Tim’s Cincinnati Chili Adventure

A Cleveland native, Reference Librarian Tim Chatlos has always been fascinated by regional food such as Cincinnati chili. When he relocated to the Cincinnati region, he promptly tried the chili chain restaurants. Tim weighs in on the eternal Skyline versus Gold Star debate by recommending Skyline for the three-ways and Gold Star for the coneys.

After dining at the chains, he then realized other restaurants also featured the chili and was curious to find out how many there were. Through his research, he found three helpful, but now inactive, blogs:

Although these blogs haven’t been updated in a while, they still provide a good source
of restaurant names and reviews. Through his research, he discovered over 50 places in the area serve Cincinnati chili and this inspired his quest to visit as many chili restaurants as possible. Between 2011 and 2013, Tim traversed the region, sampling restaurants offering Cincinnati Chili. He was impressed by how many restaurants are dedicated to the chili, as well as the consistency of the chili across the region, down it being served on oval plates. Approximately 75% of the restaurants use oval plates to serve the chili, which Tim found to be a unique, but unifying, way to display the chili.

His chili adventure not only allowed him to enjoy eating his way across the region, but helped him to learn the city inside and out as he traveled to restaurants located in all nooks and crannies of the city. He was also happy to find a way to help support local businesses and is grateful to have never gotten sick or gained weight during his Cincinnati chili adventure. As of this post, Tim has visited around 60 unique chili places. Since it’s been a few years, unfortunately some of the restaurants have since closed. However, each year more new chili places are discovered, so the adventure continues!

Tim’s Chili Tips:

  • Stick to places with three-ways. He didn’t seek out restaurants serving only coneys, which usually meant the chili was coming out of a can.
  • Order the regular with the maximum number of ways available (up to a 7-way at some places) along with a coney or chili cheese sandwich for fun.
  • Order a chili cheese sandwich in lieu of a coney when an option. Dropping the hot dog allows for the chili to stand out more. Not all restaurants offer the chili cheese sandwich option, but most are willing to make one if you ask.
  • Always bring cash because not all of these mom & pop places accept credit cards.
  • Always have spare change because you’ll often have to park on the street and feed the meter.
  • Be mindful of the hours. Many of the mom-and-pop places are closed on Sundays or only open for breakfast and lunch.
  • At some restaurants, the chili is considered a special and is only offered on certain days.
  • Not every restaurant has chili in its name. For example, the Greek places often don’t include it. As you may or may not know, Cincinnati chili was originally created by Greek immigrants who used Mediterranean spices to create a meat sauce similar to some lamb stews.
  • It is noticeable what restaurants freshly shred the cheese. Pre-shredded cheese from a bag just isn’t the same.

Tim’s Favorites:

  • Price Hill Chili –It has a large menu with a lot of variety in case you aren’t in the mood for chili.
  • Camp Washington– Not a chain, accessible area, distinct vibe with its diner theme.
  • The Silver Ladle – Unique variation on Cincinnati chili made with chicken instead of ground beef
  • Dixie Chili – NKY represent! Home to one of the rare 6-ways (5-way plus garlic).

Below is the Google map Tim created when he planned his chili sampling trips. The map was created several years ago and since then some of the places on it have closed, so please check on availability before you visit.

Day of the Dead at the Florence Branch

Who says skeletons are scary?  That’s simply not the case in the celebration of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).  It is as colorful and vibrant as the Calaveras (skulls) that the day is famous for.  I became aware of the holiday last year as I was planning a vacation to Mexico that would coincide with the holiday.  During my travels, the air was pungent with the smell of marigolds and the air ripe with festive mariachi music.  I saw thousands of beautiful calaveras and ofrendas, dressed and danced as the tradition dictates, and had the time of my life doing so.

A combination of the indigenous Aztec tradition of honoring their dead relatives, as well as the Catholic holiday All Soul’s Day.  This festival is celebrated widely throughout Mexico and Latin American, and is spreading into the United States.

Celebrated November first and second, this is the most important holiday of the year.  First, families tend to the graves of deceased loved ones, as graveyards are not managed by the state, as they are here in America.  On November first, the souls of children who passed away prematurely are honored.   This is called the Day of the Innocents, or El Día de los Inocentes.  White orchids and baby’s breath are placed on these graves.  On the first, the Day of the Dead is celebrated in great fashion!   There are parades of people dressed as calacas (skeletons) and calaveras, followed by a gathering in the graveyard with a feast.  They enjoy tamales, a special bread called pan de muertos, music and festivities.  The belief is that the dead would be offended with mourning, so instead, they celebrate!

This year, we are bringing a bit of Mexico to Boone County with our first Day of the Dead program, at the Florence Branch, 7425 US 42, on Thursday, November 2 at 6:30 p.m.  We have plenty of fun in store for you!  In collaboration with the Spanish club and language classes at St. Henry, students are building traditional altars (ofrendas) which will be on display. These altars are constructed using marigolds and sugar cane.  The scent is believed to guide the spirit of the dead back home.  Each ofrenda is dedicated to the life of an individual and decorated with pictures, their favorite foods and drinks, sugar skulls, and trinkets of the dead.  In addition to viewing these altars, we have the following activities planned:

  • Children can decorate a Sugar Skull Magnet to take home with them.
  • Try a bit of Pan de Muerto
  • Listen to the story The Day of the Dead /El Día de los Muertos: A Bilingual Celebration by Bob Barner
  • Experience traditional dancing by the Cincinnati Baila Academy
  • Learn about the traditional Literary Calaveras or calavera poems which are an important expression of Dia de Muertos.

We hope you’ll join us at this cultural celebration on November 2!

Day of the Dead
Florence Branch, 7425 US 42, in Florence
Thursday, November 2 at 6:30 p.m.

–Micha

Micha O’Connor, Community Events Liaison for Youth Services, doesn’t scare easily- she used to work in a haunted house.  She grew up reading Goosebumps, Scary Stories to tell in the Dark, and watching horror movies with her friends.