Recently Joel Miller, the Director of Restaurant Operations for the Crown Trio Restaurants (owner of Empress Hartwell), extended us an invite to try out the recently reopened Empress Chili in Hartwell. We previously visited the Empress Chili in Alexandria and left disappointed. However, as we learned in a poll we ran earlier in the quest, different locations can turn out different results. So we decided to take Joel up on his invitation and check out the renovated Empress Hartwell.
Despite there being a busy lunch time crowd, Joel took some time to chat with us about Empress. This Empress location has been around for 25 years. It has gone through some ownership changes over the years and unfortunately the previous ownership did not put much care into the restaurant. The new ownership group reopened the restaurant in January. Joel described the new owners as "chili fanatics" and affirmed that they put a lot more care into the product. The vision they have for Empress is to make it a combination of chili parlor, cafe and diner. Business has been good since the reopen and it could get even better in the future. The Empress Chili in Delhi will soon close and move to Florence. This will make Empress Hartwell the only Empress Chili on the Cincinnati side of the river. Joel told us as business grows they would love to open an Empress downtown.
We found a lot to like about this Empress Chili location. It really is a complete 180 from the Empress we visited in Alexandria. The Empress in Alexandria felt like a fast food restaurant and they didn't embrace the history of Empress Chili. Empress Hartwell has more of a restaurant feel and they truly embrace the Empress history. Right above our table there was a framed photo of the original Empress in Downtown Cincinnati. They are also creative with their menu. The original Empress was located next to the Empress Burlesque Theater, so Empress Hartwell went with a theater theme for the menu. The menu is separated into categories such as Improv, Early Matinee, Curtain Call and Center Stage. The food was also an improvement. We both felt the coneys were more satisfying than the coneys we had in Alexandria and Alison enjoyed her gyro.
Overall we had a very pleasant experience at the Empress Chili in Hartwell and thank Joel for the invite. Empress Chili Hartwell can be found on Twitter and Facebook. Below are some photos I took and you can view the whole gallery on my flickr page.
|Theater themed menu|
|Gyro and fries|
|Good crowd for lunch|
|Old photo of the original Empress|
|Making a 3-way|
|I felt like getting artsy with my exterior shot of Empress|