Monday, February 28, 2011

Gold Star to expand outside of USA

Cincinnati style chili can be a hard sell to someone not from Cincinnati. It took Alison three tries before she fell in love with it. I know plenty of people not from Cincinnati that felt the same way Alison did, and I know many outsiders who just don't like it. We will soon find out how people outside the United States feel about Cincinnati chili. Gold Star Chili has announced they will open three stores in Beijing by the end of June. It's an interesting concept which apparently has worked for Papa John's Pizza.  Go here for the full story by the Cincinnati Enquirer's (and fellow graduate of the Walnut Hills High class of 2000) Laura Baverman.

Gold Star is also introducing a new line of Vegetarian chili to their menu, which will feature a bowl of veggie chili, veggie chili burrito, veggie chili burrito bowl and a veggie chili salad. These options are also vegan friendly.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Poll: How many chili parlors have you been to?

It seems like every week we come across new chili parlors to add to the list. Before starting the quest I had only been to three parlors (Skyline, Gold Star and Dixie) and Alison only one (Skyline). The latest poll question asks how many chili parlors (or restaurants that serve Cincinnati style chili) have you been to? Feel free to tell us which placed you have been to in the comments section.

The options for this poll will be:

More than 6

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February 24th National Chili Day

Whether you know it or not, every day on the calendar is a holiday. We have our well known ones like the just celebrated President's Day and obscure ones like International Talk Like a Pirate Day and That's What She Said Day. February 24th is National Chili Day. We love our style of chili here in Cincinnati and we should all celebrate by having a coney or two. Gold Star Chili will be sending out their "Chilimobile" to the Newport Kroger (from 10AM - Noon) and the Forrest Hills Kroger (from 12:30 PM - 2:30) where they will be handing out free chili samples. I have not heard of any other parlors running any chili day promotions, if there are any please let us know!

Here are some interesting numbers about the impact of chili in the Cincinnati region*:
  • Collective 200+ local chili parlors
  • $48,000,000 payroll/2700 employees
  • $45,000,000 spent with local food vendors for ingredients
  • $38,000,000 spent with vendors for other operating expenses
  • $12,000,000 spent to build & equip new stores
  • $16,000,000 spent on grocery retail manufacturing and distribution
  • $159,000,000 annual impact
  • Greater impact that any other local restaurant concept
Other components of the cheese coney have their own days too: July 23 is National Hot Dog Day, January 20 is Cheese Day and August 4 is Mustard Day. Could not find an Onion Day but there is an Onion Ring day (June 22).

*Thanks to Gold Star Chili for supplying these stats

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cleves Drive-In non-chili review

The Cincinnati Coney Quest hit a slight road bump today. We went out to Cleves, OH to try out Cleves Drive-In, which formally was called Cleves Chili Parlor. A couple of weeks ago, before I was aware of the name change, I called ahead to see if they were still in business. Conversation went like this:

Employee: Hello, Cleves Drive-In
Me: Umm, is this Cleves Chili Parlor?
Employee: Yes it is.

Since the employee said that it was the chili parlor, I did not think I should ask if they served cheese coneys. Apparently I should have. Even though it used to be called Cleves Chili Parlor and the employees won't correct you if you call it that, they no longer serve chili. The description needs to be updated as well. It was disappointing to find out they no longer serve chili especially since this restaurant was the furthest away from us on the quest. If you are out there and really need chili there is a Skyline next door. We decided to stay at the Drive-In and have lunch there anyway.

It is a nice restaurant so even though our coney dreams were crushed we still got a decent lunch. I describe it as a more homey Bob Evans that really likes horse racing. There were a lot of horse decorations and the TV had on a horse racing station. I went with a cheeseburger and Alison went with the turkey club. We both enjoyed our food, probably not something worth going out of the way for, but at least it tasted good enough to make it worth our time.

