Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Price Hill Chili wins Best of Metromix...again

2012 is starting off well for Price Hill Chili. First we crowned their cheese coney as the best in Cincinnati. Now, they have three-peated as Best Chili Parlor in the Best of Metromix Cincinnati 2012 poll. They are also nominated in the City Beat Best of Cincinnati poll in multiple categories.

Speaking of reader polls, keep an eye out on the blog this week. We will ask our readers which chili parlor in town they think is the best.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Best of Coney Quest: Individual Categories

Since so much goes into the cheese coney and the Cincinnati chili experience, we decided to do Best of individual categories. In a perfect world we would put all of these together to assemble the perfect cheese coney and Cincinnati chili parlor.

Best Overall Chili - Camp Washington Chili
Along our quest we found the Cincinnati chili flavor ranges from sweet to savory to spicy. The following categories show what we liked the best in each of those and which was the best overall. More details about Camp Washington below.

Best Sweet Chili - Pleasant Ridge Chili
This category had the most contestants as Cincinnati style chili is stereo-typically sweet. Pleasant Ridge was probably the sweetest and it was also the tastiest.
Honorable mention: Skyline Chili, Blue Ash Chili

Best Savory Chili - Dixie Chili
A flavorful chili with a variety of savory spices used. Even though its a complex blend, it is a very well balanced chili.
Honorable mention: Price Hill Chili, Gold Star Chili

Best Spicy Chili - Camp Washington Chili
No, its not so spicy that you will be chugging milk afterward, but there is a good kick there. Not only is this our favorite chili in the spicy category, it is our favorite chili overall. Along with the heat level, there are those classic sweet undertones. The flavor stays very consistent and is the reason Camp Washington is one of our favorites.
Honorable mention: Chili Time, US Chili

Best Cheese - Skyline Chili
Not only is the Skyline cheese very tasty, you also get a heaping amount of cheese on each coney. This is probably the reason I will always appreciate Skyline, even if its no longer my favorite.
Honorable mention: Blue Ash Chili, Covington Chili, J & J Restaurant, Price Hill Chili

Best Hot Dog - Mr. Hanton's
Mr. Hanton's is a hot dog stand, not a chili parlor, so it's no surprise they win the Best Hot Dog category. The big all beef dog is delicious and showed that beef hot dogs can work with Cincinnati style chili.
Honorable mention: Price Hill Chili, Gold Star Chili, Blue Bird Restaurant

Best Bun - Empress Chili
The original Cincinnati chili parlor and the first one we visited, had the best bun by far. Very fresh and the right amount of softness.
Honorable mention: Chili Time, Price Hill Chili, Gold Star Chili

Best Chain Chili Parlor - Dixie Chili
Gold Star and Skyline get the most attention out of the chili parlor chains, but our favorite is Dixie.
Honorable mention: Gold Star Chili, Skyline Chili

Best Independent Chili Parlor - Price Hill Chili
We found out there are a lot more independent parlors than we ever imagined. Obviously our favorite parlor is home to our favorite cheese coney.
Honorable mention: Chili Time, Camp Washington Chili, Pleasant Ridge Chili

Best Ambiance - Camp Washington Chili
Camp Washington Chili has the neatest looking architecture with the giant CHILI sign calling your name. The inside is also impressive as it features a classic and clean diner look. They have a lot of history and let you know it with the various pictures and framed articles along the wall.
Honorable mention: Skyline Chili (Clifton), Dixie Chili (Newport)

Best Ad Campaign - Gold Star Chili and Skyline Chili (tie)
Gold Star and Skyline have the most money and resources, so no surprise they win this category. I couldn't pick just one though as I believe they both do a very good job advertising their product. Skyline has the classic jingle that every Cincinnatian knows. Gold Star does a very good job incorporating various Cincinnati traditions in their ads.

