Review: Skyline

SkylineCincinnati Chili, particularly Skyline is, I think, the most ubiquitous of Cincinnati foods.  We’re known for it.  If you grew up here, you probably like it.  If you didn’t, you either love it or hate it.  I talked a little about the history of Cincinnati chili here.

Skyline holds a special place in my heart, even if it’s not my favorite Cincinnati chili.  A couple of years ago, when I worked at the American Jewish Archives.  I became good friends with my boss, Fred, and we went to Skyline every Friday, like clockwork.  We talked about history, current events, and the tough stuff that was happening in our lives at the time.  We’re still good friends, but I moved from the AJA to grad school, and Fred eventually left for full time teaching at UC.  We still try to get together for Skyline once in a while– but now we go to the one in Mason instead of Clifton.

We each have our usual orders– I usually get a Buffalo Chicken Salad (low in calories if you get the dressing on the side!) and he gets a vegetarian burrito.  We met earlier in the week (to celebrate his birthday) and I switched it up for a 4-way, onion, kid’s size.

Do you like Skyline, if you’re not from here?  If you like it, what’s your “regular” order?

Skyline Chili on Urbanspoon

  • http://www.vandeneynden.biz Rose

    I LOVE Skyline, especially the one in Blue Ash by my office. I go there at least once a month and always order the same thing: a four-way onion and a diet. It sounds really good today, too, what with the FREEZING temperatures!

  • http://www.profilactic.com/mashup/tandmark Mark

    There used to be a Skyline and I think a Gold Star (maybe there still are) in downtown Covington, on Madison around 5th or 6th street. In the late ’50s/early ’60s, my parents used to take the family there occasionally for 4-way coneys after shopping at Pogues or Coppins.

    Nowadays, whenever I chance to visit NKy or Cinci, my sibs know they’ll have to accede to my demands to dine on Cincinnati chili (and, for breakfast, goetta) at some point. Love the stuff, though having been away so long, I don’t know how one chain’s chili differs from its competitors.

    Here in Seattle, we’ve got World Class Chili in the famous Pike Place Market serving a pretty good Cinci chili. Sadly, the founder-owner just died, so I might soon be reduced to ordering cans of Skyline or Gold Star chili online from now on!

  • eroslane

    I have a theory that the chili tastes the best when the windows of the parlor are all fogged up and covered with condensation. The aroma is awesome at that point.

    I love a good 5-way with friends, or even after a long day at work late-nite.

    I give Skyline kudo for the best “ways”, but Dixie Chili easily has the best coneys/chili sandwiches. (I think it is their choice of bun — I find it tends to be a bit doughier and holds the liquid far better than Skyline does).

    Besides, Skyline doesn’t have Alligators! NOM NOM NOM

  • eroslane

    p.s. By the way, it is always fun to take out-of-towners to Skyline. The look on their face, and then the inevitable question: “How do I eat this?” always makes for a fun time out.

  • Charles

    I was born and (mostly) grew up in Louisiana–I’m definitely not from around here. In fact, I grew up thirty minutes from the Texas border, whose style of chili I tend to regard as canonical.

    That said, I do enjoy Skyline, enjoying a five-way. I’m not as hard core as others–I never do it as take-out, and almost never do it alone.

    The key for an outsider is not to think of it as “chili” as it is known throughout, well, pretty much everyplace else. Rather, ome should think of it as a specialized pasta sauce (like alfredo or marinara).

    My Skyline Story: Skyline was one of the clients of the company I used to work for (back when I was more of a desktop support guy). One day, I was sent to their corporate office in Fairfield to do some work on their computers. The person who greeted me lead me to my contact. We passed a soda fountain, which he pointed out and offered me a drink–it was free.

    My contact showed me where I was going to work and what he needed done, then offered me a pop. “We have our own fountain,” he proudly pointed out. I declined and set to work, and he went to do his thing.

    About a half hour later, some random guy stuck his head in the room, inquiring who I was, what I was doing there–a security check, but a gentle one. I explained all that, as well as my contact.

    “Oh,” he said, satisfied I was legitimate. “Do you want a pop? We have our own fountain.”

  • http://www.jenrizzo.com Jen

    I’m not from Cincinnati – I’m from Kansas City, in fact, a town where we know our meat. But I love Skyline something fierce, and now that I’ve moved to San Francisco I’m just miserable without it.

    One chilito with onion and a coney with no mustard. Mmmmm.

  • http://www.katesrandommusings.com Kate

    I grew up here – and have eaten many a five-way at Blue Ash Chili, where we’d go when I was a tyke. Last time I was there, I discovered a six-way – with golden, deep fried jalapeno rings served atop the cascading mound of shredded cheese.

    I don’t have a dog in the Skyline/Gold Star fight – I’m not a native Cincinnatian and we moved away when I was a teen, so I never really knew that was such a significant debate that deserved taking sides.

    I like all Cincinnati chili – well, as long as it has noodles and tastes a bit cinnamony :)

  • http://www.drew-o-rama.com/designcincinnati/ D R E W

    two cheese coneys, mustard, no onion, please.