We came home from Cleves and immediately drew a new location for quest stop #10, which will be JK's Chili.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Coney Quest Drawing #10

Tonight was time for one of our favorite parts of the quest, the drawing of the next location! With this upcoming weekend being a 3-day weekend, we plan on making our next stop on President's Day. Clearly George Washington would have wanted us celebrating his birthday by eating one of our favorite foods.

Without further adieu, stop number ten on the Cincinnati Coney Quest will be...

Cleves Chili!

This is one of the latest additions to the quest. Before embarking on our journey I have never heard of Cleves Chili but came across it on the chili parlor listings on the Chilitown USA website. I cant even recall a time that I have been in Cleves, so we look forward to making our trip out to the western most location of the quest to experience Cleves and their chili.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

1978 Cincinnati Magazine issue about Cincinnati chili

From time to time I like to research the internet to find out more information about our beloved Cincinnati style chili. Today I stumbled across an issue of Cincinnati Magazine from 1978 which featured "The Red Hot Guide to Cincinnati Chili". This guide recounts the tale of how Empress Chili was founded, has short reviews (sometimes very snarky) of chili parlors, ties in politics and fashion and even shows you how to create your own chili parlor inside your home.

It is an interesting read, if you have some spare time or would like to read about how Cincinnati chili was viewed in the past, follow this link: Cincinnati Magazine October 1978

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Poll results: Chain vs. Independent

The latest poll was not a close one. We asked our readers if they preferred going to one of the chain chili parlors in town (Skyline, Gold Star, Dixie or Empress) or one of the independent parlors. The chains won in a landslide earning 76% of the vote.

I'm not surprised that the chains won, when you think Cincinnati chili the first though many have is Skyline or Gold Star, but I'm a bit surprised It won by such a large margin. Places like Camp Washington, Pleasant Ridge and Blue Ash have a large following amongst the Cincinnati chili parlors, but obviously not as large of a following as the bigger parlors.

Later on in the quest we will ask what your favorite of the chains are and what your favorite of the independents are.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vote for CCQ and other Chili tidbits

City Beat is holding their annual Best of Cincinnati Poll, while Cincinnati Coney Quest isn't officially nominated, we would appreciate if you wrote in Cincinnati Coney Quest. is where the ballot can be found. Best Blog can be found in the Public Eye category. Sure we don't expect to win, but who knows how long the quest will take, so might as well go for it while we can. Vote Coney!

In other Cincinnati chili related news:

  • YahooShine recently came out with a list of the Top 10 Chili Places in America, and Cincinnati's own Camp Washington Chili is represented! Camp Washington checks in at #6 and the article states "you either love Cincinnati chili or you don't, there is no middle ground" and that is an accurate statement. I am a fan of Camp Washington Chili and happy to see they made the list. Article can be found here:

  • Downtown bar Knockback Nats (7th and Race) is holding their annual Chili Cookoff on Sunday Feburary 13th at 4PM. While its not Cincinnati style chili, its still a good event at a bar I frequent from time to time. If you want to sample some great homemade chili, be sure to head to Knockback Nats on Sunday!

  • Looks like Cincinnati chili isn't just popular in America. I found this picture on twitter, it's a sign for the Chili House in Amman, Jordan which features combos of Cincinnati Chili. This sign reminds me of Gold Star so I wonder if a former Gold Star worker started this restaurant or maybe a displaced Cincinnatian that is a big Gold Star fan. Either way, very cool to see! (credit @downsanddirty for the picture)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gold Star Chili Review

For quest stop #9 we visited one of the major players in the Cincinnati chili scene, Gold Star Chili. Gold Star is the largest Cincinnati style chili chain in the world. As a life long Cincinnatian, I had been to Gold Star plenty of times.  This is why we waited this long in the quest.  It gave me more of an opportunity to look at Gold Star with a fresh set of eyes. Alison however had never been to Gold Star.  Prior to the quest she had only been to Skyline, so she was excited to try Gold Star's take on chili.