Best Service - Skyline Chili
Luckily along the quest we didn't encounter too much bad service, other than the infamous Mike's Chili and Gyros incident. This was a tough one to choose. Every time we visited the Skyline in Clifton, there was a large staff working and they were very attentive and friendly. We would also like to point out that Dixie Chili had the fastest service, but that is due to it being counter service not wait service.
Honorable mention: Camp Washington, Gold Star Chili, Price Hill Chili

Best Hours - Chili Time
There are only a couple of hours each day that Chili Time is not open, even on Sundays. If you have a severe coney craving, chances are you can satisfy it at Chili Time.
Honorable mention: Camp Washington Chili, Dixie Chili, Skyline Chili (Clifton)

Best Deal- Gourmet Chili
For the most part, cheese coneys make for a pretty cheap meal. This is especially so at Gourmet Chili where their coneys only cost $1.25.
Honorable mention: JK's Chili, Gold Star Chili (during Coney Mania)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Best of Coney Quest: #1 - Price Hill Chili

Alison's score: 4.5 out of 5
Clint's score: 4.5 out of 5
Average score: 4.5 out of 5

The west side of Cincinnati is the epicenter of Cincinnati chili. Take a drive on Glenway Avenue you will pass multiple chili parlors, one of those being Price Hill Chili. It's not just a chili parlor, its the ultimate neighborhood family restaurant. The wait staff seems to know every patron that comes in...except for outsiders like us. However, that may change, as the Price Hill Chili cheese coney was our favorite cheese coney of the quest.

Every aspect of the coney was top notch, which is the main reason why Price Hill Chili is our favorite. Some places we went to had great chili but sub-par cheese, others had great cheese but mediocre chili and some had stale buns that ruined would could have been a good product. The Price Hill Chili coney was very good in each individual aspect that makes up the coney. The chili flavor is a sweet and savory blend and has a thicker texture than a Skyline or Gold Star chili. The cheese has a quality freshly shredded sharp flavor taste. They get their hot dogs from Blue Grass Meats, which we found to be our favorite of the local hot dog brands. And finally, the buns were soft, fresh and did a good job holding the coney together.

There isn't much negative to say about the Price Hill cheese coney. Alison did note in her review that if the chili just had a little more boldness, like Camp Washington or Chili Time, then it could have received a perfect 5 out of 5. I did not disagree with that assessment, however it didn't bother me as much since I enjoy the stereotypical sweet Cincinnati chili.

After visiting 29 chili parlors and restaurants, we might not have found the "perfect" cheese coney. However, the Price Hill Chili cheese coney comes as close as you can get in our opinion. We look forward to making more visits and maybe someday trying their breakfast that looks equally as delicious.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Best of City Beat 2012

Voting is now open for the Best of City Beat 2012. Sadly, Cincinnati Coney Quest did not get nominated for Best Blog...shocking, I know. But feel free to write us in! Congrats to the Cincinnati blogs that are nominated.

Once again, there are chili categories to vote in. Apparently this year the chili categories are not limited to Cincinnati style chili. This means chili lovers of all varieties will have an options, but there are some odd nominees in my opinion.

Best Chili (Chain):

Bob Evans
Dixie Chili
Empress Chili
Gold Star Chili
McAlister's Deli
Panera Bread
Skyline Chili
Steak N' Shake

Best Chili (Non-Chain):

Aquarius Star & Om Cafe
Blue Ash Chili
Camp Washington
Chez Nora
Chicken on the Run
Chili Time
Delhi Chili
Dixie Chili
Empress Chili
Habbits Cafe
J and J Restaurant
Main Street Cafe
Pleasant Ridge Chili
Price Hill Chili
Westside Chili
Zip's Cafe

Congrats to Dixie Chili and Empress Chili on being nominated for both Chain and Non-Chain! And congrats to the no longer existent West Side Chili for their nomination. I won't tell anyone how they should vote, but if Bob Evans or Wendy's wins I will be highly disappointed in my fellow Cincinnatians. Snark aside, congrats to those restaurants that are nominated for Best Chili, we did enjoy all the parlors we visited that are nominees.

