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Cincinnati chili (or Cincinnati-style chili) is a Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce used as a topping for spaghetti (a "two-way") or hot dogs ("coneys"), both dishes developed by Macedonian immigrant restaurateurs in the 1920s. Ingredients include ground beef, water or stock, tomato paste, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, cumin, chili powder, bay leaf, and in some home recipes unsweetened dark chocolate in a soupy consistency. Other toppings include cheese, onions, and beans; specific combinations of toppings are known as "ways." The name "Cincinnati chili" is often confusing to those unfamiliar with it, who expect the dish to be similar to chili con carne; as a result, it is common for those encountering it for the first time to conclude it is a poor example of chili.

Cincinnati chili
4-way Cincinnati chili from Camp Washington Chili in Cincinnati OH USA.jpg
4-way Cincinnati chili
Alternative namesCincinnati-style chili
TypeMeat sauce
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateGreater Cincinnati
Created byTom Kiradjieff
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsground beef, tomato paste, cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, cumin, chili powder, bay leaf, dark chocolate
Similar dishesRochester hot sauce, Hot wiener sauce

While served in many local restaurants, it is most often associated with the over 250 "chili parlors" (restaurants specializing in Cincinnati chili) found throughout greater Cincinnati with franchise locations throughout Ohio and in Kentucky, Indiana, and Florida. The dish is the area's best-known regional food.

Contents

Origins and historyEdit

 
Price Hill Chili

Cincinnati chili originated with immigrant restaurateurs from the Macedonian region who were trying to expand their customer base by moving beyond narrowly ethnic styles of cuisine.[1][2]:28 Tom and John Kiradjieff began serving a "stew with traditional Mediterranean spices"[2]:27 as a topping for hot dogs[2]:27[3] which they called "coneys" in 1922 at their hot dog stand located next to a burlesque theater called the Empress. Tom Kiradjieff used the sauce to modify a traditional Greek dish, speculated to have been pastitsio,[4][5] moussaka[2]:28 or saltsa kima[6][7] to come up with a dish he called chili spaghetti.[2]:27 He first developed a recipe calling for the spaghetti to be cooked in the chili but changed his method in response to customer requests and began serving the sauce as a topping, eventually adding grated cheese as a topping for both the chili spaghetti and the coneys, also in response to customer requests.[2]:28 To make ordering more efficient, the brothers created the "way" system of ordering.[2]:29 The style has since been copied and modified by many other restaurant proprietors, often fellow Greek and Macedonian immigrants who had worked at Empress restaurants before leaving to open their own chili parlors,[2]:40[8]:244 often following the business model to the point of locating their restaurants adjacent to theaters.[2]:25

Empress was the largest chili parlor chain in Cincinnati until 1949, when a former Empress employee and Greek immigrant, Nicholas Lambrinides, started Skyline Chili.[9] In 1965, four brothers named Daoud, immigrants from Jordan, bought a restaurant called Hamburger Heaven from a former Empress employee,[2]:40 noticed the Cincinnati chili was outselling the hamburgers on their menu, and changed the restaurant's name to Gold Star Chili.[9] As of 2015, Skyline (over 130 locations)[10] and Gold Star (89 locations)[11] were the largest Cincinnati chili parlor chains, while Empress had only two remaining locations, down from over a dozen during the chain's most successful period.[2]:84

Besides Empress, Skyline, and Gold Star, there are also smaller chains such as Dixie Chili and Deli and numerous independents including the acclaimed[2]:84 Camp Washington Chili, probably the most well-known of the independents.[2]:84 Other independents include Pleasant Ridge Chili, Blue Ash Chili, Park Chili Parlor, Price Hill Chili,[12] Chili Time, and the Blue Jay Restaurant,[13] in all totalling more than 250 chili parlors.[2]:9 In addition to the chili parlors, some version of Cincinnati chili is commonly served at many local restaurants. Arnold's Bar and Grill, the oldest bar in the city, serves a vegetarian "Cincy Lentils" dish ordered in "ways."[14] Melt Eclectic Cafe offers a vegan 3-way.[15] For Restaurant Week 2018, a local mixologist developed a cocktail called "Manhattan Skyline," a Cincinnati chili-flavored whiskey cocktail.[16]