As we have found out, there are plenty of options when it comes to chili in this town, but the biggest debate will always feature Skyline and Gold Star. A month ago I was getting lunch at Potbelly and two of the workers got into a spirited debate about Skyline and Gold Star.  If I had a business card with the blog's address listed I would have definitely gave it to them. Gold Star refers to their chili as "The Flavor of Cincinnati", but does it live up to its bold claim?

We decided to visit the Mount Washington Gold Star, although its not the same restaurant as the original, Gold Star did begin in Mount Washington, so we found this to be the appropriate one to visit. The interior and exterior have a fast food restaurant feel to it, but it was clean and the waitress was friendly which made it feel less fast food like. Since Gold Star was founded in Mount Washington I would have liked to have seen more acknowledgment of its history in that area, if you did not know its history there isn't anything there that would make you aware of that fact. Instead the decor was mostly photos of their products.

The Gold Star menu sticks to what they are good at, chili. A majority of the menu items feature chili as the main ingredient. Along the quest we have visited many places that feature a diner style menu, so this was a nice change. I don't mean to imply the Gold Star menu is small, they do get creative with the menu. Best example of this would be their newest menu item, the Cincinnati Style Burrito. Which is a large Chipotle like burrito, with Gold Star Chili as one of the main ingredients. I also noticed on the menu you have the option of ordering Tex-Mex style chili, which could be a good option for someone that just doesn't like Cincinnati style chili. If a regular coney doesn't have enough kick for you, you can order a Firehouse Coney, which has a red pepper sauce and a pepper spice blend added to the coney.

Clint's Review

I have been to Gold Star countless times in the past. For the quest however I had to erase any thoughts I once had about Gold Star and taste the coneys with a clean, unbiased palette. Surprisingly it wasn't as difficult to judge as had thought it would be. I haven't had any Gold Star since the Summer of 2010 and I obviously have had many varieties of Cincinnati chili during that time frame. I didn't completely forget how Gold Star tasted, but there was some newness there as well.

Gold Star dubs itself the flavor of Cincinnati, and flavor is a good term to use when describing their chili. There are a lot of flavor varieties in the chili and while I can't pinpoint what all the ingredients are, I did enjoy its taste. There isn't much noticeable heat level spice, which is something I would have liked a little more of. Its also not an overly sweet chili, but it does have a nice sweet undertone to it.

Another aspect Gold Star prides its self on is that everything is local. They use Blue Grass hot dogs and they were certainly some of the best I have tasted thus far. The buns are made by Klosterman, they were soft, fresh and held up well. The cheese also tasted very fresh and was shredded well. Even the oyster crackers are locally made by Kroger. I was happy to hear that Gold Star stays in Cincinnati for so many of their ingredients.

Overall I give Gold Star Chili a 3.75 out of 5. Gold Star seems to have the savory and sweet spices down, only thing it is missing is a dash of heat. While they might not get my highest rating, I enjoyed the coneys enough that I don't have a problem with their claim of  "The Flavor of Cincinnati".

Alison's Review

It amazing to think that I've been in Cincinnati over 5 years without ever stepping foot into a Gold Star. And I must say that I was taken by surprise by this chili. Since Gold Star is the biggest chain of chili parlors in Cincinnati, and Cincinnati-style chili is notoriously sweet, I was expecting a very sweet chili sauce. This was not the case. Yes, there was sweetness, but only as a mild undertone. A couple of the previous parlors we've visited had much sweeter chili (Blue Ash and Pleasant Ridge). But Gold Star is set apart from the other less sweet, more savory chilis we've sampled (Dixie, Camp Washington, Chili Time) in that the prominent flavors are not garlic and onion but rather mustard and black pepper. There was no heat level. This was a very different chili from anything I've tasted to date.

The other winning ingredient in the Gold Star cheese coney is the Bluegrass hot dog. Though it was steamed rather than grilled, it was quite flavorful. The cheese, bun, mustard, and onions were of good quality and proportion to bring together a satisfactory cheese coney.

