Skyline Chili – A Cincinnati Favorite

Skyline ChiliBy E. Brown

A Cincinnati favorite is Skyline Chili. Started in 1949, Skyline got its name from the view of the Cincinnati skyline that the first restaurant overlooked. After migrating to America from Greece, young Nicholas Lambrinides used his mothers recipes to create the fare offered at Skyline Chili. Now, Skyline has numerous restaurants and even offers groceries through local establishments and online.

The typical experience includes a plate of chili and noodles (or chili dog) loaded with cheese. The secret, says devotees, is the chocolate Skyline puts in the chili. Personally, I barely tasted the chocolate. I even asked for no cheese so that the flavor would not be covered up. Hmmm, barely there — a touch of bitter sweet.

Skyline Chili dogsThe buns on the chili dogs where light, fluffy, and voluminous. I felt like they were fresh but it seemed like a lot of air. To me, the idea is noteworthy — create a chili where there is a sweetening ingredient (the chocolate) and then add a salty taste (the cheese) and you have a unique flavorful combination. The idea seems sound but the execution was off, in my book. The chili was bland and soupy. My friends had the noodles with chili and it was obvious the noodles were not drained well by the pools of rust-colored water left on their plates. The hot dogs were not very large or meaty and the filler seemed to be the mountain of cheese piled onto the chili plate or hot dog. “Sky-high Cheese” might be a more descriptive name.

At this time I realize some of you readers might be getting upset. Skyline is considered a local favorite. I wonder how much of that is based on nostalgia versus the actual quality of the food?

Atlanta has a similar establishment called, The Varsity. The food is not tremendously different — a little greasier. Most people go for the experience rather the quality of food. I would venture to say it is the same for Skyline. Nevertheless, if you visit Cincinnati try Skyline Chili and let me know what you think.

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4 thoughts on “Skyline Chili – A Cincinnati Favorite

  1. DanMac says:

    Having been a Cincinnatian for 48 years, a couple things you may want to try ..

    * – If you don’t want the “rusty water” residue on your plate, order your “3way dry” and they will “drain” it for you after the chili is applied. (You can avoid the bib this way too). Because the items are not combined until ordered, the spaghetti is forked on to the plate direct from a pot. So the amount of drainage is just whatever falls off as it is lifted out, hung for a second, then platted.

    * – Ask for you coney “juicey” .. There is nothing worse that too little chili on the bun.

    * – The hotdogs are small and “flavorless” by design. A regular hotdog flavor is too dominant. Your term – filler – is appropriate. That’s why home versions suffer. Too much hotdog.

    * – You may want to try a “phony coney” instead. It’s hotdog-less Coney / chili sandwich. Cheese is layered into the bun, then chili, and then more cheese piled on top.

    Lastly, the chocolate in the chili … is more urban legend or folklore. You didn’t taste it, cuz its not there. :) But there’s no denying the large amount of cinnamon …

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