Queen City. It plainly is not that good. It moved from Roselawn a few years ago and its businness is simply a local affair. No one goes out of their way to go to Chili Time....as they would Pleasant Ridge Chili or Blue Ash Chili. As to whether Skyline or Gold Star is better, take your pick. I believe Gold Star is, but the difference is so slight it is hard to say. Blue Ash Chili is probably the best chili restaurant in Cincinnati.

                                                              2. Had to relate a Cincy chili story....when I first moved to Cincy in 1987 I was all excited to get a taste of the FAMOUS chili because I have loved all types of chili all of my life. I went strolling into Skyline and ordered up a big BOWL of chili. Was promptly delivered a bowl of watery spaghetti sauce with little crumbs of meat in it. I couldn't believe that the locals thought this stuff was great. It was only later that my co-workers, who were all natives, informed me of the proper way to order Cincinnati chili. I grew to love the 3-ways and the cheese coneys. Gotta say that I've tried them all and Gold Star is my favorite. I find it spicier than the others, especially Skyline. The natives still think I'm crazy because I prefer Gold Star over the much revered Skyline.

                                                                1. Choose Blue Ash Chili!! While Skyline is the big chain with the classic three-ways etc....Blue Ash has that plus much more. All Cinti chili is comparable (I know some will argue this, but it is the truth. It is all about the same.) Blue Ash Chili has a much broader menu is more of a real restaurant!

                                                                  1. I have to admit when I went to the University of Cincinnati in the mid 60s I had never heard of nor recall eating Cincinnati style chili. The phenomena must have become more popular after. I did have a 5-way at Skyline Chili last month. I liked it but it does not seem to be chili to me as I have come to know chili. I would lean toward the Texas style definition. To me Cincinnati chili is a Greek variant of Spaghetti sauce.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Davydd

                                                                      Cincinnati chili has been around since the 1920's and Skyline had 15-20 locations as early as the 1960.

                                                                      1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                        We've moved a subdiscussion of recipes for using Skyline to the Home Cooking Board here. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/530149

                                                                    2. Is the Chili Company still around anywhere?

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                                        If you mean the 24-hour place on Madison, no it closed awhile ago.

                                                                        1. re: angs9

                                                                          A few years back there was one in Lebanon I enjoyed. It became The Breakfast Club. I thought there were a handful of them.

                                                                      2. I stopped at Skyline on a trip back from Kentucky this weekend. The last time I visited one, I was not impressed with the chili, but this time I ordered it atop a baked potato. That's a stellar combination: the potato gives the dish some heft. There is a strong taste of nutmeg in Skyline chili, which can be a little odd until you get used to it. I agree that it's nothing like Texas chili, but it's enjoyable.

                                                                        1. Someone brought me a can of Skyline Chili from Columbus.
                                                                          It's ok except for the cinnamon spice I detected. What's that all about?

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: monku

                                                                            there's cinnamon and chocolate in cincy chili. just the way it is. but it's greek in origin and i know many greek dishes have a cinnamon or sweet flavor that is unusual.

                                                                            1. re: monku

                                                                              that is the best thing about the stuff. I would say it is an aquired taste, but I loved it the very first time.

                                                                              1. re: lyn

                                                                                Oh, how I miss Cincinnati chili! Yes, it's unique, but delicious. Skyline is my favorite, as messy as they come!

                                                                                1. re: pine time

                                                                                  Mrs. Sippi was almost apoplectic as we neared Cinci coming home from Thanksgiving. It was funny.

                                                                                  And great.