Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sam's Chili Review


The first thing one should know about Sam's Chili is that it's no longer called Sam's Chili. Even though the sign out front still says Sam's Chili, the actual name of the restaurant is Sam's Fish and Chicken. If you are a first timer, like we were, you wouldn't actually know this until seeing the take out menu with the updated name. However since we were there for chili, we will refer to it as Sam's Chili.

Sam's Chili was founded in 1967 by Sam Nourtsis. The first location was downtown on 8th and Elm but in 1980 they moved to its current location on Glenway in Price Hill.

Here is a commercial we found for Sam's. It's an odd commercial because it does not match the look or feel of Sam's at all. It doesn't even show the types of food that is served at Sam's. I know you shouldn't expect much from a cheaply made local commercial, but this is very poorly made even for those standards.

About the Restuarant
Sam's Chili did not look or feel like any other chili parlor we have visited. It is by far the smallest of the restaurants we have been to on the quest. It may even be the smallest restaurant we have been to as a couple. When you walk in there is a counter to the right where you order and 4 booths and one small table to the left for seating. I'd imagine most people do carry out there and even if you aren't planning on doing carry out, you may have to if there is a large crowd. Aside from the big Sam's Chili sign, the exterior doesn't scream chili parlor either. Along with chili, such food items as fish, chicken, gyros and pizza are featured in big bold lettering on top of the restaurant, this of course made more sense when we saw the name change.

The menu at Sam's could probably clog one's arteries just be looking at it. So many fried food options on their menu. The kitchen area wasn't far from where we sat so we could he the crackling of the fryers as we awaited our food. One thing we liked about the menu was how cheaply priced everything was. We both ordered combo #11 which was 3 cheese coneys, an order of fries and a drink for $5. Even if it were just coneys that would be a great price, but to add fries and a drink for that price easily makes this the best deal of the quest.

Clint's Review

The coneys at Sam's Chili were a mixed bag. There were some aspects that I enjoyed but unfortunately some aspects that were lacking. The chili itself was fine, had some savory spices with a sweet undertone, I also noticed some red pepper flakes but didn't think the chili came across as hot. It was a middle of the road chili in my opinion.

Where Sam's Chili sticks out from others is their hot dog. Sam's is the first place we have visited that uses a beef hot dog instead of pork. I have had conversations with readers who have asked if there are any parlors who use a beef dog, now we know of at least one. The beef dog tasted pretty good and worked well with the chili.

The two aspects of the coneys that sap their potential are the buns and the cheese. The buns were too big and two of the three buns I had were not fresh. It was weird, the first bun was ok, the 2nd bun was mildly too hard and chewy, then the 3rd one was rock hard. The cheese was also lacking. I didn't get as much cheese as I typically prefer and the cheese were in short strands as if you would find in the bottom of a bag of shredded cheese.

As I eat the coneys I often have a running ranking going on in my head. These coneys started out well. As I indicated the first bun wasn't terrible and I enjoyed the beef hot dog. Unfortunately they coneys just got progressively worse and like a move that starts off good but takes a bad turn somewhere, I just wanted to finish it. I give Sam's a 2.25 out of 5. The fries were good though.

Alison's Review

Sam's cheese coney's were not the best.  As Clint mentioned, the downfall here was really the freshness factor.  If the buns were fresher and the cheese was not so dry, we might have pretty darn good coneys.

The chili was acceptable.  It was just a little bit sweet and had a bit of a tang (but no significant heat level).  There were definitely some fresh red peppers in the recipe and probably a good deal of onion.  It was good, but not quite good enough to redeem the overall product.

The standout feature here was the hot dog.  The beef dog was good, lightly grilled, and reminded me of ball park hot dogs.  But I'm not entirely sure how I feel about beef dogs on a cheese coneys.  They could possibly have the unwanted potential to cover up the flavor of the chili.  I'm interested in seeing if any other parlors use this kind of dog.

It seems like it wouldn't take a whole lot of effort for Sam's Chili to put together a better cheese coney.  There chili is good.  There dogs are unique.  Unfortunately, the staleness of the remaining elements brings down the whole product.  I'm giving this parlor a 2.5 out of 5.

Sam's Chili on Urbanspoon


  1. Now I know I've been away from Cincinnati too long...I think I mentioned my dad worked at the Taco Bell next to Sam's Chili or whatever it's called now, but the exterior did NOT look like that the last time I was home. Yikes. Then again, Price Hill's changed a lot in the past 20 years. That makes me a little sad--I would've thought Sam's would've been a little better.

  2. yeah seems like they care more about their other (fried) menu items than they do their chili these days.

  3. Funny you should say the fries were good. From Cincy's own fry guru (who was on national TV last week due to his french fry obsession).

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