Review: Dixie Chili


Dixie Chili– Coneys
Originally uploaded by winemedineme

I always forget my camera when we’re just going out during the week. During the week, we tend to go out to old favorites that I’ve already written about, or something like The Cheesecake Factory, which I don’t care to write about. This time, after seeing Hamlet 2 at the Levee, Terry said, “I want to go to Dixie Chili!” and I said “OK!” and then “Thank goodness I have a Blackberry, which takes surprisingly good photographs!”

Well, not quite like that. But you get the idea.

I’m trying to maintain this whole Cincinnati Losers thing, so I chickened out and got salad with chicken, but Terry took one for the team and got a salad and two cheese coneys. Terry’s one of the very few non-native Cincinnatians who actually likes Cincinnati chili. I don’t know a whole lot of out-of-towners who eat it and fall in love. Most of you hear “chili” and think “Texas”, but you end up finding sort of watery sauce on top of spaghetti (horrors!) topped with cheese (strangely orange) and only occasionally involving beans.

Out of towners, simply change your perspective! Think of Cincinnati chili as a meat sauce; more complex in flavor and less tomato-based than something you would traditionally put on spaghetti. It’s derived from patitso, a Greek meat sauce (the various creators of Cincinnati chili were all Greek) and simply Americanized.

Does that help any?

Okay. That doesn’t help. You still think it tastes (as I read one commenter on another blog put it) like canned dog food? Skip Skyline. Skip Gold Star. Either head over to the west side and get some Camp Washington chili (open all night in a charmingly retro building; I shall review it soon, I assure you) or cross the river into Newport and head to Dixie Chili.

Terry and I started going to Dixie Chili before we were even dating. We did a show together and, being a) hungry and b) friends we would go there after rehearsal and eat an unhealthy dinner on our way home. Maybe I should credit their chili cheese fries for our romance? I’m not sure “chili cheese fries” and “romance” have ever been used in the same sentence. Anyway, It’s a place that holds pretty fond memories for me because of that. Oh yeah– and their chili is, by far, the best in town.

Dixie Chili-- coneys

Dixie Chili has a pretty expansive menu aside from chili, including sandwiches, deli selections and salads. Their chili is rich, meaty, spicy (not in a hot way, but well-spiced and with a depth of flavor that Skyline and Goldstar just can’t match) and not greasy like Gold Star in particular can be, as it’s made with lean cuts of beef. It’s not as sweet as Skyline is, either– it’s very well balanced. I know that chili in Cincinnati is about as personal as barbecue is in the South, but I will say this unequivocally: independent chili parlors are far superior to the chains. Far, far superior. This is not to say I don’t like Skyline, but given the choice? Dixie Chili.

I’m also a huge fan of their Greek salad, which is small, and has a light sprinkling of feta, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and homemade croutons, and homemade Greek dressing on the side. We’ve gone from Terry politely asking me if he can have my olives (I tend not to eat them) to me putting them on his plate without asking.

Funny how food fosters a relationship, isn’t it?

Dixie Chili has three locations: Newport, Erlanger and Covington. Good news for Ohioans? They’re smoke free, too!

Dixie Chili on Urbanspoon

  • Laura

    Dixie Chili was my gateway Cincinnati Chili.

    When I moved to this area I bought a house about 2 blocks from the Dixie Chili on Madison in Covington. I tried it and was hooked. Over time, I was able to accept the Skylines and Goldstars of the world, but without Dixie Chili I never would have been able to appreciate the Cincinnati-style Chili.

    And, I still contend that Dixie Chili is the best.

  • liz

    terry is truly my food twin. i am also among the few non-natives who absolutely love cincinnati chili. i haven’t tried dixie, i will have to put it on my list!

  • Kelly

    My tip for outsiders trying to ease into Cincinnati chili: start with the coneys. I moved here in sixth grade, and that’s how I’ve been eating it for at least five years (before that, I got a salad because I couldn’t stand the chili in any form).

    Last month, my boyfriend (who moved here in college, but loved Cincy chili right from the start) shamed me into taking a bite of his five-way, and amazingly, I loved it! I think all the coneys got me acclimated to the taste.

  • Kelly

    P.S. Is there something wrong with the Losers feed? I subscribed (being a hopeful loser myself!) but haven’t gotten any new posts, despite there being four on the site.

  • Amy in Ohio

    You are totally right here. I used to love Empress – back in the day when they had a spot in Norwood. They might be around still, but if so, obviously no where near me.

    When I started working in Kentucky I was introduced to Dixie and I was hooked.

