Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Extreme Habanero Cheese Now A Permanent Menu Item at Skyline

Back in April we ran a poll that asked our readers if they preferred a hot or mild coney. While it was a very close poll, hot did edge out mild with 52% of the votes. This showed there is definitely a market in Cincinnati for spicier options at the local chili parlors. For a couple of years now, Skyline Chili has occasionally offered Extreme Habanero Cheese as an option for coneys and 3-ways. For those who prefer that spicier option we have some good news to pass on, Skyline is now adding the Extreme Habanero Cheese as a permanent fixture to their menu. I know lots of people who enjoy the habenero cheese and are always disappointed when it goes away, this news should make them happy. Below is the press release from Skyline.

CINCINNATI – Due to repeated widespread requests and mouthwatering demands from the Skyline Nation, the ever-popular and often-coveted Spicy Habanero cheese has been permanently added to the Skyline Chili menu. Now customers can enjoy the spicy goodness atop their Skyline Chili anywhere, anytime.

“Extreme Habanero cheese has always been a favorite with Skyline customers, so this is our way of saying, ‘We hear you loud and clear,’” said Skyline Chili marketing manager Sarah Lapham. “Whether they’re craving a vegetarian bean burrito, a three, four or five-way or a classic cheese coney, the Spicy Habanero cheese will be there when they want it most.”

For more information on Skyline Chili or Extreme Habanero cheese, visit their website at www.skylinechili.com.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Skyline Chili Gift Card Giveaway

Since we have had a record breaking number of hits this week, we have decided to give away a $20 gift card to Skyline Chili to one of our fans. We are going to use Twitter and Facebook for this contest. Here is how you enter:

On twitter post: "The @CincyConeyQuest is giving away a $20 @Skyline_Chili gift card! http://tinyurl.com/coneyquest RT & follow to win"

On Facebook post a comment on our wall that indicates you want to win the gift card. (e.g. something as simple as "I want the Skyline card!" will suffice)

This will be a random drawing like our Gold Star give away was. One entry per social media platform. If you post on Twitter and Facebook that will count as 2 entries. Two entries is the most you can have (i.e. if you RT or post on our wall multiple times it will still only count as one entry). The contest will go on until Friday at 4PM. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So how were Mike's coneys?

While discussing the incident at Mike's Chili & Gyros one of the most common questions I receive is "so, how were the coneys?" Since everything that happened soured our experience, it is impossible for us to give them a full review. Sure the issue was ultimately resolved, but its still the worst dining experience we had so we can't really give Mike's a review. Maybe someday we will take Sam up on his offer of coneys and photos at the other location, but of course it also would be hard to rate a place when we are obviously getting some special treatment.

Anyway, we will mention how we felt about the coneys. We both felt they were ok, since it was so out of the way for us its not a place we would have returned to even if the incident didn't happen, but the coneys were decent. Best comparison we could make is they tasted like a lower quality version of the Gold Star coneys we had earlier in the quest.

There is our "review" of Mike's. They receive a "N/A" since they have been disqualified from the rankings.

Mike's Chili & Gyros on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Mike's Chili and Gyros Incident

When planning out our quest to find the best cheese coney in Cincinnati we knew it would be filled with some ups and downs. However, what happened at Mike's is something we never imagined occurring on the quest. We knew that at some point we might upset someone if we made a negative review of their restaurant. We did not know that even before leaving a restaurant we would anger someone so much that they would call the police on us. It was quite an experience but it at least did end on a good note.

Here is a blow by blow recap of the events at Mike's Chili & Gyros that led to the police being called:

Usually when we go out to a restaurant for the quest I just use my cell phone to take pictures. However this time my phone was low on juice so I decided to take my small point and shoot camera. We were the only customers inside the restaurant which made me happy cause I wouldn't have to worry about taking pictures around customers. The employee working there (who I assume is in the family ownership) noticed me taking a picture, which led to this conversation:

Server: Not to be nosey, but I noticed you were taking pictures.
Me: Yeah, we are visiting all the chili parlors in Cincinnati. I was just taking pictures to document our experiences.
Sever: Oh. I have never seen anyone taking pictures in here before.
Me: Yeah I was just taking a picture of the restaurant and of the food.
Server: Ok.

She then walked away, she seemed a little confused but gave no indication that she was upset nor that she wanted us to stop taking pictures. If she asked us to stop taking pictures I wouldn't have a problem with it, its her business and I respect that right.

After we left finished the meal I went outside to get a picture of the exterior of the restaurant and that is when the fireworks were set off:

Server: *storms out the front door* I need to know why you are taking these pictures!!!
Me: We are just documenting our experience when all the chili parlors. We run a food blog about Cincinnati chili. (Alison then chimes in and further explains what Cincinnati Coney Quest is)
Server: NO! You can not take pictures!
Me: Ok I'm sorry, we did not mean to offend you. We can delete the pictures.
Server: Yes delete the photos!
Me: *deletes pics* Ok, I deleted them. Once again we are sorry.
Server: Let me see!!!