Though I'd prefer a little more complexity and kick to the chili recipe, this is definetly a product I'd revisit.  I give Gold Star Chili a 3.75 out of 5.

Gold Star Chili on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gold Star History

Gold Star Chili, the largest chain of Cincinnati-style chili in the world, was first established as a burger joint. In 1965 a restaurant named Hamburger Heaven in Mt. Washington was bought by four young Jordanian brothers of the Daoud family. With the purchase of the restaurant they also received a recipe for Cincinnati-style chili. They decided that this recipe needed some tweaking. "A pinch of this" and "a dash of that" ultimately lead to their family's fortune. The chili became the most popular item on the menu and Hamburger Heaven was soon thereafter renamed to Gold Star Chili.

The Daoud brothers opened two more locations within a year. Today there are nearly 100 Gold Star locations across Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana and additional concession booths in multiple places such as Paul Brown Stadium and the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. They sell frozen and canned products in grocery stores throughout Greater Cincinnati, and their website offers worldwide shipping of cans of chili.

in 1999 Gold Star Chili unanimously beat out Skyine and Empress in a blind taste test conducted by Cincinnati Magazine in which five of Cincinnati's top chefs acted as judges.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poll - Chain vs. Independent

In our latest Coney Quest stop we visited one of the largest Cincinnati Chili chains, Gold Star Chili. In Cincinnati we have a nice variety of chain parlors and independent parlors. This weeks poll asks which you prefer.

If there are 3 or more of a particular chili parlor we are defining them as a chain. So if you are a fan of Skyline, Gold Star, Dixie or Empress, this would be your vote. If there is less than 3 we are calling them independent. If you prefer turning your nose to the chains and getting your fix at places like Camp Washington or Pleasant Ridge, this is your vote.

Later on in the quest we will break this down further and ask what your favorite chain parlor is and what your favorite independent is.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cincinnati Chili Dip

Super Bowl Sunday is not only a day for celebrating the best in football and debating what the best commercial is, its also a day where we all eat til our guts bust. It's like another Thanksgiving but without having to pretend you get along with your relatives. My favorite food to eat for the Super Bowl is what most Cincinnatians refer to as "Skyline Dip" (though any brand of Cincinnati chili will work). This is also my 2nd favorite Cincinnati chili dish, behind cheese coneys of course.

Most of our loyal readers have probably enjoyed Skyline Dip before, but for those who haven't, follow this recipe and directions, and make it for your next party.  Also, if you have any recipes involving Cincinnati chili, share them in the comments section.

1 block cream cheese
1 can of Cincinnati chili (I typically use Skyline, but this is your preference)
1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese (mild cheddar is typically used, but we changed it up a little and went with sharp)
1 bag of tortilla chips (I think Tostito's Scoops and Fritos Scoops work the best) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spread the block of cream cheese on the bottom of a Pyrex dish
Empty can of chili into the dish and cover the cream cheese layer
Put in oven for 5 minutes
Take out of oven and spread cheddar cheese over the chili
Put back in oven for 5 minutes
Take out of oven and let it cool down for a couple of minutes

Layer of Cream Cheese

Layer of Chili
Layer of Cheddar Cheese
Finished Product!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Quest Drawing #9

We were just laying around having a lazy Saturday and decided it was time for the next drawing of the coney quest. This drawing included the restaurants we added to the quest yesterday (Christofields, Cleves and B/G).

And Coney Quest stop #9 will be...

Gold Star! We will be trying "The Flavor of Cincinnati" for stop #9. Gold Star is one of the largest chains in town and has a very large following. We will find out if it belongs in the upper echelon of Cincinnati chili.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What, even more quest stops?!?!

I recently visited, which is Gold Star Chili's webpage dedicated to Cincinnati chili. Not only does it promote Gold Star, it promotes Cincinnati as the chili capital of the US. On their site it has a listing of every chili parlor in town, and of course I saw some which we weren't aware of.