    Terrible confession: I love their 6-way, added FRESH garlic to the chili, beans, onions, cheese, s’ghetti. The fresh garlic smell lingers, but every once in a blue moon I’m willing to risk it and be ostracized.

    Underrated Bonus: I’m safe from vampires for at least 48-72 hours immediately after.

  • Anonymous

    Great call on describing Dixie’s chili.

    One of my favorites. When I’m in Newport I alternate lunches between Dixie and the Green Derby.

  • Julie

    Laura– gateway chili. I can totally see that. It’s a little more approachable than the other chilis in the city, but I agree- it’s the best.

    Liz– We totally need to have dinner some time, don’t we? Well, you and Terry do anyway. :P

    Kelly– I think coneys as starters are an excellent idea. Not sure about the feed– I have it up in Google Reader and it works fine?

    Amy– Garlic coneys. TRY THE GARLIC CONEYS.

    Anonymous– I have heard very mixed reviews about The Green Derby, so I haven’t tried it, but Dixie is a staple.

  • WestEnder

    I have a totally different take on Dixie. I find it meaty but bland; I would never have described it as spicy or having depth. Maybe I need to try it again, it’s been over a year.

    Gold Star is meh, Skyline better and Camp Washington is my #1.

    And the way to get people to like Cincy chili is to put a few drinks in them first. 80% success rate.

  • Chris Thompson

    Dixie Chili’s chili is edible. I’ve had worse. It doesn’t thrill me though.

    Of course, I’m a native. I had skyline IN UTERO. As a native, it’s Skyline for a 3 way, Gold Star has the better coneys. I avoid onion at both places.

    But, that said, I LOVE dixie chili. One reason only. Gators.

    GATORS!

    A Gator is a hot dog bun, a hot dog, mayo, cheese… and a dill pickle spear. No Chili.

    As odd/gross as that sounds, it’s absolutely, astoundingly good. So much so I’m currently wondering whether I can make it to NKY and back on my lunch hour. God they are so good.

  • E.

    Pshaw. Cinci chili is love. Seriously though, you’ve ruined me for life. I now make most of my chili Cincinnati-style-ish (because I’m a firm believer that it’s not really ____-style unless you have it in the city. Like how everyone outside of Chicago is doing pizza WRONG.)

  • Julie

    E– it took me a minute to figure out who you were. I’m glad I ruined you! Apparently I also ruined James. :)

  • liz

    i am definitely up for dinner sometime! i was hoping to make it to the blogger event i saw on schwartz’s website (i am too lazy to try to do the numbers in there) but i am going to be out of town. i was just thinking recently though that it would be fun to meet some of you guys in person!

    re: fresh garlic with chili, i need that. now.

  • Julie

    Liz– I’ll be there, as Bob would kill me if I didn’t show up. :)

  • Veggie Option

    Hey, my husband and I were at the Hamlet II showing too – but we didn’t do Dixie Chili afterwards. We were there last week though – their vegetable soup and Greek fries rock my world.

  • vudutu

    Chris, Gators? Never heard of them, it’s got mayo on it, I’ll try one.

  • Julie

    The mayo IS quite tempting…

  • Toddy-O

    I much rather have Dixie, Empress and Gold Star BEFORE Skyline.

    I grew up with Gold Star (the only place that would be open past 2am…sometimes 4am on the weekends-not like people from bars ever eat past last call lol)so I find their chili to be favorful but not too acidic. But….an inverted five way and a coney from Skyline when nothing else is available is sinful :) And gotta have extra oyster crackers. Skyline’s are better for some strange reason.

  • E.

    Ha! sorry about that. I knew you’d probably figure it out. ;) I’m proud to be in good company, though if I recall, didn’t James wuss out and get the coneys? I’m in love w/ the full-on 5-way. I was glad Though at home, I tend to saute my onions a little. Which is probably so wrong, but I don’t care. It makes a great “pantry-scraper” too.

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  • Jake

    Please review Camp Washington Chili! I love it, but I also love Skyline…. CWC has history, yet so does Skyline….. Oh, well. Just review!

  • Edward L Gibson

    I heard about Skyline Chili from a food TV show, was in the area for a meeting and took the time to go to have lunch at Skyline’s. There was a long line to get in the place, I ordered a coney with Cheese, and a 3-way, took one bite on the coney and fell in love! Started in on the 3-way and could not get enough, in fact I ordered another plate of the 3-way!

    I live in California , I order the can Chili and have it once a week without fail, I am hooked on this stuff, so is my whole family, can’t wait to get back to Cincinnati for the real deal, it is sooooooooo good!