The history of Cincinnati chili shares many factors in common with the apparently independent but simultaneous development of the Coney Island hot dog in other areas of the United States. "Virtually all"[8]:233 were developed by Greek or Macedonian immigrants who passed through Ellis Island as they fled the fallout from the Balkan Wars in the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Preparation, ordering, serving and eatingEdit

Raw ground beef[3] is crumbled in water and/or stock, tomato paste and seasonings are added, and the mixture is brought to a boil and then simmered for several hours to form a thin meat sauce. Many recipes call for an overnight chill in the refrigerator to allow for easy skimming of fat and to allow flavors to develop,[6] then reheating to serve.[17] Typical proportions are 2 pounds of ground beef to 4 cups of water and 6 oz tomato paste to make 8 servings.[17]

The "way" systemEdit

 
A Cincinnati chili 4-way garnished with oyster crackers

Ordering Cincinnati chili is based on a specific ingredient series: chili, spaghetti, grated cheddar cheese, diced onions, and kidney beans.[9] The number before the "way" of the chili determines which ingredients are included in each chili order.[3] Customers order a:

  • Two-way: spaghetti topped with chili[3] (also called "chili spaghetti")
  • Three-way: spaghetti, chili, and cheese[3]
  • Four-way onion: spaghetti, chili, onions, and cheese[3]
  • Four-way bean: spaghetti, chili, beans, and cheese[3]
  • Five-way: spaghetti, chili, beans, onions, and cheese[3]

Most chili parlors will also serve the dish "inverted": cheese on the bottom, so it melts.[3][18] Some restaurants, among them Skyline[19] and Gold Star,[20] do not use the term "four-way bean", instead using the term "four-way" to denote a three-way plus the customer's choice of onions or beans. Some restaurants may add extra ingredients to the "way" system; for example, Dixie Chili offers a "six-way", which adds chopped garlic to a five-way.[21] "Ways" are traditionally served in a shallow oval bowl.[2]:15[8]:243 Cincinnati chili is also used as a hot dog topping to make a "coney," a regional variation on the Coney Island chili dog, which is topped with grated cheddar cheese to make a "cheese coney." The standard coney also includes mustard and chopped onion.[22] The "Three-way" and the "Cheese Coney" are the most popular orders.[2]:10[23]

Very few customers order a bowl of plain chili.[24][25] Most chili parlors do not offer plain chili as a regular menu item.[19][20] Cincinnati Enquirer food editor Polly Campbell calls ordering a bowl of chili, "Ridiculous. Would you order a bowl of spaghetti sauce? Because that's what you're doing."[26]

Serving and eatingEdit

Oyster crackers are usually served with Cincinnati chili,[8] and a mild hot sauce such as Tabasco is frequently available to be used as an optional topping to be added at the table.[22] Locals eat Cincinnati chili with a fork, cutting each bite with the side of the fork as if it were a casserole, and never twirling.[27][28]

MisnomerEdit

 
Cheese coneys

The name "Cincinnati chili" is often confusing to those unfamiliar with it because the term "chili" evokes the expectation of chili con carne,[22][29][30] which it "bears no resemblance to."[31] Cincinnati chili is a Mediterranean-spiced[30][32] meat sauce[33] for spaghetti or hot dogs and is very seldom eaten by the bowl[23][34] as is typical with chili con carne. It is common for Cincinnatians to describe it starting with, "Well, it's not really chili..."[24] or "don't think of it as chili."[33] Cincinnati Enquirer food editor Chuck Martin and Cincinnati Magazine dining editor Donna Covrett agree, "It (is) not chili."[35][36] Cincinnati chili is always seasoned with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, and chili powder.[9][17] Many home recipes call for a small amount of dark unsweetened chocolate,[17] but according to Dann Woellert, author of The Authentic History of Cincinnati Chili, "There is no chili parlor in Cincinnati that uses chocolate in its chili."[2]:141 It is normally of a thin consistency,[32] closer to a soup than a stew,[13] and contains no vegetables or chunks of meat, though it is common to find large pieces of cayenne pepper hulls in Empress chili. The consistency, seasonings, and serving method are more similar to pasta sauce[32] or the spiced meat sauces used to top hot dogs in Rochester and other parts of Upstate New York, Rhode Island, and Michigan than they are to chili con carne.[2]:10

ReceptionEdit

Cincinnati chili is the area's "best known regional food."[37] According to the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, Cincinnatians consume more than 2,000,000 lb (910,000 kg) of Cincinnati chili each year, topped by 850,000 lb (390,000 kg) of shredded cheddar cheese.[2]:10 Overall industry revenues were $250 million in 2014.[38]

