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Damn, I want some Skyline Chili!

For years, long before I ever heard of Skyline Chili and their famed three-ways, four-ways, and five-ways, I was cooking "Cowboy Spaghetti" for my family: relatively tamed-down chili served over pasta and covered with melted cheese, a zingier alternative to meat sauce, but still so not-spicy so my parents could enjoy it.

Serving chili over spaghetti noodles is a Cincinatti chili tradition, and Skyline is the most famous and well-known of the Cinicinatti chili parlor chains. Originated by a Greek immigrant, the chili is not spicy or chunky, but more of a thin, meaty sauce that is perfect for serving over spaghetti or hot dogs (Coney dogs) and smothering with mounds of shredded bright orange cheddar cheese. Chili purists would probably hate the stuff (it contains cinnamon, among other things), and while it isn't likely to win any chili cookoffs, it is damn good if you're in the mood for it. And I've been in the mood for it lately!

Skyline's website lists their locations: mostly in Ohio, with a few in Kentucky, Indiana, and oh yes, Florida, where I live. Just none of them are anywhere close to me in the Orlando area. I really wish they would open one here -- we get so many tourists from the Midwest that I'm sure a Skyline parlor would be a welcome sight. Plus chains tend to flourish in our market, just for the novelty factor alone. I've been to the two locations in Fort Lauderdale, but not in years. Occasionally I can even find their chili in the frozen food case at Publix supermarket, but again, not in a few years. I find myself needing a fix.

The more ubiquitous Steak 'n' Shake chain serves chili mac three-ways, four-ways, and five-ways, but it isn't the same (and like I said, anyone can make their own chili and serve it over pasta). Skyline just has a really unique product that is worth trying at least once. Their chili really is like nothing else, and I personally love it. Are there any other fans here?

Skyline's website: http://www.skylinechili.com/
Locations: http://www.skylinechili.com/locations...

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  1. Being from Cincinnati and often needing a fix myself, my mother always gives me a couple of cans for christmas. The canned stuff isn't as good but works in a pinch. The first thing I always do when I go home to Cincinnati from Boston is eat at Skyline and et a small 3 way and one cheese coney. My husband and I almost didn't get married because he didn't like skyline at first. Just kidding, kinda of. :)

    1. If you were jones-ing enough to have Skyline (sometimes pronounced as Ska-lee-nee) you would make the trip to Ft. Lauderdale. You just dont want it bad enough, I guess !

      7 Replies
      1. re: smt

        I have never, ever heard it pronounced Ska-lee-nee - and I grew up in Cincinnati. It's Skyline, as in a city skyline. Is that a joke pronunciation like Tar-jay for Target?

        1. re: smt

          Not with gas as high as $3.25 a gallon. I could drive three hours expensively, or I can just make my own chili!

          But I did buy a package from the frozen food case tonight, and I'll probably pour it over some spaghetti later this week.

          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

            Well, it wasn't as good as I remembered it. I don't think the frozen stuff would be as good, and I didn't have the right kind of shockingly orange shredded cheese either. Oh well.

            1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

              You are right on about the "Cincinnati Recipe Chili Mix". I converted my wife to Cincy Chili and she makes it pretty darn close to Skyline's with those spice packets. My wife just won't mash oyster crackers into her chili!

          2. re: smt

            I grew up in Cincinnati and I have heard the alternate pronunciation. Of course I left Cincy after college 23 years ago. Skyline was the best after punk shows at Bogart's or Sudsy Malone's (Especially the Wolverton Bros.)

            1. re: RevJay

              Wow, the late lamented Sudsy's! Sounds like you went to UC about the same time I did, going to shows on Short Vine back when that weird arcade (Jupiters?) was next to Bogarts. My old band played Sudsy's several times & I went to tons of shows there, and Skyline was always great at 2am before stumbling back to the dorm.

          3. I am a native Cincinnatian and have had shipments of Cincinnati-style chili mailed to me on occasion over the years.

            The best canned variety was Stegners, a small packer known for their chili, turtle soup, and mock turtle soup. Unfortunately, they expanded into MREs and went out of business in 2003.