Other nominations for chili parlors:

Skyline Chili - Best Business Lunch, Best Bang for your Buck, Best Date Restaurant, Best Late Night Eats, Best Takeout

Price Hill Chili - Best Breakfast, Best Bang for your Buck, Best Kid Friendly Restaurant, Best Late Night Eats, Best Subs/Sandwiches

Blue Jay Restaurant - Best Breakfast, Best Bang for your Buck

Blue Ash Chili - Best Bang for your Buck

Pleasant Ridge Chili - Best Bang for your Buck, Best Late Night Eats

Camp Washington Chili - Best Bang for your Buck, Best Late Night Eats

Chili Time - Best Late Night Eats

Best of Coney Quest: #2 - Dixie Chili

Alison's score: 4 out of 5
Clint's score: 4 out of 5
Average score: 4 out of 5

One of the oldest chili parlors on the quest also happens to be one of our favorites. When we first announced the quest, many followers told us that we must try Dixie Chili. In the battle of chain chili parlors, the South wins. Northern Kentucky's Dixie Chili checks in at #2 on our ratings of favorite cheese coneys.

The previous two parlors in our rankings had some heat level in their chili recipe, this isn't the case at Dixie. Their recipe also isn't as sweet typical Cincinnati style chili either. The Dixie Chili recipe features a savory blend of spices with some sweet undertones. Dixie was founded by a former Empress employee. After having each a couple of times, I can see where the influence comes from. They have a lot of similarities, but Dixie has improved on the original Empress recipe. Alison couldn't pick up on all the spices they use, but really enjoyed their chili because of how complex but well balanced it was.

We also enjoyed the other aspects of the coney. The cheese had a good mild cheddar flavor and appeared to be freshly grated. The cheese lover in me could go for a little more of the cheese, but in reality there is a good cheese to chili ratio.The hot dog could be a little bigger but has a nice grilled flavor. The coney comes out pipping hot and fresh.

Overall, Dixie Chili is now one of our favorite chili parlors. We enjoy the chili, ambiance, and they have great hours (open til 3AM on Weekends).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Best of Coney Quest: #3 - Chili Time

Alison's score: 4 out of 5
Clint's score: 3.8 out of 5
Average score: 3.9 out of 5

Chili Time making the Top 3 is a bit of a surprise. When we first visited Chili Time, Alison loved it and I thought it was just a little above average. Alison wanted to make Chili Time one of our revisits and I am glad she did. While it still wasn't my favorite coney, I did enjoy the coney a lot more on the revisit. I upped my score from a 3.5 to a 3.8.

Chili Time is a staple in the St. Bernard community. One thing we learned on our revisit is do not plan a trip there between 11AM-12:30PM on a Sunday, as Chili Time is a popular post-Church spot. Luckily there are plenty of hours in the day to visit Chili Time since they are open til 4AM on most days.

Much like Camp Washington, this is another chili that actually has some heat level to it. Even though they are both on the hotter side of the spectrum, we could tell they use different spices. Also, as Alison noted in her review, Chili Time had a thicker and meatier consistency. It is one of the better chili recipes we tasted on the quest. The cheese and bun were of equal quality as well. The one thing that held the Chili Time coney back was the hot dog, which was a little bland even for Cincinnati cheese coney standards. Despite that, its a very tasty coney and worth a trip to St. Bernard for.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Best of Coney Quest: #4 - Camp Washington Chili

Alison's score: 3.75 out of 5
Clint's score: 4 out of 5
Average score: 3.875 out of 5

Camp Washington Chili is one of the most recognizable food landmarks in Cincinnati. On a recent episode of Travel Chanel's Man vs. Food Nation, out of all the chili parlors in the area, Adam Richman chose Camp Washington Chili for the Cincinnati episode. When we started the quest, this was a parlor we could not wait to try. In our opinion, Camp Washington Chili lived up to the hype.

Camp Washington has one of the more unique Cincinnati chili flavors as it has more heat level than most. It's not 5-alarm hot, no Cincinnati chili is, but there is a little kick there. There are also sweet undertones which most would associate with Cincinnati style chili. We like the balance in flavors in Camp Washington's chili a lot. The Camp Washington coney also had a great chili to cheese ratio.

There is one area where Alison believes Camp Washington can improve: their onions and mustard. Alison felt the mustard was "slathered on too thick", the onions were "strong and a little dry" and both took away from the chili flavor. These deficiencies ended up holding the Camp Washington coney from being even higher in our rankings.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Best of Coney Quest: Parlors #5 thru #16

We kick off Best of Coney Quest week by unveiling the Chili Parlors/Restaurants ranked #5 thru #16. These are all cheese coneys which received an average rating of 3 stars or higher.