Anthony Bourdain called it, "the story of America on your plate."[39] National food critics Jane and Michael Stern wrote, "As connoisseurs of blue-plate food, we consider Cincinnati chili one of America's quintessential meals"[40] and "one of this nation's most distinctive regional plates of food."[3][8]:247 Huffington Post named it one of "15 Beloved Regional Dishes."[41] In 2000, Camp Washington Chili won a James Beard Foundation America's Classics Award.[42][43] In 2013, Smithsonian named Cincinnati chili one of "20 Most Iconic Foods in America,"[44] calling out Camp Washington Chili as their destination of choice. John McIntyre, writing in The Baltimore Sun, called it "the most perfect of fast foods," and, referring to the misnomer, opined that "if the Greeks who invented it nearly a century ago had called it something other than chili, the [chili] essentialists would be able to enjoy it."[29] In 2015, Thrillist named it "the one food you must eat in Ohio."[45]

Eater called it "America's most controversial plate of pasta."[46] It is common for those unfamiliar with it, confused by the misnomer and expecting chili con carne, to "scorn it"[29][47] as a poor example of chili.[29][32][48][49] A 2013 piece published by the sports and culture website Deadspin went so far as to call it "horrifying diarrhea sludge."[50]

In popular cultureEdit

Country music duo Big & Rich sang about flying through Cincinnati and grabbing a bowl of Skyline chili in their song Comin' to Your City on the 2005 album of the same name.[51] Blues musician Lonnie Mack sang a song called Camp Washington Chili on his 1986 album Second Sight.[52]

Cincinnati chili is used allegorically as a symbol for vapid social interaction and social disconnection in the 2015 animated film Anomalisa, as the main character when on a business trip to Cincinnati is exhorted in multiple banal encounters to try the local specialty.[53][54][55][56]

