Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blue Jay Restaurant Review

Just a couple of storefronts down from Park Chili is another Northside institution, Blue Jay Restaurant. While its not a chili parlor, it is a restaurant that serves Cincinnati chili dishes. Blue Jay is your classic greasy spoon breakfast and lunch diner. Along with the chili the menu features standard diner fare. While we were there most were enjoying breakfast dishes that looked quite tasty.

Blue Jay opened in the late 60's and does not appear to have changed much since its open. The walls feature wood paneling and wall paper with an outdoors theme. Newspaper clippings along with photos of Cincinnati and of the restaurant are hung up around the dining area. We arrived around Noon on Saturday and the place was packed. We took the only booth available and could tell right away that Blue Jay is a neighborhood favorite.

Alison's Review

Blue Jay offers a great coney for people who love the chili piled on thick. Surprisingly unmessy, this cheese coney was filled to the top with a warm, flavorful chili sauce. There was so much of it, I thought at first they had forgotten to put a hot dog in my coney! The buried hot dog was fine but not the best we've had. The bun was not the softest, but it held up impressively well against all that chili.

The cheese was clearly fresh grated, a little heavier than usual in consistency, but still very good. The onion and mustard balanced the overall flavor perfectly. Overall, this coney could have been one of my favorites if it had a better hot dog. Still, for a restaurant that is not mentioned a lot when it comes to Cincinnati Chili, Blue Jay pleasantly surprised me.

I'm giving the Blue Jay Restaurant cheese coney a 3.6 out of 5 stars.

Clint's Review

When arriving at Blue Jay, I wasn't sure what to expect. Since chili is not their specialty I did not know if they would treat the chili as an afterthought or if it would be a pleasant surprise. It had been a while since our last stop so either way I was eager to find out. After the first bite you could tell they don't skimp on the chili. Each coney was filled to max capacity with chili. As Alison pointed out this is a good and a bad thing. Can't complaint too much about a nice sized portion but it does overwhelm other coney ingredients, especially the hot dog. I enjoyed the chili flavor, it was a sweet and savory blend, it also had a good texture.

To once again echo Alison's thoughts, the buns did a great job holding that much chili. I enjoyed the freshly grated cheese, I felt it was a little sharper than your standard coney cheese. I thought there could have been a little more of the cheese. Slightly less chili and a little more cheese would give the coney more balance. The hot dog tasted ok, but needs to be a little larger or have more flavor.

Overall the Blue Jay Restaurant cheese coney was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it more than the cheese coney at neighboring Park Chili. I give Blue Jay Restaurant a 3.5 out of 5.

Blue Jay on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blue Jay Restaurant History

Like most of Cincinnati's mom-and-pop chili parlors, Blue Jay Restaurant was founded by Greek immigrants. Danny and Kathryn Petropoulos traveled to the U.S. in 1959. For the better part of that decade they worked odd jobs such as making golf clubs at MacGregor. By 1967, though their English was rough and they were beginning to raise a family, the Petropoulos's decided to open a restaurant. Blue Jay, simply named after Danny's bowling team, was founded in the heart of Northside on Hamilton Avenue. Now, 44 years later, the Petropoulos family is still running the restaurant. They stopped serving dinner about 10 years ago, but Blue Jay is still a Northside staple when it comes to breakfast and lunch.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Adam Richman visits Camp Washington

As most know by now, Adam Richman (of Man vs. Food fame) has been in Cincinnati since last week filming segments for a Cincinnati episode of Man vs. Food Nation. Some of the Cincinnati food institutions Adam has visited include Findlay Market, Izzy's, Senate and Tom & Chee.

Of course the big question many have did he go to a chili parlor? Of course he did! It was assumed he would visit Skyline, but the Enquirer's John Kiesewetter reports Adam visited Camp Washington Chili. Kiesewetter wonders if a food show will ever visit Gold Star or Skyline. Personally, I am happy that smaller parlors such as Camp Washington and Blue Ash have been featured on national food programs. Everyone knows about Gold Star and Skyline, its nice to see the "little" guy get the spotlight for once. Plus, Camp Washington is currently in our Top 3, so Adam made a wise decision.

Image tweeted by @AdamRichman
The Cincinnati episode of Man vs. Food Nation will air in October.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shelf Stable Skyline thoughts and Delhi Skyline

Thoughts on the shelf-stable Skyline Original Chili
As previously mentioned, we received a box of the new shelf-stable Skyline product. The box contained 2 of the Original Chili product and 2 of the Chili Spaghetti product. This week we decided to try one of these products. We went with Original Chili, we don't really eat Cincinnati style chili in a bowl like regular chili so we decided to make some Skyline dip.

