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


  1. The hot dogs there are FAR better than Skyline!

  2. yeah so far I would probably rank the dogs at Gold Star as the best.

  3. In order to get the best flavor to judge Gold Star, you need to have one at the Belleview,KY Gold Star. I have enjoyed Cincinnati chili for almost 40 years and their coneys, ways, and chili itself, are the best I've had so far. The chili just tastes better at this location. they have a wall full of awards and trophies that seem to back that up. I have been to many of the places on your quest, and this place...and of course the original camp washington chili are the two standouts in the area.

  4. What I meant about Camp... The old building was like a time warp, I hit that place HARD back in the 80's and 90's. they had been serving chili 24 hrs a day 6 days a week and something like 18 hours on the 7th. The pots and kettles had a 40+ year constant seasoning and the chili had a distinct flavor.
    When they built the new place I noticed a difference in the taste and asked about the kitchen, it had all been updated.
    Still love it, but it lost some mojo in the transition. Maybe in time the magic will creep back in. I best keep eating it. ya think?
    BTW that gold star is kinda in a run down shopping center, but there are always a parking lot full of police cars because they know the secret too. There's always cops and a bunch of other chili lovers chowing down here, you simply have to check it out sometime.

  5. Thanks for the info about Belleview Gold Star. We aren't too far from Belleview so we will have to check it out sometime.

    1. Chili Rick's Bellevue location is definitely the best Gold Star location. I always order my cheese coneys heavy chili and light onion. They do it perfectly and they do NOT charge extra for the heavy chili. Other Gold Star locations do as does most independent parlors. Camp Washington charged me $2.68 for one this week. Gourmet Chili is the bargan at $1.80.

  6. Gold Star's taste and presentation vary from location to location. One thing I will admit that Skyline has the advantage is that they are more consistant from location to location. Gold Star is a crap shoot anymore, I have eaten at almost every Gold Star location and have had Great to Horrible and everything in between. When I found the Belleview store, I dismissed all other locations once I tasted this place's. Do yourself a favor and get down there, you will probably have to update your review after your meal. You just have to trust me on this one.