At this point I go over to her and try to show that there were no pictures of her establishment on my camera. As I am scrolling through she is trying to hit random buttons and then attempts to snatch the camera from me. This is when I blow up:

Server: No! I'm getting your info and calling the police!

I probably could have been a bit more tactful there, but I was very upset and frustrated at this point. We walk back towards our car and she storms out the back door to write down our license number. I apologized for the language I used and for the whole situation but she wasn't having any of it and called the cops. We waited around for a little bit for the cops but after no arrival we decided to go to a nearby park to go for a walk and calm down. During this time Alison had the good idea of calling the cops to let them know what happened and our contact info.

About 5 minutes later the cops called Alison. Alison explained everything that happened above. Apparently the employee told the police that she thought we were taking pictures of the restaurants security (this will make a little more sense later) and that she told us stop taking pictures (which was a lie). Luckily the cop was very friendly and understanding. He explained to her that we weren't up to anything sinister and that we were just documenting our experiences.

She gave the cop her number so we can call and apologize to her. Yes you read that correctly. This further angered us. Luckily, a couple of hours later (coincidentally as I was writing this post) we received one more phone call, this time from Sam, the owner of Mike's Chili and Gyros. Alison told him what happened, what that Cincinnati Coney Quest is and that we did not intend to offend or harm the woman working or the restaurant. He apologized for the misunderstanding and our bad experience. He also told us that there have been a number of break ins at that location recently which is why the woman working was suspicious of us. Sam seemed to have a better understand of what CCQ is all about and was very interested in our blog and our quest to find the best cheese coney. He said we can visit his west side location of Mike's anytime, he will give us coneys and gyros and will even pose for a picture for us! We do appreciate this gesture, that being said, we have heard complaints about rude service at the east side location and he should get that under control.

Today was a very hectic, unpleasant and stressful day but we are happy there was an amicable resolution. I don't know what the protocol is for taking pictures in restaurants (fellow food bloggers feel free to chime in) but in the future we could ask the parlors staff if its ok that we take pictures. We typically don't like to tell people we are there for a blog before we eat our meal because we don't want any special treatment. However in this case it might have led to less confusion and maybe the police wouldn't have been involved. Or maybe it wouldn't have mattered at all. Regardless, we are very appreciative that Sam reached out to us and that both sides can put this incident behind us and concentrate on what we love, Cincinnati chili. Someday we may take him up on his offer for coneys and pictures.

Friday, May 20, 2011

ONN on Cincinnati Chili

Ohio News Network recently put together a video about our beloved Cincinnati Chili. The video discusses the history of Cincinnati chili, why we love it and the various options at the chili parlors. I found it funny the person they had to demonstrate how to properly eat a 3-way ate his in a way I have never seen before: inverted (cheese on the bottom). So right off the bat I think he is eating his 3-way improperly, cheese goes on top! In college I once had a roommate who put chili on the bun before the hot dog meanwhile his girlfriend twirled her 3-way, this did not make me and the other roommates happy.

Click here to view the ONN video. It is 7 and a half minutes long but a fun watch if you have the time. Also you might crave chili immediately after watching the video.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Covington Chili Review

Despite being one of the most established parlors in town (opened in 1936), Covington Chili does not get brought up often when Cincinnati chili parlors are discussed. In fact, I'm not sure if I have ever heard anyone mention Covington Chili before going on the quest. It was time for us to find out if there was good reason Covington Chili is never mentioned or if we may have found a diamond in the rough.

Covington Chili is located on Madison across from the Madison Theater which is a prime location for anyone wanting to catch meal before or after attending a show. It doesn't appear much has changed in the restaurant since it opened in 1936. It's another hole in the wall diner, paintings of food and pictures of chili products hang on the walls. There are jukeboxes in some of the booths like you would see in an old fashioned diner and a large jukebox by the front door, not sure if any are operational though. Our waitress was extremely friendly, probably the nicest we have encountered thus far. Nothing really stands out on their menu, its your typical greasy spoon diner menu, breakfast is served all day. The prices are in line with most of the parlors we have visited.

Clint's Review

After my unpleasant experience at our previous stop on the quest, I was really looking forward to some good coneys and for the most part Covington came through. The chili has a good blend of savory spices and sweet spices. I would take one bite and notice how savory it was and then the next bite the sweetness would come through. It's not the best chili I've had on the quest but I enjoyed the flavor.

