Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Empress Chili Downtown mini-review

Today I decided to have lunch at The Squirrel and check out their new Empress Chili offerings. When I saw The Squirrel was offering Empress Chili I was a little surprised. However, when I thought about it longer it made a lot of sense. A common menu item at many parlors is the double-decker sandwich. The Squirrel is specializes in double-decker sandwiches, this makes The Squirrel and Empress Chili is a great combo.

Aside from new signs advertising Empress, there isn't anything new with the interior of The Squirrel. So it doesn't have the look or feel of a chili parlor. The cheese coneys are chili parlor quality though. I've been to both the Alexandria and Hartwell Empress locations. Alexandria Empress disappointed me but I enjoyed my visit to Hartwell. Luckily these coneys had more in common with the coneys I had at Hartwell. We have covered the taste of Empress previously, not much new to report there. The chili here tasted good, only difference I noticed were larger red pepper flakes. The cheese was freshly grated and the buns were soft.

This doesn't really count as a true quest stop, but I would give the Empress Chili downtown 3.25 out of 5. If I were in the mood for coneys during my lunch break I would probably stick with Skyline. However, the new Empress downtown is a good option if you want to take a break from Skyline or Gold Star for lunch.

  The Squirrel on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Empress Chili Downtown and other news items

If you are in Downtown Cincinnati during the work week and in the mood for chili, there is one more option aside from Skyline and Gold Star to fill your chili needs. Earlier this afternoon we were taking our dog on a walk around town and noticed signs for Empress Chili. It appears The Squirrel (formerly Red Squirrel) on 4th and Walnut now has Empress Chili on their menu. At some point this week I will try to make a visit and will update you on which Empress items are on The Squirrel menu.

Looks like Gold Star is promoting their coney crates as the perfect food to bring to a Bengals tailgating party: 

Cincinnati-style chili appears as one of the 15 Beloved Regional Dishes in a recent article on The Huffington Post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eastside Chili Review

As we noted earlier in the quest, the west side of Cincinnati dominates the east when it comes to chili. The west side even has its own "3-way highway" (Glenway Ave) which features various chili parlors, while the east its mainly just Gold Star and Skyline. There is a new chili parlor that hopes to bring Cincinnati chili lovers to the east and is appropriately named Eastside Chili (also known as Fat Timmy's Eastside Chili).

Eastside Chili isn't just east, its pretty far east for many, located in a Withamsville strip mall off of the Beechmont/Amelia exit on 275. The owners of this parlor take pride in their east side roots and it shows on their walls which have various east side landmarks painted on them. You can tell the restaurant is brand new as soon as you walk in. With the newness and bright colors, Eastside has more of a fast food restaurant feel than they typical diner or parlor feel. However you are served by waitresses who were very friendly. The menu is similar to what you would find at the classic Cincinnati chili parlors, it even has gravy fries which another east chili parlor, Pleasant Ridge Chili, is known for. Whomever put the menu together is a fan of sexual innuendo humor, as their Fat Timmy mascot is featured in the menu holding signs stating "Nobody Beats Our Meat!" and "It takes two hand to handle our meat!".

Clint's Review

Born and raised on the east side it slightly pains me to admit the west has our number in the chili game. When I heard a new independent parlor opened on the east I was excited especially since its on the way to my parents house. For the most part Eastside Chili comes through but there is one major deficiency.

The chili was a complex but tasty one. It starts off tasting savory along with the typical Cincinnati chili spices and reminded me of other chilies I have sampled along the quest. At some point in my second coney I began to pick up on some heat. It wasn't spicy like Tex-Mex or even Camp Washington, but there is an underlying heat level there. Another aspect that reminded me of previous parlors was the hot dog. The dog was tasty and I'm fairly certain it was a Blue Grass hot dog, which is used at Gold Star Chili, Price Hill Chili and other Cincinnati chili parlors. The bun was soft enough and did an ok job of holding everything together.

Unfortunately there was one ingredient the Eastside coney fell short in: cheese. One of the big reasons I love cheese coneys is for the mountain of fresh cheddar cheese that lies on top the coney. As soon as I saw the coney I could tell the cheese came from a bag in the cheese section of the grocery store. If I'm at a restaurant that just happens to serve cheese coneys, this is something I can forgive. However, if you are a chili parlor and chili is your main dish, you gotta have fresh shredded cheese in my opinion. The cheese at Eastside didn't necessarily taste bad, but when I go to a chili parlor I just expect better cheese than I have in my refrigerator at home.

Overall I really did enjoy the Eastside Chili cheese coney. There were many things about the coney and parlor to like. I will visit again and hope Eastside does lots of business. It was a good coney, but unfortunately the sub-par cheese kept it from being a great coney. I give Eastside a 3.6 out of 5.

Alison's Review

Eastside Chili has added another highly competitive cheese coney to our quest. The chili, while not spicy, definitely had the zippiness of red pepper. The warm cinnamon undertones were also very apparent, and I would place this chili in the savory category. The hot dogs were very good and were mostly likely the Blue Grass hot dogs that Clint and I have come to prefer. The buns were not the softest we've had, but were still good. Likewise, the cheese was somewhat mediocre compared to the fresh grated cheddar that we've had a several parlors. The onions were exactly as I like them--crunchy but not a bit overpowering.

