Cincinnati, Ohio has become synonymous with chili, and it has more chili parlors than any other city in the world. But why is this Midwestern town so famous for it chili and what makes it so good?
History of Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati chili originated in the “Queen City” in the early 20th century, created by several groups of northern Greek immigrants. A local favorite with numerous locations is Skyline Chili, which was started in 1949 by a Greek immigrant named Nicholas Lambrinides. His first restaurant was overlooking the skyline of Cincinnati and featured his secret recipe, which began from watching his mother, and grandmother cooking in their small kitchen in the village of Kastoria, Greece. Another favorite is Gold Star Chili, which started in 1965 and now has nearly 100 restaurants. Gold Star Chili even has a petition circulating to have the city leader’s officially nickname Cincinnati “Chilitown USA”. The distinctive, spicy Cincinnati-style chili is the town’s “official” hometown dish. Today, according to the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, Cincinnati residents consume more than two million pounds of their signature chili each year.
Cincinnati chili is a rich, stew-like dish, with a complex mixture of spices and flavors that evoke its Grecian roots. Unlike Texas chili, beans are added as an accompaniment to this dish and not cooked with the chili.
Serving Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati-style Chili is served with a variety of accompaniments. “Two-way” chili is chili plus spaghetti noodles. “Three-way” chili adds shredded cheese to the mixture. “Four-way” adds beans or diced onion, and the most popular, “Five-way” Cincinnati combines all of these ingredients. Some people also add oyster crackers. Another popular way to serve it is called a cheese coney. This version consists of chili poured over a hot dog in a steamed bun, with chopped onion, mustard, and topped with mild cheddar cheese. If you are ever in the Cincinnati area make sure you try some Cincinnati chili, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
How to Make it
Here’s how to make traditional Cincinnati-style chili:
3 c. cold water
2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 medium onions, diced (save 1 diced onion for topping)
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
4 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 Tbsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 whole bay leaves
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Combine the beef and water in a Dutch oven, breaking up the meat. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for one hour, 45 minutes, stirring periodically. Uncover and cook 15 minutes more. Serves 6-8.