  • http://www.urbancincy.com/ Randy Simes

    Skyline has better 3-ways, Goldstar has better coneys. The local guys like Price Hill Chili, Camp Washington, etc beat out both the big chains.

  • Kel

    I love the burrito’s– deluxe burrito, all chili, no lettuce with onion and a tea…. great order just breaks the diet too much.

  • Susan

    I’m not from Cincinnati but I lived there for 2 years and I loved it! I bought some in the cans on Ebay awhile ago and add all the fixings to it at home but it just isn’t the same of course.

    I like the vegetarian burrito, the chili burrito, and a four way with the rice and beans mix but no meat.

  • Netlurker

    Not a native (but from Dayton, OH so I had tried it before coming to Cincinnati.) I like Skyline and Gold Star. At Skyline I always get the (vegetarian) black bean burrito because it is their only veg entree. If I am in the mood for a 3-way I go to Gold Star since they have a veg chili. The Goldstar veg chili isn’t the same but the spices are so it hits the spot.

  • Tom S

    I’m from Texas. I’m passionate about chili. I can remember back in the days of the Oilers-Bengals rivalry when the Houston Chronicle would run an article mocking all things Cincinnati, starting with the chili. “It’s this thin stuff. They serve it over … get this … spaghetti!”

    My chili is nothing but meat and spices thickened by masa harina, but that being said I have to say I love Cincinnati-style chili (and I’ve yet to host a fellow Texan who doesn’t). True, I think of it as a really interesting Greek spaghetti sauce, but what I mostly think of it is that it’s damned good. I can’t imagine a world without it.

    When Empress is “on” it’s my favorite. Love Skyline, and Camp Washington is my favorite standalone parlor (though I have yet to try the west side fave Price Hill Chili, and there are many I’d like to try).

    Cincinnati-style Chili (along with Goetta) are, in my opinion, two contributions to the general well-being and happiness of people. People who like Cincinnati-style Chili and Goetta, anyway.

  • http://www.esrati.com David Esrati

    And Fred would order the kosher chilli with cheese?
    I love a 4 way with onions-
    but love a skyliner or two on the side (skipping the skyliner is a diet thing)
    Would love it if they discovered a real all beef hotdog- that isn’t the size of my pinky. I’d gladly pay more for a real sausage sized hot dog with the fixins.

  • eroslane

    I found the one comment interesting, which compares it more to a spagetti sauce than chili. It kind of is when you think about it! *ponder* *ponder*

  • Keith

    I’ve lived in Cincinnati for 9 years and still can’t get used to the spicy sweet taste of the chili. I’ll down a cheese coney now and then but there is no possible way I will eat a three-way.

    Not only does a three way include an obscene amount of chili sauce, but the overdose of cheese-like substance and watery, overcooked noodles is just sickening. No thanks.

  • Coco

    we are a non-cincinnati chili family… between the upstate NY husband who nearly faints at the thought of chili on a hotdog – that was likely boiled? and the child who refuses all things tomato saucey or oniony… While I’ve had it now and then over my life, without the immunity of having it regularly – it’s just not on our plates!

  • CincyCapell

    I like skyline. LOVE Camp Washington. Don’t like Gold Star (too much cinnamon), and the worst chili in the area is definitely Delhi Chili (YUCH!)

    It’s funny, all of the Skyline chili comes out of a central commissary, but I swear that certain locations are better than others. Ludlow Ave & Covington by the I-75 bridge are amongst the best.

  • BawB

    I first tried Skyline in college, my girlfriend (now wife) is a native of Cincy and she was so excited to have me try it. I think I took about half the cheese off of it the first time, because I thought there was way too much. A few years later I am living in Cincinnati, I go get a 3-way and when they give it to me I think, “there’s barely any cheese on this thing!” That is when I knew I was firmly in the grasp of Cincinnati Chili!

  • MikeInAZ

    I used to “frequent” the Clifton location when I attended UC back in the early to mid-80’s. There was always a waiting line to get in after the bars closed on Friday or Saturday night. I used to be a doorman and bartender at Burgundy’s which was a large (1800 person capacity) night club on the corner of Calhoun and Vine Streets (I see on Google Earth this is not an empty lot) and we used to go to Skyline after many a night of working and/or drinking. My “usual” was 4 cheese coney’s, 1 bowl of chili, and a carton of milk. I remember we used to be amazed that the “secret hot sauce” on the tables would clean a tarnished penny if you dropped some sauce on it. Took me many years to figure out that this was just Tabasco :) I have never been back since college (I now live in Arizona) but I crave it. I even have cravings for White Castle. I had a friend who got me some canned Skyline chili when she went to Ohio. It was pretty much some really greasy crap! It was just not the same as the homemade chili they made on site in the stores back then. I presume now-a-days that the chili is all canned and simply heated in the stores. But, I presume that White Castle and Skyline always tasted really good when you were drunk. I don’t recall ever eating either if I had not been drinking :)