            Actually, my best experience recently was to buy a chili mix called "Cincinnati Recipe Chili Mix" which is available at most Krogers stores in the Cincinnati area and can be ordered at (800) 443-4371. If prepared as directed on the package AND if you use 80/20 ground beef, the taste is very close to Skyline's.

            Both Gold Star and Skylines can be ordered over the internet at their websites.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jlawrence01

              I have also used the Cincinnati recipe mix with excellent results. It's been a while since I've seen it in a regular grocery store in Milwaukee, but I find it occasionally at Big Lots. Strangely enough, frozen Skyline also occasionally turns up there.

              1. re: Fydeaux

                If you have problems finding it, e-mail me as I have quite a supply as I am in Cincinnati 3-4x per year.

            2. I like Skyline. It's available at Kroger stores in Houston frozen or canned and they've also had another canned product which I can't remember the name of. The frozen is better and I nearly always have some in the freezer. I think Kroger is Cincinnatti based.

              I do have my own heresy when it comes to serving it, however. I like a 4 way - don't like the beans. Is there some special type of red bean to use like the special type of red beans used by Cajuns for red beans and rice?

              Anyway, I've seen this prepared on a feature on FoodTV and read the instructions but I don't like as much cheese as those indicate. I use extra onions, a blend of cheeses, and then pop it in the oven and bake it until the cheese melts at least a little and the onions sweeten-up.

              I suppose if I ever walked into a chili parlor in Cin and asked for it that way, I'd be run out of town????

              17 Replies
              1. re: brucesw

                I also have an easy time forgoing the beans in chili, so a three or four way is my usual order. It's been a while, but my memory is that they just used ordinary red kidney beans, nothing special. (And that is what I happen to use when I make red beans & rice.)

                But unless things have changed a great deal since my last visit to a Skyline, what they have is what they have. While I'm pretty sure you wouldnt get run out of town for wanting your order finished in the oven, I dont think you could get it either. You can ask for extra onions and less cheese, but all they ever had when I was around was the shredded mild to medium cheddar. It would always melt on its own from the warmth of the chili.

                1. re: Fydeaux

                  Have you tried the Milwaukee chili parlor, REAL CHILI, which is located near the Marquette campus? The chili is actually fairly similar (but not identical) to Cincinnati chili. The ATMOSPHERE is identical to the OLDER Empress/Skyline locations in Cincinnati.

                  (Gold Star has no *OLD* locations as it was founded in Mt. Washington area of Cincinnati in 1964. I must confess that we ate at the founders first restaurant (family of 5 for $6) and that we were there at the opening of the first Gold Star.)

                  1. re: jlawrence01

                    I am a big big fan of Real Chili ("It's not just for breakfast anymore") and you are correct about the ambiance. There are two locations, the other being about 20 blocks to the east on the same street (near the Milwaukee School of Engineering) . The chili itself is as close to Cinti chili as I have ever had outside of Cinti, but I sure do miss those weird little red hot dogs they use for the coneys; RC uses full size dogs.

                    1. re: Fydeaux

                      You MEAN the incredible SHRINKING dogs. My uncles absolutely refuse to buy a coney island as they get progressively smaller. They are pretty good though.

                      1. re: jlawrence01

                        jlawrence01, tell your uncles to try the chili sandwiches. They're exactly the same as a coney, but omit the nasty little weinies. They're my latest thing & they taste FAB!!

                        1. re: nojunk

                          No junk,
                          Cincinnati natives generally have their own recipes (all of which are pretty close to Gold Star/ Empress/ Skyline) for chili. They pretty much make their own and use the ingredients that they like - Kahn's all beef 8-1 hot dogs, Klostermann's rolls, homemade chili and Husman's potato chips.

                  2. re: Fydeaux

                    Wow. When I've seen this demo'd on FoodTV there was a HUGE pile of shredded cheese on top.

                    Anyway, glad to know I don't have to avoid Cin if I'm ever up that way!

                    1. re: brucesw

                      If you're in the Cinci area, you should try out Skyline or one of the other chili parlours.
                      The cheese they mound on it is bordering on comical.


                      1. re: Davwud

                        You know what's unbelievable...Skyline also offers EXTRA cheese on top of the decadent mound they give you with a "regular" order...a heart attack in the making...but unbelievably delicious!