The cheese was fresh and the hot dog was freshly made on the griddle. To continue with this fresh theme, I thought the buns could have been softer, but they weren't so bad that it detracted from the coney. These coneys were also very filling, although that did not stop me from taking on a giant cream puff at Maifest afterward.

Nothing stood out in the coneys as great but nothing was terrible about the coneys either, overall its a good product. I give Covington Chili a 3.25 out of 5.

Alison's Review

I'm always thrilled to find good food in the little hole-in-the-wall diners I've unknowingly driven past numerous times. It's like finding a hidden gem in Cincinnati's culinary jungle. Though Covington Chili may not have the best cheese coney in Cincinnati, it still offers a quality product that I'm surprised I haven't heard about before the quest.

The dog and bun were decent. No complaints here. The really solid components of this cheese coney were the chili, cheese, and onions. The chili was both very familiar and very different from any other parlor's chili. The classic savoy spices were all there, but there was just a little undertone of smokiness. The cheese was soft, fresh and piled on high. The onions were also fresh and flavorful, complementing the chili nicely. Overall, it was a pretty solid product.  I'm giving Covington Chili a 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Covington Chili on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Covington Chili History

Though Dixie Chili is often considered a staple of Northern Kentucky's chili history, another parlor established just seven years later still holds its own in the Covington neighborhood. Covington Chili, serving chili since 1936, has a loyal following of regulars in the region. Recognizing the charm of this neighborhood institution, George Stamatakos bought the restaurant in 1995. Like a majority of local chili parlors, Covington Chili features a secret blend of spices to make the chili.  They also use 140 pounds of ground beef every day. Though Stamatakos expanded the menu and made some minor renovations, he credits the long-standing patronage to the low prices and the fact that very little has changed about the restaurant over the years.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quest Stop #17

Yes I know, we haven't posted our review for Covington Chili yet (it's coming Thursday, a Covington Chili history post is coming on Wednesday) but we went ahead and drew the next stop on the quest. This drawing featured four new parlors: Bluebird Restaurant, Fort Wright Restaurant, Mike's Chili and Gyros and Papa Dino's Pizza. We discovered Crookshank and Finneytown Chili are no longer in business, I still need to check if Lynna's has cheese coneys.

And the 17th stop on the Cincinnati Coney Quest will be:

In their first time in the drawing, Mike's Chili and Gyros was selected. Mike's has two locations, one in East Hamilton and one in West Hamilton. We will be visiting the East Hamilton location.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yes, more quest locations

Before going to Covington Chili I said we are down to nine stops left on the Coney Quest. It appears I may have spoke too soon. Recently chatted with someone on twitter who is a part of a group also on a quest to try all the Cincinnati chili spots.  They started a website called The Chili Report and while looking at their list of locations I noticed some spots that we left out:

Mike's Chili and Gyros
Finneytown Chili
Bluebird Restaurant
Fort Wright Family Restaurant
Lynna's Grill
Papa Dino's Pizza
Crookshank Chili

Of course I will call ahead to make sure that these places are still open and do serve cheese coneys. If these places check out, the Cincinnati Coney Quest parlor list will expand to 32 restaurants!

*update* A reader notified us that Crookshank is no longer in business. I still need to check on Fort Wright, Lynna's and Finneytown.

*update 2* Fort Wright checks out but Finneytown appears to be out of business. Still need to verify Lynna's.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Give Blood, Receive Coney

Two Cincinnati institutions are teaming up for a great cause this summer. Hoxworth Blood Center and Gold Star Chili are teaming up for a blood drive. They are calling it the "Give Blood...Cincinnati Style, Summer Blood Drive Tour". They are making many stops along the Tri-State area and everyone who registers will receive a free t-shirt and a FREE CONEY!

For more information about the blood drive and when it will come near you visit http://www.hoxworth.org/groups/goldstar.html.

Survey: What is your favorite festival?

Unfortunately Blogger has experienced some problems in the last 24 hours which led to the last two posts to disappear. One of those happened to be the latest poll where we asked what is your favorite Cincinnati festival. Since I no longer have that post or what the latest results were, I will re-ask this question, but in survey form. Post in the comment section what your favorite festival is.

As  a reminder here are the options we had on the poll:
MaiFest, CincItalia, Taste of Cincinnati, Newport Italian Fest, Newport Seafood Festival, Panegyri Greek Festival, St. Rita Festival, West Fest, A Church Festival, Oktoberfest, Riverfest (WEBN Fireworks), Harvest Home Fair, Red, White and Blue Ash, Taste of Blue Ash and Other.

