Image of Gold Star Chili

Cincinnati Chili Chains

Okay, so the main reason we went to Cincinnati was those free nights at the FMCA campground but the secondary reason was to score some authentic Cincinnati chili.

Now, I should start by saying that I have no intention of offending anyone with regard to chili. I understand that chili is often dear to many people’s hearts, and many people have a specific definition of chili. I like chili, and am all-inclusive in my affection for it. So I like chili con carne, chili with beans, chili with big cubes of steak in it, green chili, etc. I also like chili on lots of different things: chili-cheeseburgers, chili-dogs (known as Coneys in some parts of the country), chili-fries, chili-sizes, etc.

Image of Gold Star Chili's open kitchen
Gold Star Chili in Cincinnatti has an open kitchen and a counter, so you can watch what they make.
Okay, so on to the subject of Cincinnati Chili. Like all regional foods, there are many places that do this dish well in and around the city. And many people swear by their particular local place. On this food mission, Richard and I wanted to compare two chains that are local to the Cincinnati region: Gold Star Chili and Skyline Chili.

I should say that really, Richard was the only one of us able to make the comparison, since we only had the opportunity to go to one and he’d already had chili at Skyline. This left Gold Star Chili as our destination of choice. We’d read online that many people thought Gold Star to be spicier and meatier than Skyline. To some extent, Richard agrees.

I wanted to get Cincinnati chili partly as a tribute to my father. When I was younger, we went to Cincinnati to see the Reds play in the old stadium. My father was always very interested in seeing the classic old stadiums before they were replaced with new ones. We got Cincinnati chili at the ballpark, and I remembered how much we both enjoyed it.

What makes Cincinnati chili different from any other chili, you may be asking yourself? Quite a lot, actually. First off, the chili itself is meat only, and more of a sauce. It also uses cinnamon as one of the primary spices. Cincinnati chili is served (when not as a Coney) on spaghetti. Then comes the lingo: three-way, four-way, five-way. Here’s how the different “ways” you can get your chili stack up (listed from the bottom up):

  • Three-way: Spaghetti, chili, cheese (and when they say with cheese, they mean with a ton of cheese)
  • Four-way: Spaghetti, (beans), chili, (onions) and cheese (items listed in parenthesis are choices, you get one on a four-way)
  • Five-way: Spaghetti, beans, chili, onions, cheese (my personal favorite)

The verdict? I am sure that some of the old school, belly up to the counter, non-chain places are better than either of these outlets. But the chili at Gold Star was tasty and quick. They packaged the cheese and the onions separately since we got the orders to go. We could have used the drive-in, but I wanted pictures. Happy eating all around.

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