With a higher quality cheese, I may have ranked this coney in my top three favorites. However, I'm giving Eastside a 3.75 out of 5 stars (which is the same ranking that I've given to a few of the longstanding chili establishments like Goldstar and Camp Washington). Not a bad showing for the newcomer!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Christofields Family Restaurant Review

Christofield's, originally called Dayton Chili, has been serving chili since 1939. Despite the lengthy history, it was not a restaurant we were familiar with pre-quest. Christofield's is located in Dayton, KY, the block it is located on looks like it has seen better days. They would like to take you back to those days as there is a mural depicting an 1950's diner and sock hop and behind the counter you will find a collection of old model cars. The menu and atmosphere is consistent with the other diners that sell chili we have visited thus far. The service was a bit slow but they were friendly. One moment we witnessed that I must mention, they received a phone call and afterward I heard our waitress tell the other waitress "to make another burger cause someone just called to complain there was a bunch of hair on his." Luckily we did not find any foreign objects in our coneys.

Alison's Review 

The Christofield's coney had a few good elements but overall was not one of my favorites. My first impression was that the coney had a very good texture. The bun was soft and not soggy. The cheese was freshly shredded. The chili was meaty. And the onions had a nice crunchy bite to them.

However, the flavor in this coney was really lacking, mostly due to the chili recipe. The seasoning in the chili was nearly undetectable. The coney could have used a little more chili on it, but even then I don't think it would have boosted the flavor significantly. The cheese was also applied pretty lightly, which is a shame because it was a very good, fresh cheddar.

With a better chili recipe, Christofield's could have produced a much better product. I'm giving them a 2.75 out of 5 stars.

Clint's Review

Alison and I walked away from Christofield's with the same thoughts. There were aspects to like but overall it was a below average coney. The biggest complaint I have is the coneys need more of everything. There was not a lot of chili or cheese to be found on each coney. There wasn't anything offensive about the taste of the chili other than it was too bland. The cheese did taste good, the bun was fine and the texture of each component was very good.

With Christofield's chili history I was hoping for a little more but left disappointed. I also give Christofields Family Restaurant a 2.75 out of 5.

Christofield's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 7, 2011

October is Chili Month

October is typically known for the season changing and trick or treating, but it is also National Chili Month. We of course celebrate every month like its Chili Month, but if you wanted another reason to enjoy your favorite chili, here you go.

There is one local parlor, Skyline Chili, that is doing a little extra for NCM, or as they are calling it "National Skyline Month". Skyline is giving away free meals all month long. Every week, 50 winners will be selected at random to receive a free, $10 Skyline Chili gift card and official Skyline Crew shirt. If you would like to enter, follow this link and fill out the form.

If any other parlors have specials going on for National Chili Month please let us know and we will pass the info along to our readers.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ides of March and Man vs. Food

Here is some Cincinnati Chili related news that reaches out to a nationwide audience:
  • "Ides of March" starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling will be at movie theaters nationwide this Friday. As most of our readers know, many scenes in Ides was filmed right here in Cincinnati. Enquirer TV and Media reporter John Kiesewetter talked to the cast of the film about Cincinnati and of course our chili.
  • As I previously reported, Adam Richman of Man vs. Food was in Cincinnati to film an episode of Man vs. Food Nation. That episode will air next Wednesday (10/13). Travel Channel now has a Cincinnati page up on the MvF website. I look forward to seeing what Adam thinks of  Camp Washington Chili and the other Cincinnati restaurants he visited.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Canned Skyline Chilli

The latest entrant in our canned chili challenge is the one canned product we have previously had, Skyline Chili. However in the past when we bought a can of Skyline it was typically for Skyline Dip, not coneys. Along with the Skyline Chili we also bought a bag of Skyline Chili cheese, Klosterman buns and Blue Grass footlong hot dogs (which we cut in half).

Overall we enjoyed our attempt at recreating a Skyline Chili coney at home, but of course it was not quite parlor quality. The chili definitely had that familiar sweet Skyline taste, however it was a little more watery than the parlor chili (which is pretty watery itself). The Skyline bagged cheese doesn't have much similarity to the parlor version. At the parlor Skyline has one of our favorite cheeses thus far on the quest. The bagged cheese taste fine, but not much different than a bag of Kroger cheese so you can save some money by going that direction.

The Blue Grass footlong hot dogs worked perfectly. When cut in half they are very close to the same sized dog you get at the parlor. We also enjoyed the taste of the Blue Grass dog. The Klosterman hot dog buns were also very good. However we wish stores would sell a hot dog bun more similar to what you find at the parlor as they are smaller and less filling.

The canned Skyline Chili isn't quite parlor quality, but we do recommend it for those who want to make coneys at home or for those who no longer live in Cincinnati and miss their beloved Skyline. Skip the bag of Skyline cheese and grate your own or go with a cheaper bagged option.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Taste of NFL

Taste of the NFL

Football and food is a great combination. This Thursday the Bengals are holding their annual Taste of the NFL event which benefits the Freestore Foodbank. This is a great event for those who want to try various local foods and even better if you are a Bengals fan. Wine Me, Dine Me Cincinnati is giving away a pair of tickets to the event, so if you haven't already, head over there for a chance to win!

Coney Mania

In cheese coney related news, this Wednesday is Coney Mania at Gold Star Chili. All day long cheese coneys are only 99 cents. (Limit 10 per customer)