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Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili is a spicy chili stew from the region of Cincinnati. This chili con carne or chili stew is characterized by its thin saucy consistency, spiced with an unusual combination of seasoning ingredients such as allspice, cinnamon, Worcestershire sauce, chocolate or cloves. Another unique feature of this dish is its unconventional presentation. This stew is usually prepared and served in many Mom and Pop styled eateries and in some popular chili parlors like Gold Star, Skyline, Dixie Chili and others.

Cincinnati Chili is believed to have been introduced by a team of Macedonian immigrant restaurateurs John and Tom Kiradjieff, who were trying to increase their customer base by serving ethnic styles of cuisine. They started selling this spicy stew from their hot dog parlor near a famous burlesque theater called Empress in 1922. The parlor was later renamed as Empress Chili parlor. Tom Kiradjieff re-invented this dish by modifying the traditional stew and teaming it with spaghetti and hot dog. Thereafter, the style and taste was copied by some popular restaurateurs who often served it as their own creation.

Empress continued to serve chili to Cincinnatians until 1949, and it faced tougher competition thereafter due to the establishment of a popular chili parlor, Skyline Chili. This parlor was started by a Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides, who worked at Empress Chili parlor for a long time. Another chili parlor Gold Star Chili was started in 1965 by four Jordanian brothers named Daoud.

Later on Empress sold their recipes to some popular restaurant chains and delivered packed stew through franchised outlets or through regular food stores. Over the past 3 to 4 decades all these branded chili parlors entered into tough competition by adding over 250 chili parlors throughout Cincinnati, which serve the typical Cincinnati Chili.

Method of Preparation
Traditionally Cincinnati chili is prepared by using ingredients like onion, beef, garlic, and host of spices like chili powder, grounded all-spice, cinnamon, cumin, red cayenne pepper, and salt. Unsweetened cocoa or grated unsweetened chocolate is the unusual inclusion in this dish. Unlike the traditional chili con carne, the pieces of beef are boiled (instead of sautéing) before combining with other ingredients, which results in the smooth texture of the dish. The dish is seasoned with a mixture of tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and cider vinegar, which is served over cooked pasta. The stew is served with additional toppings like Oyster cracker, shredded cheddar cheese, onion and kidney beans.

In restaurant and parlors, Cincinnati chili stew is ordered on the basis of the order by which the ingredients are included in the chili. The customers can order –

  • Bowl – Chili stew served in a bowl.
  • Two- Way – Chili stew served over spaghetti.
  • Three Way – Chili stew served over spaghetti with a topping of shredded cheese.
  • Four Way – Chili stew served over spaghetti with a topping of shredded cheese and onions.
  • Five Way – Chili stew served over spaghetti with a topping of shredded cheese, onions and beans.
  • Four Way Bean – The chili stew is served over spaghetti and topped with cheese and beans in place of onions.

Cincinnati chili is usually served as a hot dog sauce or as a topping for spaghetti dish.