Not your typical Cincinnati cheese coney, but their delicious hot dog makes this coney among the best.

Come for the chili, stay for the gravy cheese fries. Don't forget to bring cash, as credit is not accepted.

Might not truly be "The Flavor of Cincinnati" but its a top notch coney that won't make us argue too much with that slogan.

Our 2nd favorite chili parlor on Glenway (aka "3-way Highway").

After being exposed to other parlors we might not make it "Skyline Time" every time we feel good and hungry. However it is still a very tasty coney and we'll still make many Skyline visits.

The newest Cincinnati chili parlor starts out on the right foot by making our Top 10.

Santorini's features the largest menu we found on the quest. Despite the many options, they don't view chili as an afterthought and do make a solid coney.

A popular breakfast spot in the heart of Northside also features tasty chili options.

Not one of the most well known parlors in town, but is one of the oldest.

Overshadowed by neighboring Dixie Chili, but is worth a visit as long as you don't mind smoky restaurants.

This was the chili parlor featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-In's and Dives.

If you like a heaping amount of cheese on your coney, chances are you will enjoy the coney here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Best of Coney Quest Week

The Cincinnati Coney Quest is technically complete. We have visited 29 chili parlors/restaurants and in the past month have revisited some of our favorite parlors. This week will be "Best of Coney Quest" week, where we officially unveil our favorite places to find a cheese coney. This does not mark the end of the blog. We still have a couple of more things to complete: the Canned Chili Challenge and trying out more Cincinnati Chili recipes. We will also pass on any Cincinnati chili related news and deals.

Here is the schedule for this week:

Monday 1/23 - Unveil official rankings of Chili Parlors #5 thru #16
Tuedsay 1/24 - 4th place Parlor
Wednesday 1/25 - 3rd place Parlor
Thursday 1/26 - 2nd place Parlor
Friday 1/27 - 1st place Parlor
Saturday 1/28 - "Best of..." Category winners (e.g. Best Cheese, Best Chili, etc.)

Of course our rankings are just our opinions. If you ask 100 different Cincinnatians their opinion on the local chili parlors you will likely get a wide range of opinions. Hopefully we were able to introduce some new eateries for our readers to try, even if you do end up disagreeing with our opinion. We have had fun on this quest and have found a lot of great places to find Cincinnati chili which was the main goal.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best of Metromix Cincinnati 2012

Awards season is upon us and Metromix is asking their readers to vote on this years Best of Metromix Cincinnati poll. Most of the categories pertain to local restaurants, bars, and other entertainment destinations. Once again there is a category for Best Chili Parlor. The same chili parlors are nominated from last year along with one new addition, Pleasant Ridge Chili. This means the two big guys in town, Gold Star and Skyline, are not represented. I stick by what I said last year, I like that the smaller parlors are getting attention. Price Hill Chili won the previous two Best of Metromix polls, will they 3-peat?

The nominees are:

Blue Ash Chili
Camp Washington Chili
Dixie Chili (Erlanger)
Empress Chili (Alexandria)
Pleasant Ridge Chili
Price Hill Chili

I would also like to note that Mr. Hanton's is up for Best Food Truck. While Mr. Hanton's technically is not a Cincinnati chili parlor, they do serve Cincinnati chili cheese coneys, along with many other amazing hot dog options.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Old Cincinnati Chili Parlor Commercials

Earlier I was on YouTube, don't remember what I was watching (probably something involving dogs, cats or someone taking a football to the groin) but somehow I came across an old commercial for Gold Star Chili. So I thought it would be fun to take a look at past ads for local chili parlors. Most of the ads I found were relatively new but I did find 3 old Gold Star ads (1993, 1998 and 2007), an old Skyline ad (not sure of the year) and an old Channel 12 news feature (young Rob Braun FTW!) on the famous and super catchy Skyline Chili jingle.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gold Star Hot Mett Coney returns

Last year Gold Star Chili introduced a new seasonal item to their menu, the Hot Mett Cheese Coney. This coney features a hot mettwurst topped with chili, sriracha sauce and jalapeño cheese. I did not try it when it came out last year, just looking at the pictures give me heartburn, but I heard positive reviews for it. Gold Star is bringing back the hot mett coney for a limited time again, this time its available from January 9th until February 19th. Press release below.

