In search for the perfect Cincinnati Chili Cheese Coney

In search for the perfect Cincinnati Chili Cheese Coney

Cincinnati is famous for its Cincinnati-Style chili. Now if you have never had any it is a finely ground up beef in a sauce that is made using chili spices including cinnamon, brown sugar and many other secret ingredients that vary from place to place. The best ways to enjoy it is as a 3-way, chili, spaghetti and finely shredded cheddar cheese (with beans or onions it is a 4-way, with both added it is a 5-way) The other way is on a hotdog as a chili cheese coney. Some say the chili is an acquired taste, those people are usually not born in Cincinnati. But if you are a Cincinnatian, it is in your blood to crave it. But not all agree on who has the best, as a matter of fact it becomes pretty heated, likened to the battles over pizza in New York and Chicago and cheesesteaks in Philadelphia.

For most of my life I thought there were only 2 maybe 3 different varieties that were worth eating. Skyline being my favorite, and seemingly most of Cincinnati feels the same, with Gold Star being the other and Cincinnati Recipe (just a store-bought seasoning package).

However this last time when visiting Cincinnati I wanted to see if I really did like Skyline Chili the best. So I ate a cheese coney there to get ready for the comparisons. Next I had a Gold Star coney, and they were what I remembered, Skyline being the clear winner for me. Gold Star is meatier, but kinda bland. I remembered growing up my dad would talk about another place he would go and I think it was his favorite and that was Empress Chili, which is the accepted origin of the first Cincinnati style chili chese coney. So what better place to try next. However they were closed when we went and did not get to try it. So that means my final decision on the best will have to wait until the next trip.

But Trish and I did get out and try several others and have a working list of favorites. We used not just chili quality, but also buns, hotdogs and cheese as determining factors as well.

My order of preference is currently:
Chili Time, St Bernard
Pleasant Ridge Chili, Pleasant Ridge
Price Hill Chili, West Price Hill
Skyline Chili, all over the Tri-state area
Blue Ash Chili, Blue Ash
Gold Star Chili, all over the Cincinnati area

Trish’s current order of preference:
Pleasant Ridge Chili, Pleasant Ridge
Price Hill Chili, West Price Hill
Chili Time, St Bernard
Skyline Chili, all over the Tri-state area
Blue Ash Chili, Blue Ash
Gold Star Chili, all over the Cincinnati area

Overall though I must say, this margins of differences are very slim. I could eat any one of them and be happy doing so. I have tried some chili claimed to be Cincinnati-Style chili outside of the Cincinnati area, and it was not very good at all. So there is a trick to getting it correct. And one dish I noticed at Blue Ash Chili, which was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives TV show, is the Chili Lasagna that I think I would have to try!