Cincinnati Chili is not your typical chili, and many people are surprised by their first bite of this regional specialty. Since there are some differences in the way this local fare is made, I wanted to share what you can expect when tasting Cincinnati Chili for the first time:

cincinnati chili

  1. Cinnamon and sometimes chocolate – yes these are part of the delectable ingredients that make Cincinnati Chili so addictive!
  2. A soup-like consistency – it’s actually a Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce that was developed by Greek-Macedonian immigrant restaurateurs in the 1920s.
  3. Spaghetti and/or hot dogs – because of bullet point #2, this “meat sauce” is used as more of a topping. Much like goetta, immigrants were trying to make their food “go longer”, so using the chili as a topper to spaghetti (see below options) or hot dogs (called 'coneys') did just that!
  4. There’s a special language – when ordering at a local chili parlor, you must know a few key phrases:
    1. Two-way: spaghetti topped with chili
    2. Three-way: spaghetti topped with chili, add cheese
    3. Four-way: spaghetti topped with chili, add cheese and onions
    4. Five-way: spaghetti topped with chili, add cheese, onions and beans

Dixie Chili Coney

When it comes to taste-testing Cincinnati Chili, there is no shortage of parlors on both sides of the river: Camp Washington, Covington, Dixie, Gold Star, Skyline, etc. (Yes, I listed these in alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone). Even more options can be found here

True aficionados do not accept other people’s opinions on which parlor offers the best chili. Instead most people prefer to conduct their own “scientific research” by trying them all and deciding for themselves which is best (WARNING: this can be a point of contention at family functions if all parties are not in alignment on which parlor offers the best chili!)

Since today is National Chili Day, I encourage you to experiment on your own. You’ll have a lot of fun doing so, and you may discover a new local favorite!

Happy eating!