Similar dishesEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Smith, Andrew (2013). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 417. ISBN 978-0-1997-3496-2. OCLC 835958679.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Woellert, Dann (2013). The Authentic History of Cincinnati Chili. The History Press. ISBN 978-1-60949-992-1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Campbell, Polly (February 26, 2015). "Area has taste all its own". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  4. ^ Manley, Mackenzie; Noel, Jude. "The Cincinnati Chili Trail". City Beat. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  5. ^ Dixler, Hillary (January 27, 2015). "How Camp Washington's Chili-topped Spaghetti Became Legend". Eater. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Becker, John. "All About Cincinnati Chili". The Joy of Cooking. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
  7. ^ "What Is It?". Eater. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Stern, Jane & Stern, Michael (2009). 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late: And the Very Best Places to Eat Them. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-547-05907-5.
  9. ^ a b c d Herrmann Loomis, Susan (April 16, 1989). "Fare of the County; A City's Romance With a Bowl of Chili". The New York Times. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
  10. ^ "Skyline chili: franchise information". Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  11. ^ Campbell, Polly (February 26, 2015). "Gold Star Chili turns 50, welcomes family as CEO". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  12. ^ Kindelsperger, Nick (14 Aug 2018). "Is Cincinnati chili actually chili? A dive into the city's most famous dish". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  13. ^ a b Larkin, Jess (May 5, 2015). "Top 5 Local Chili Parlors". Cincinnati Magazine. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  14. ^ "Arnold's Bar & Grill". September 12, 2011. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  15. ^ "Daily House Menu". Melt Eclectic Cafe. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  16. ^ "Metropole to serve Cincinnati chili-inspired whiskey cocktail". WCPO. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  17. ^ a b c d Rombauer, Irma S.; Becker, Marion Rombauer & Becker, Ethan (1997). The Joy of Cooking. New York: Scribner. p. 672. ISBN 0-684-81870-1.
  18. ^ Herrman Loomis, Susan (16 Apr 1989). "FARE OF THE COUNTRY; A City's Romance With a Bowl of Chili". New York Times. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  19. ^ a b "Our Menu: Ways". Skyline Chili. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  20. ^ a b "Gold Star: Our Menu" (PDF). Gold Star Chili. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 10, 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  21. ^ "Our Menu". Dixie Chili and Deli. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  22. ^ a b c "Cincinnati Chili: Pass the Tabasco". Fodor's. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  23. ^ a b Conan, Neal (August 22, 2005). "Talk of the Nation/Cincinnati Chili". NPR. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  24. ^ a b Bonem, Max (February 24, 2015). "5 Reasons Cincinnati Chili is Misunderstood". Paste. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  25. ^ Hoffman, Ken (August 23, 2009). "That Cincinnati chili — what is it?". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  26. ^ "That's So Cincinnati". Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  27. ^ "Ode to Authentic Cincinnati Style Chili". CincinnatiUSA.com. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  28. ^ Chapman, Ben (13 Apr 2009). "The Long Weekend: Cincinnati's Chili Tradition". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  29. ^ a b c d McIntyre, John (July 15, 2015). "Chili and Essentialism". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  30. ^ a b Boyer, Mike (September 10, 2004). "Cincinnati chili stakes its claim". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  31. ^ Stern, Jane & Stern, Michael (1999). Chili Nation. Broadway Books. p. 111. ISBN 0767902637.
  32. ^ a b c d Cross, Danny (July 8, 2015). "So You've Probably Heard of Cincinnati Chili But what is it and where should you eat it?". Cincinnati CityBeat. Archived from the original on July 10, 2015. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  33. ^ a b Neman, Daniel (January 21, 2015). "Finding comfort in chili". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  34. ^ Niesen, Julie (17 Oct 2018). "Cincinnati Chili: A History". WVXU. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  35. ^ Covrett, Donna. "And Tom Said Let There Be Chili. And God Said, Don't Forget the Onions". Cincinnati Magazine. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  36. ^ Calvert, Scott (August 13, 2002). "Hometown of the other chili". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  37. ^ Coleman, Brent (August 27, 2015). "How Skyline Chili became a Cincinnati icon". WCPO-TV. Archived from the original on August 29, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  38. ^ Zarnitz, Eric (February 26, 2015). "WLWT examines Cincinnati style chili's history on National Chili Day". WLWT. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  39. ^ Harper, Brianna. "Anthony Bourdain, enemy of food snobbery, was a fan of Cincinnati chili". WCPO. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  40. ^ Stern, Michael & Stern, Jane (July 1999). "Cincinnati Chili: An Homage To Our Hometown Obsession". Cincinnati Magazine. p. 43. ISSN 0746-8210.
  41. ^ "15 Beloved Regional Dishes". The Huffington Post. October 20, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  42. ^ Huguelet, Cate (August 30, 2015). "America's famous food capitals". USA Today. Retrieved September 5, 2015.
  43. ^ "James Beard Foundation America's Classics Award Winners". James Beard Foundation. Archived from the original on 2008-06-01. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  44. ^ Koren, Marina (August 6, 2013). "The 20 Most Iconic Food Destinations Across America". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  45. ^ Gentile, Dan (September 6, 2015). "THE ONE MUST-EAT FOOD IN EVERY STATE". Thrillist. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  46. ^ "America's Most Controversial Plate of Pasta". Eater. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  47. ^ Stewart, D.L. (October 28, 2015). "Don't like Cincinnati chili? You 'must'". The Dayton Daily News. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  48. ^ Robinson, Amelia (October 18, 2013). "Skyline Chili ranked worst in nation, called 'abominable garbage-gravy'". Dayton Daily News. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013.
  49. ^ Morago, Greg (October 2, 2015). "The polarizing and incendiary politics of chili". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  50. ^ Burneko, Albert (October 17, 2013). "The Great American Menu: Foods Of The States, Ranked And Mapped". Deadspin. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  51. ^ "Comin' to Your City". Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  52. ^ "Camp Washington Chili". Amazon.com. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  53. ^ Hornaday, Ann (January 7, 2016). "'Anomalisa' contemplates desire, love and loneliness, by way of puppets". Washington Post. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  54. ^ Yamamoto, Jen (October 25, 2015). "'Anomalisa': Charlie Kaufman's Existential Masterpiece Is Animated Film of the Year". Daily Beast. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  55. ^ Semley, John (January 7, 2016). "Anomalisa puppet masters Kaufman and Johnson on faceless connections". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  56. ^ Roeper, Richard. "Anomalisa". richardroeper.com. Archived from the original on January 17, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  57. ^ a b Grimm, Joe & Yung, Katherine (2012). Coney Detroit. Painted Turtle. ISBN 978-0814335185.

External linksEdit