Gold Star Chili Hot Mett Cheese Coney Is Back 
Winter Heat for Spicy Food Lovers, Cincinnati-style 

 Back by popular demand and for a limited time only (through February 19) Gold Star Chili, The Flavor of Cincinnati, has added a hot and spicy new variation of the classic Cincinnati-style cheese coney to its menu…The Hot Mett Cheese Coney. The Hot Mett Cheese Coney, featuring a hot mettwurst, Gold Star’s famous Cincinnati-style chili, “Firehouse” sriracha sauce and special hot jalapeño cheese, all on a soft steamed bun, is a fusion of two Cincinnati-area traditions and one of the nation’s most popular current dining trends. The cheese coney is a classic Cincinnati-style chili parlor menu item and the use of a mettwurst instead of the traditional hot dog is a nod to Cincinnati’s German heritage. The “heat,” supplied by the spices in the mett, the special Firehouse sauce and jalapeño cheese allows Gold Star to capitalize on the ongoing trend; the increasing numbers of diners who crave new and unique, hot and spicy food.

“Our new product research shows two things,” says Gold Star Chili Vice President of Marketing & Brand Development, Charlie Howard. “Our customers retain their passion and cult-like devotion to our traditional Cincinnati-style chili menu items, yet they still desire some new menu variety. The Hot Mett Cheese Coney is the perfect synthesis of those customer desires.”

The Hot Mett Cheese Coney, like most of Gold Star’s menu items, features the sourcing of local menu ingredients. Gold Star makes all of its chili locally in the commissary at its corporate headquarters. The spicy hot mett is provided by local Bluegrass Quality Meats and the coney buns are baked locally and delivered fresh daily from Klosterman bakery. “It’s hard to get more ‘pure Cincinnati’ than a Gold Star Chili cheese coney, “observes Howard.

Gold Star’s Hot Mett Cheese Coney turns up the heat just when the weather turns colder, on the menu from January 9 – February 20, 2012. Traditional cheese coney lovers need not worry as they can always be found at the top of the Gold Star Chili menu.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

SCVNGR at Skyline

With the rise of smart phones, people "checking in" everywhere they go is one of the latest trends. It appears Skyline is looking to cash in on this with their latest promotion. I spotted this on the door of the Skyline on 4th and Sycamore (sorry for the glare, it was a sunny day):

SCVNGR is a combination of check-in app and game. For those not familiar with SCVNGR, here is a good description from Wikipedia:  "By going places and doing challenges, players can earn points. They are also able to broadcast where they are and what they're up to to their friends on Facebook and Twitter. By doing challenges, players can unlock badges and real-world rewards, such as discounts or free items."  It appears if you check in to SCVNGR at Skyline, you will earn points which can help you earn free items such as cheese coneys. 

This seems like a pretty smart promotion by Skyline. If you logon Facebook or Twitter right now chances are one of your friends have checked in somewhere. I typically do my check-ins on Yelp, but next time I visit a Skyline I will have to try this out. If you want to try it out you need an iPhone or Android device, download the SCVNGR app, and search for SkylineChili. If anyone tries this let us know how it works, would especially love to know how many check-ins it takes to earn free coneys!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Final Phase of the Quest

First, we would like to wish all of our readers a Happy New Year!

Now onto some quest news. We are now entering the final phase of the Cincinnati Coney Quest. In the past 14 months we have visited 29 parlors, diners and restaurants in search of the best cheese coney in Cincinnati. There are a couple of restaurants that serve cheese coneys we were unfortunately unable to visit (mostly due to them having hours that didn't fit our schedule). Over the next month or so, we will revisit 4 of our favorite chili parlors to see if their ratings still hold up and to crown the best cheese coney in Cincinnati. When we wrap the quest up we will also have a "Best Of..." post which will give props to various parlors who excel in individual categories (e.g. Best Chili, Best Cheese, etc.). There are a couple of cans of chili left in our cupboard for us to try in our "Canned Chili Challenge". We will also still keep you up to date on the latest Cincinnati chili related news and deals. So there will still be plenty of content for the blog in 2012.

As always, thanks to everyone who reads and follows the quest!