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)