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Feb 8, 2008 10:23 AM

Just what IS Cincinnati Chili?

After reading a thread on the Chains board about Skyline Chili, I found it and tried it. I guess I am spoiled by Texas Chili, mine in particular, but I was not impressed. It was a bit runny, greasy, very finely ground meat, and had a cinnamon flavor? Is that what it was? I couldn't put my finger on it. Kind of a sweet flavor. So, was this just a bad representation, or is that how it usually is?

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  1. No. That's what it is. A completely different style of chili, especially compared to a shredded beef/chile peppers based Texas bowl of red.

    1. It's also not really meant to be eaten like Texas chili. Cincinnatti chili is more of a condiment -- a popular topping for spaghetti with cheese, or hot dogs.

      7 Replies
      1. re: DanaB

        yup, it's usually served on spaghetti. i think of it more as a different style of meat sauce. i'll probably catch some flak for saying it, but ime it's pretty gross-- although there is no reason it couldn't be executed very well; the times i've sampled it it was bland, sweet, heavy & greasy. sorry, i didn't like it. . .

        1. re: soupkitten

          Well, when I saw how thin it was I made a frito pie with it, but I just couldn't really enjoy the taste of it, so I added more fritos and cheese! looked at some recipes for it and saw that it has cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Very odd, for my palate anyway. I would have never thought to put it on spaghetti, even though I saw that in the other thread. Just seems so wrong to me. I guess I am a true Texan. Thank heaven for that!

          1. re: danhole

            Agree with everyone here and it is totally not comparable to Texas chili.

            I spent about 2 months in Cincinnati for work and the first time I tried it, I was disgusted by it, but little by little it grew on my and now I love my three way (spaghetti, chili and about 1/2 finely shredded cheese) and cheese coneys (hotdog, mustard, onions, chili and cheese). Maybe you should try it again, the proper way and see if it grows on you.

            1. re: ESNY

              I ate half of it one night and the other half the next day for lunch, and I'll admit it wasn't quite as bad the second time. I think it was a flavor shock. I had no idea it had cinnamon, etc., in it. It might be good over spaghetti, and I might try it again, but for now I have to make a pot of my Texas chili to get over the shock of it! LOL!

          2. re: soupkitten

            I'm in total agreement with soupkitten. It started out as a Greek version of spaghetti and, somehow, became known a Cincinnati chili. I've even read one recipe that uses chocolate. I guess it's an acquired taste. Not for me, though.

            1. re: grampart

              I don't think it was ever supposed to be compared with a traditional "bowl of red" as they are VERY different. I do like it as a 3-way on occasion for lunch when I am in the Cincy area, but I'm from Ohio. Go figure.

              1. re: grampart

                If you only read one recipe that included chocolate then the rest that you read are wrong. It has chocolate, cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg in it in various proportions.


          3. Cincinnati style chili was created by Greek and Lebanese immigrants to the area. Therefore it is more representative of Medeteranian flavors than Tex/Mex. I consider it more of a Greek pasta sauce than the kind of chili most Americans are familar with.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jackrugby

              Oh, that makes sense.

              I had it once on a business trip to Cincy, and wasn't overly impressed by it, but I'm still glad I tried it. I can see it being an "acquired" taste.

            2. Yeah...Cincinnati chili can't stand on it's own like real chili but it's good for a pasta sauce - which it's intended for.

              1 Reply
              1. re: hooliganyouth

                Cincinnati chili is just chili served on top of spaghetti, with several toppings from which one can choose. The Skyline chain has several restaurants throughout the Cincinnati area. I had this specialty there once. One thing about ti - it was cheap. Outside of that nothing that I care if I never eat again.

              2. Think Greek, not Mexican:)