Overall it tasted pretty decent, not as good as what you would get at the parlor but good for a quick at home meal. Wine Me Dine Me also thought it was pretty good but a little too salty and messy, we agree with both points. I'd assume the high salt is necessary to make it shelf stable, but if possible it would be nice if the salt level could be decreased. The Skyline dip we created with it tasted good as well. If you try the shelf-stable version I'd recommend stirring well and letting it sit for a couple of minutes so it can be less soupy.

Delhi Skyline promotion

I know our readers love a chance to win free chili. The Skyline Chili in Delhi wants to reward their loyal customers and is giving away a $20 gift card in a new promotion. Here is the info if you are interested in entering the contest:

Where has your Delhi Skyline T-shirt been?

Show us where your Delhi Skyline t-shirt has been and receive $20 worth of Delhi Skyline gift cards. Simply take a picture wearing your Delhi Skyline T-shirt (available at 5137 Delhi Pike) against a unique backdrop, and email it to along with your name photo description. In return, you’ll receive a $20 gift card and a chance to see your picture on display at the restaurant as well as on Delhi Skyline’s Facebook page. Delhi Skyline logo must be visible in the photo; t-shirts have logos on the backsides.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Canned Dixie Chili

Up first in our "Canned Chili Challenge" is Dixie Chili. This was the first time we have had Dixie since our visit very early in the quest. We both enjoyed Dixie so we looked forward to trying their canned product.

What we used:

Dixie Chili
A block of Kroger Mild Cheddar Cheese (which we shredded)
Blue Grass hot dogs
White onion
Kroger yellow mustard
Butternut Golden Honey hot dog buns

We both enjoyed our homemade attempt of recreating the Dixie Chili product. The canned product tasted very good and brought back fond memories of our Dixie visit. However there were some aspects we can definitely improve on as we continue this challenge. The cheese tasted fine, but the texture wasn't the best. Next time we will try freezing the cheese for a half hour before shredding to help reduce the clumpy texture. The Blue Grass dogs tasted great, but are larger than the typical coney dog so we couldn't pour on as much chili as we would have liked. The buns were fine, but we will try other brands. Alison thought the onion was too strong and will try a vidalia onion next time. She thought the mustard was fine.

Overall they were tasty coneys but not quite as good as a parlor made coney. If you are fan of Dixie Chili we recommend buying the canned product if you want to make your own coneys (or -ways) at home. The chili was tasty.  Hopefully we will make the appropriate tweaks along the way and come close to recreating that delicious parlor coney. Of course we welcome any suggestions.

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Skyline Chili Grocery Product

When I was picking up the various canned chili products the other day I saw a heat and serve product from Skyline I had never seen before. It looked similar to their frozen product but was sitting on a shelf. So first I thought, uh-oh someone made a mistake. However after a closer look it was not the frozen product, but a heat and serve shelf-stable product. I hadn't looked in that aisle in a while so I wasn't sure if it was new or had been around for a while.

Apparently it is new because my contact at Skyline emailed me today to notify me of the new shelf-stable product Skyline is selling at local grocery stores. The portable new items don’t require refrigeration and can be heated/served in 90 seconds. You can store them in your pantry or even ship them to a friend who no longer live in Cincy but misses Skyline. We will sample this new product and share our thoughts. Below is the press release from Skyline.

Skyline Chili Introduces Convenient New Grocery Product

CINCINNATI –Skyline Chili officially introduced today a new shelf-stable, microwaveable addition to the Skyline line of grocery products: heat-and-serve original chili and a heat-and-serve chili with spaghetti. The portable new items:

· Do not require refrigeration, making them perfect for shipping and storing;
· Can be heated and served in 90 seconds;
· Can be found in the ready-to-eat aisle of most major supermarket retailers.

“Skyline’s frozen and canned products have been hugely successful since original frozen chili and chili with spaghetti were introduced in 1965, but we saw an opportunity to provide something new for the ‘Microwave Generation,’” said Sarah Lapham, Skyline Chili’s director of marketing. “We’re excited to offer a Skyline dining option that is storable, portable and convenient, but still retains the high-quality ingredients and taste that make Skyline Chili a hometown favorite.”

Other items in Skyline’s grocery line-up include canned chili and chili with beans, classic oyster crackers, hot sauce, shredded cheddar cheese and frozen chili, chili with beans, chili with spaghetti and burritos. According to Lapham, the new addition to Skyline’s supermarket presence has drawn overwhelmingly positive responses from local retailers.

“Shelf-stable products have seen tremendous growth over the last several years,” said Lapham. “Our grocery partners are excited for the local addition to their ready-to-eat options and eager to see how it’s received by the community.”