Today I took the time to call 6 restaurants to see if they were still in business and if coneys are on their menu. Five of them are still open, 3 of the 5 do serve coneys. Those three are:

Christofield's Family Restaurant - Dayton, KY
Cleves Chili - Cleves, OH
B/G Restaurant - Downtown Cincinnati

This now brings the total to 22 parlors on the quest! As always, if you know of any more, please let us know.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Delhi Chili Review


Delhi Chili is a family diner that many on the West Side have gone to get their chili fix for many years. Founded by the Kostopoulos family, Delhi Chili has served its special recipe of chili since 1963.

About the Restaurant

For quest stop #8 we headed west to Delhi Chili. This is one of our most western most stops on the quest, before hand we imagined a long drive since one of the attributes the west side is known for is travel time, however it surprisingly didn't take too long from downtown. We also got to pass a BBQ Drive Thru, we have wanted to try more BBQ places so it was nice to find a new one to visit in the future (coincidentally a couple of days later Wine Me, Dine me reviewed this drive thru).  We didn't do too much exploring in Delhi but two impressions we got of the community is: really hilly and really Catholic.

As stated in the brief history above, Delhi Chili is family run, and you can tell that as soon as you walk in. When we were there an older couple and 20-something year old (maybe grandson?) were working, and there was a decent crowd of families dining. It was clear we were the only ones making our first visit to Delhi Chili. The decor also matches that of a family style diner. There were plants in the windows, curtains and shades that have probably been there since day one, and pictures of various Delhi landmarks. Next to our table was a cabinet of knick knacks and photos. There are booths along the walls, tables in the middle, and a counter by the kitchen. Everything about it screams family diner, and it works very well.

The menu is similar to many of the small family chili parlors we have visited on the quest. Along with chili, you can get burgers, sandwiches and breakfast items (served all day). The menu also features daily specials throughout the week. A menu item that makes Delhi stick out from other parlors is the Hog Way, which is a 5-Way plus eggs, home fries and breakfast meat.

Alison's Review

Generally, I know when I like a coney or not in the first bite or two. The Delhi Chili cheese coneys, however, left me feeling undecided even after I finished the meal. There was nothing to really complain about, but the overall product was less impressive and less remarkable than many of the other coneys we've tasted in the quest.

It was noticeable that Delhi Chili uses a blend of cheeses, as the cheese toping was two-toned. I was hopeful that this would be an outstanding factor in this coney, but the cheese turned out to be pretty mild and similar in taste to the cheese at other parlors. The chili recipe, too, was somewhat bland. It had very little heat level, if any, and had very little sweetness, if any. The onions were average and the mustard was mostly undetectable. The bun was soft and fairly good quality. The dog was nicely grilled though not a very flavorful meat.

This was a tough parlor to rank because they got all the proportions right and none of the ingredients were anything less than average. This was a pretty safe coney.  Delhi Chili should take more of a risk with their recipe. Maybe more heat, maybe more sweetness, or maybe a better attempt at a cheese that significantly stands out from the rest. I give this parlor a 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Clint's Review

For the first time since Empress when the quest began, it was tough to get an initial read on the Delhi Chili coneys. They weren't really sweet like Cincinnati chili is known for, but it really wasn't spicy either. There wasn't a bad taste to them but there also wasn't a great flavor. It is by far the blandest of the chili we have tried thus far.

One thing that did stick out on the coneys was the cheese. Right away I noticed the cheese was two different colors, yellow and orange. The pieces of cheese were fairly short as well, like you would find at the bottom of a shredded cheese bag. The cheese tasted fine, probably a blend of american and cheddar or maybe two different cheddars. The hot dogs had a nice grilled flavor and texture to them, the buns were fine. The chili and cheese was well balanced, not too much or too little of either.

I give Delhi Chili a 2.5 out of 5. Nothing bad about my experience, but its not a place I picture myself returning, at least not for cheese coneys.

Delhi Chili on Urbanspoon