Last time I saw the results, Other had a big lead, so maybe this is better in survey form anyway. We definitely are looking forward to going to festivals this summer and would love to hear what your favorites are.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quest Stop #16

For the past couple of Quest stops we just chose where we were going based on convenience. For stop #16 we decided to go back to the random drawing to determine our destination. There is a big addition to the drawings: Skyline Chili. We had avoided Skyline since we were so familiar with the taste but enough time as passed since our last Skyline experience we figured it was a good time to add them to the mix. Barring any last second discoveries, we are down to 9 chili parlors on the quest.

Cincinnati Coney Quest stop #16 is:

We are heading back across the river this time to try out Covington Chili. Surprisingly, despite my many adventures in the Covington area during my college years I know very little about Covington Chili. We look forward to seeing if its a diamond in the rough or if there is a good reason I don't know much about them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Main Street Diner Review

Even though Cincinnati style chili was first concocted in Downtown Cincinnati, there aren't as many options Downtown to satisfy your coney craving as there once was. There are three Skyline's (4th and Sycamore, 7th and Vine, Court and Vine) and a Gold Star (Tower Place food court). However, we found out that there is one more restaurant in the Downtown area that serves Cincinnati chili, Main Street Diner.

Main Street Diner (also known as B/G Restuarant) is located next to the Courthouse on 9th and Main. Decor wise there really isn't much to talk about. Its a hole in the wall diner that probably hasn't changed since the day it opened. However with its location there is definitely some character to be found here. During our visit we overheard one conversation about someone getting ripped off with fake money orders on craigslist and another where a woman was talking about how she dated a "CERTIFIED crack head". I would describe Main Street Diner as a Waffle House that also serves Cincinnati chili.

Also not much to discuss about their menu. Very similar to other greasy spoon diners we have visited. A variety of breakfast and lunch options. Everything was reasonably priced.

Alison's Review

The Main Street Diner chili fell into the sweet category for me. I was noticing a lot of cinnamon and some more earthy spices, like cumin. I wasn't picking up any heat level. It was dryer than a lot of other chili we've tried. Overall, I liked it.

The bun was soft and fresh. The onions were also really fresh, as if they'd be chopped as the coneys were being made. The mustard was run-of-the-mill. The hot dog had a little bit of flavor, but it was definitely not as good as some we've had. The cheese was subpar because it was a little on the dry side.

This coney fell into the average category for me. The best traits were not outstanding, but the worst traits were not all that terrible. I enjoyed my lunch but doubt that I will go back. I'm giving Main Street Diner 3 out of 5 stars.

Clint's Review

As we leave the parlors we visit, me and Alison always discuss our opinions on our experiences. Thus far we usually have similar opinions, there are some differences but typically our thoughts are in the same ball park. As we discussed Main Street Diner it was as if we went to completely different restaurants.

While Alison felt the chili was sweet, I thought it was spicy and did not pick up much sweet flavor. It was not extremely spicy like a Tex-Mex chili but something in their recipe tasted hot to me. Whatever it was, I did not enjoy it. It wasn't because I thought it was too hot (Camp Washington is on the spicier side and is one of my favorites) I just did not enjoy the flavor. It was a struggle for me to even finish the coneys, luckily I only ordered 2 coneys instead of my usual 3.

Me and Alison do agree on other features of the coney. The cheese was not very enjoyable and did not appear to be fresh. The hot dog and bun were fine but not good enough to save the coney for me.

It had been a couple of weeks since we had coneys so I was really looking forward to Main Street Diner. Living and working Downtown it was nice to discover another place that serves Cincinnati style chili. Unfortunately the coneys missed the mark for me. I give Main Street Diner a 1 out of 5.

Main Street Diner on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Marathon and Quest Stop 15

We had to take a slight break from the quest but for a good reason. Over the weekend I ran in the Flying Pig Marathon. I have ran in some half marathons but this was my first, and maybe only, full marathon. I had to put aside the coneys and ingest some good carbs. Of course the famous Cincinnati 3-way includes spaghetti but I don't think that counts as good pre-race food.

There really isn't such thing as an easy marathon, and the Flying Pig is especially difficult due to the hills. I now hate Eden Park...ok that's a bit harsh, but I will have bad flashbacks next time I visit Eden. I did not have a time goal for the marathon, I just wanted to finish. I ended up finishing in 6 hours, 6 grueling and exhausting hours. Despite all the struggles of finishing a marathon, it was a fun and rewarding race. Cincinnatians do such a great job of supporting the runners, whenever I felt a little down there would be people there to root me on and lift my spirits. I'm not sure if a full marathon is something I will ever do again, but I am very happy to say that I have completed one.

One of the best things about completing a marathon is you can spend the next couple of days eating whatever you want and feel no guilt about it. This means the quest continues! Earlier today we went on stop #15, Main Street Diner (also known as B/G Restaurant) in Downtown. We left the diner with very different opinions, stay tuned for what should be an interesting review later in the week.