                        Connect through the Cincinnati airport and you can visit a Gold Star chili in the Delta terminal.

                        1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                          Extra cheese?? C'mon!!
                          I just have this mental image of a farm full of cows completely exhausted from all the milk harvested from them for Cinci cheese.

                          Is it me or is it a different colour of regular cheddar?? It's like signature yellow/orange.


                  3. re: brucesw

                    >>I suppose if I ever walked into a chili parlor in Cin and asked for it that way, I'd be run out of town????>>

                    No. However, I do not believe that most of the "Big 3" (Skyline, Gold Star and Empress) have ovens in their restaurants.

                    Barney Kroger's founded his supermarket in a small storefront in Cincinnati about 150 years ago.

                    1. re: brucesw

                      Bruce - my Kroger no longer carries it (on 43rd). Where did you find it? Not that Im in need of more heartburn, but it was nice to keep a few cans on the shelf for emergencies....I always thought Kroger only carried it because Kroger and Skyline were both based in Cincinnati,

                      1. re: Cheflambo

                        The Kroger Sig at S. Post Oak @ W. Bellfort - I've gotten all three there. I think I've also seen the two varieties of Skyline at the big Kroger Sig on Westpark @ Buffalo Spdwy.

                        You've really got to look for it in the frozen foods section, though.

                        Maybe just ask your manager for it? They've probably got it in town at a warehouse somewhere and could get some in stock?

                        1. re: Cheflambo

                          Cheflambo, have you looked at the Krogers on 11th? The 43rd location is my store, too. I think I remember seeing it before, but never tried it. Now I want to try it! Maybe we should tell the manager to put it back out there. You can do that, and sometimes it works!

                          1. re: Cheflambo


                            They have Skyline Chili at the 43rd St. Kroger. It's to the right of the eggrolls, in the "International" frozen section! I bought some yesterday. I didn't look at the canned items, though.

                            1. re: danhole

                              Tried it and didn't really like it at all. Oh well.

                              1. re: danhole

                                Oh yeah ... I can feel the heartburn now. I'll look for it again. Im not a big fan of that chili (ate plenty of it when I lived there) but its not a visit to Cincy without a 3-way. (Insert joke here)

                        2. I am so happy to know there are Skyline's in Ft Lauderdale. I live in Miami and have been to locations in Fort Myers and Tampa, but didn't know about the 25 mile away ones.

                          When I lived in Orlando, my mom and I drove to the Tampa location for a afternoon fix...it's worth it.

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: herbage

                              Are you kidding? A Skyline in Ft. Lauderdale? I'll be in FtL this weekend ... guess I should check it out!! (as if my in-law's thanksgiving dinner wont give me enough heartburn!)

                            2. Oh, you are so lucky to be in a state that somewhere sells Skyline. We get cans for Christmas. San Francisco has no Cincinnati Chili. When we run out of cans, which I add about a pound of hamburger to, we make our own. I have never seen it frozen. Every now and then we get White Castles frozen, but that is another topic.

                              The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American has a wonderful Cincinnati Chili recipe. I know, he is not liked now. But his recipes are great.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Janet

                                We don't get Cinci chili here in Ontario so I just make my own. Works out just fine. It's not quite authentic but it's a very respectable facsimile there of. It certainly fills the void until the next time we carve our way through Ohio.


                                1. re: Davwud

                                  All the Meijer stores in Chicago carry Skyline in the freezer section - - tastes the same as in Cinci.

                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    If you make it yourself, I've found that one trick in getting the authentic Cincinnati taste is to boil the ground beef in beef broth for half an hour or so at the start. If you're worried about the fat you can always skim it off later after you chill it and let it age for a day (which you should).

                                    I'll pick up some of the Kroger mix sometime--sounds good.

                                    1. re: Jim M

                                      The ATK recipe calls for boiling it for only a few minutes and carefully straining it to give you strands of cooked beef.


                                    2. re: Davwud

                                      I just made a large batch last week (an amalgam of a few similar recipes) and it came out great. Would love to buy the original, but this is a tasty alternative that those of us who live far away can have any time!

                                  2. One of Nissan's most popular cars in Japan is the Nissan Skyline.