The new products will retail for $3.99 per serving. Customers who wish to try the new products for themselves should check Sunday’s newspaper for coupons. For more information, visit

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Canned Chili Challenge

We are inching closer and closer to the finish line. However, one problem we have encountered with the remaining chili parlors are operating hours. Many of the parlors remaining close after lunch and have limited weekend hours. Since I work during the day throughout the week and have a short lunch break this makes things a bit more difficult. Don't worry, we will still visit all the remaining parlors but as you may have noticed, the quest stops haven't been as frequent lately.

Today we are introducing a new segment on the Cincinnati Coney Quest that helps satisfy our coney cravings and keeps the blog active. At local grocers you can find a variety of canned Cincinnati chili options. We are going to try each of these canned options and see if we can come close to replicating an authentic chili parlor coney at home. We won't be giving the canned chili ratings, but we will share our experiences with each brand.

The canned chili challenge "contestants" are:

Gold Star Chili
Cincinnati Recipe
Dixie Chili
Skyline Chili
Worthmore Chili

A couple of other homemade options we will try are Hard Times Cincinnati Chili Spice Mix and Cincinnati Recipe Chili Mix. We are also going to try out some Cincinnati Chili recipes we have found on the internet.

If anyone has any recommendations on how to make the perfect at home Cincinnati cheese coney (e.g. any particular hot dog, hot dog buns, cheese, etc. we should use) please let us know. Up first in the canned chili challenge is Dixie Chili.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bluebird Restaurant Review

The 23rd stop on the Coney Quest took us on a rare visit on the east side, Bluebird Restaurant in Norwood. As we noted earlier in the quest, there aren't many non-chain chili parlors on the east side of town. Bluebird is best known for its breakfast, but we were excited to see how their chili stacked up to the competition.

When we first arrived we were a bit worried that Bluebird may not serve cheese coneys. The menu only mentions their ways (which they even have a 6 and a 7 way) but nothing about coneys. Luckily the waitress informed us they do indeed have cheese coneys and of course as soon as she walked away I saw a chalk board that said cheese coneys were on special. We didn't get a long look at the menu, but it looked like standard diner fare, with breakfast being the specialty of course.

From the outside Bluebird looks like a small hole in the wall diner, but its surprisingly big once you enter. Bluebird has the feel of an old fashioned family diner. The walls are decorated with various paintings and other family kitchen decor. And like any good old timey diner there were jukeboxes in each booth.

Clint's Review

This was one of those rare times where me and Alison had very different opinions of the chili flavor. I thought the chili was on the sweet and savory side of the spectrum while Alison thought it had some heat to it. I did not taste any heat level on my coneys. As far as the taste of the chili, I thought it was ok but could have been more flavorful.

The portion of the coney that really excelled was the hot dog. Can't say for sure if it was a Blue Grass dog, but it tasted very similar to the dogs used at Gold Star and Price Hill, which are Blue Grass dogs. The dogs were also freshly grilled. I also thought the buns were soft and fresh (another area that me and Alison disagree on). However the cheese was fairly mediocre.

Great dog, good bun, average chili and mediocre cheese = a 3.0 out of 5

Alison's Review

I've never been a huge lover of mustard or onions. In fact, cheese coneys were the first food product that I consistently ordered with both. In most cases the two condiments blend nicely into the well-spiced chili recipes. However, in the case of the Bluebird coneys, I was overwhelmed by the strength of the mustard and onions. I think the simple problem was that there was just too much of both. It's kind of a shame because I don't think I ever got a good taste of the chili after the onion vapors hit my mouth. I kept thinking I was tasting a chili with a heat level, but since Clint didn't notice that at all it's more likely that my taste buds were being inundated by the strength of the condiments.

From what I could tell the hot dog was very good. I also thought they were probably Blue Grass dogs. But the bun was mediocre and the cheese was on the dry side.

If I ever order a cheese coney from this restaurant again, I will definitely ask them to hold the onions and mustard. The product as I had it this past weekend was only a 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Bluebird Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gold Star Buffalo Chicken Dip?

Since I am a member of the Gold Star eClub I ocassionaly receive emails with various Gold Star discounts and sometimes they want your opinion on their business. Recently they asked people what they thought of their sponsorship of the Cincinnati Bengals. Today I received an email asking for my opinion on Buffalo Chicken Dip. It appears that Gold Star is considering adding Buffalo Chicken Dip to their line of frozen proucts. They indicated the dip would consist of a cream cheese base, with chicken, a signature buffalo sauce, seasoning, and cheese. Whenever we have an office party at work someone usually brings in Buffalo Chicken Dip, so it appears to be a popular dish in the area and could probably work for Gold Star. Click here if you are interested in participating in the 9 question survey.