Friday, June 10, 2011

Skyline Chili Review

When many people think of Cincinnati chili the restaurant that comes to mind is Skyline Chili. Like how many Southerners will refer to all soft drinks as "Coke", many refer to Cincinnati style chili as "Skyline". To further expand on that, Skyline Chili is the #1 brand associated with the entire city of Cincinnati. When people visit Cincinnati they make sure to try this Skyline Chili they have heard so much about. On my Tweet Deck feed I have a search dedicated to Cincinnati chili, its always fun to see peoples reactions to their first Skyline experience. We haven't had Skyline since December so it was a fun experience to go back and look at their chili in a new way. Would we still enjoy it like we did pre-quest or has it fallen behind some of the other parlors we have visited?

We visited the Skyline on Ludlow in Clifton, near UC's campus. We chose this location because it is one of the oldest Skyline's and many say it is their favorite Skyline location. The exterior has a cool retro look with the original sign while the inside is more modern looking like most Skyline locations. The interior is decorated with various images from Cincinnati, the University of Cincinnati and pictures of celebrities who have visited such as local stars Nick Lachey and Sarah Jessica Parker. This is one of the busiest Skyline locations and they are prepared for the large crowd as we have never seen such a large staff working at any other parlor we have visited.

Skyline features a large menu and pretty unique compared to other parlors. Of course you have your typical items like cheese coneys and ways. If you like potatoes and chili, Skyline has you covered with chili cheese fries and a 3/4/5-way potato. If you just don't like Cincinnati chili but your friends drag you to Skyline, there are some options for you, such as a variety of wraps, burritos and salads. One of our favorite items at Skyline isn't on the menu, its the complimentary oyster crackers. Before the quest we just assumed that every parlor would give you oyster crackers, but we have found it to be surprisingly rare for a parlor to give you oyster crackers while you wait for your food.

Clint's Review

Even though I go past two Skyline's almost every weekday (3 if you count the Fountain Square location), I have resisted the urge to visit Skyline during the quest. It had been 5 months since my last Skyline coney and it was nice to visit an old friend. Since we have tasted such a wide variety of coneys during those 5 months the  differences between Skyline and the other 16 parlors stood out as soon as I took my first bite.

For better or worse, most of the preconceptions and descriptions people apply to Cincinnati chili can be attributed to Skyline Chili . It is one of the sweeter chilies we have had on the quest, not much heat level here. This is always one of the dividing points on weather or not someone enjoys Skyline. I do like the sweetness, but I grew up on Skyline.  It is different and more pronounced at Skyline than others, so I can understand why an outsider might not enjoy it. Another complaint some have about Skyline is their chili is too watery. I do agree with this complaint and its the one thing I would change about Skyline's chili. It is not the meatiest chili you will find, even for Cincinnati chili standards, definitely more of a sauce like consistency. However, there was an ample amount of chili on each coney.

I enjoyed all the other aspects of the Skyline coney as well. One area where the Skyline coney excels is their cheese. Much like the chili, you get a large amount of cheese on each coney and it has a good freshly shredded cheddar taste. They are also very consistent with the cheese, I can't think of one Skyline visit where the cheese disappointed me. The hot dog could be a little plumper, maybe the amount of chili and cheese makes the hot dog seem even smaller, but I felt it had a good flavor. The buns were soft and fresh.

Overall I still enjoy Skyline Chili a lot. They put together a solid coney. Looking at it through a different perspective I can see why some love Skyline more than anything else in Cincinnati, but I can also see why others just don't like it at all. In my opinion they are still one of the best parlors in town, however I do not believe they are THE best in town.

I give Skyline a 3.9 out of 5.

Alison's Review

Before the quest began Skyline had been the only chili parlor I had been to. It was incredibly interesting to sample 16 other varieties of Cincinnati style chili and then come back to the brand that first introduced me to the cheese coney.

Skyline's flavor is very distinct to me. Though it's has a lot of similarities to many of the other sweet chilis we've sampled, I could pick it out of a blind taste test pretty easily. It has a lot of warm, cinnamony overtones. But the flavor is all in the forefront, and by the second coney the taste is somewhat lost. The added mustard is essential and boosts the base flavor a little. The onions are mostly unnoticeable.

Skyline's cheese is delicious, and it's really loaded on. Unfortunately, the buns do not hold up well against the generous amounts of cheese and chili, and all three of my coneys were spilling apart.  The hot dogs were decent but not the most flavorful.

Skyline coneys will always bring back a lot of memories for me. Its an iconic institution, and I have no qualms about introducing Cincinnati style chili to a non-native here. In the quest for the best coney, Skyline gets a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars from me.

Skyline Chili on Urbanspoon


  1. I stop at this location at least once a week and always for carry out. The ratio of chili and cheese is almost always equal which is a plus for me. This doesn't happen at all of the Skylines, and I avoid those that skimp. There is no excuse for that especially at the current prices.

  2. yeah chili and cheese ratio is very important, a bad ratio can turn a decent coney into a mediocre one. The Skyline on Ludlow does a solid job having a good ratio or chili and cheese.

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