Gold Star: Not Just Chili Anymore (and a contest)

I get a lot of emails from the PR folks for local chains.  I don’t mind them, but I generally don’t focus on them.  It’s not that I don’t eat at them– I’m pretty sure that I should have budgeted La Rosa’s delivery in my moving expenses (I moved this past week, and I didn’t want to cook, and La Rosa’s delivers…)– but wine me, dine me tends to just… not focus on them.

So, when Barbara, who does PR for Gold Star Chili, contacted me– she mentioned that she had an alternative proposition for me.  I was intrigued.  Her spin?  Things you can do with Gold Star Chili that are a little more gourmet.  I was game– I like creativity.  So, I journeyed a few blocks from my office to the Gold Star in Mason to try some alterna-chili products.

I was greeted by Barbara and Chef Mike Tremblay, who came to Gold Star after a long career in the restaurant industry.  He’s their corporate chef, and is responsible for many of the new menu items you see– stuff beyond the chili and was pretty thrilled to show off some of his experiments.

We talked about the Cincinnati taste profile– what Cincinnati chili, La Rosa’s and Montgomery Inn have in common– and that’s sweet.  Cincinnatians like their savory with a good dose of sweet.  Gold Star, I’ve found, isn’t quite as sweet as the other chili in town (he disagrees), but there’s still that sweet spice that we seem to love.  He used that flavor profile to create his dishes.

Speaking of the spices– they’re all mixed in Cincinnati, at a commissary near Lunken Airport.  There are four people who mix the spices, and none of the folks who do it know the whole recipe.  The spices, which come from all over the world, are all ordered from different purveyors, so that the secret is kept safe.  I think there’s a copy of the recipe in a safe somewhere– but they definitely keep the spice mix a big, huge secret.

We started off with something that wasn’t exactly gourmet– a walking taco.  Not familiar?  You take a bag of corn chips, top it with chili and cheese (and in this case, a spicy Ranch dressing) and eat it with a fork.  This isn’t sold in stores, but I actually thought this was a neat idea for the Gold Star in the airport.  I’m sure it would sell easily in their restaurants too.


Next up was a  Cincinnati Eggs Benedict– poached eggs on top of a sweet corn cake, topped with chili and cheese.  I loved the corn cake– again that sweet paired with savory– and commented (repeatedly) that this would be really great “drunk food”– you know, the stuff you eat when you’ve had a few too many, and are hungry for grease and carbohydrates at 3 AM.


Then, to cleanse the palate, a salad with blue cheese, raspberry vinaigrette, mandarin oranges, and fried onions.  This is available on their regular menu– and was very fresh and different, not at all what I expected.  Chef Mike mentioned that they were trying to change the salads seasonally.


Now here is when the creativity starts.

Chef Mike explained that the chili spice packets you get in the grocery store are good for more than just

First up, shrimp– grilled with Gold Star spices, and the rice and mixed vegetables in the center were also seasoned with the spices.  Very good– it works far better than I thought it would have– just a little bit sweet.  Chef Mike said that you generally should cut the Gold Star packet with something, and that you only need a little bit– it’s powerful stuff.


Gold Star Grilled Shrimp
1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp (any size)
olive oil
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp garlic salt
½ tsp GS Spice Pack
½ tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 lime

Drizzle enough oil over the shrimp to coat.

Sprinkle paprika, garlic salt, GS Spice and Old Bay

Place on wooden skewers which have been soaked in water for 1 hour.

Put on grill, cooking until shrimp tails turn white. Flip and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more (depending on size).

Squeeze lime over the cooked shrimp and serve as an appetizer, accompany other meats or add to corn tortillas for shrimp tacos.

Next up, steak, grilled with Gold Star spices, and topped with creamy blue cheese and vegetables, also seasoned with the Gold Star spices. Very nice combination– if you like your steak with a rub, try this.  The recipe doesn’t say how many steaks, but my guess is that this mix would be good for between 2-4 strip steaks, or you could use your favorite cut of steak.


Gold Star Strip Steak
Strip Steaks
1 Gold Star Spice Pack
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Prepare a “rub” by mixing GS Spice and brown sugar.  Coat or “rub” steak with mixture and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Grill steaks over high heat (2 minutes each side for Medium).

Last (but definitely not least) is my favorite: Gold Star Ribs.  This one


These were ridiculously good– some of the best ribs I’ve had in a very long time.  The ribs were first rubbed with the Gold Star spices and sugar, and then slow-roasted in the oven.  Then, they were basted with Gold Star spice-infused barbecue sauce, until they were sticky, sweet and spicy.  It’s a good thing he served this to me last– otherwise I might’ve eaten the whole thing. They’re that good.  The next time I do pork ribs– and I haven’t in a while– I’m using this recipe.

Gold Star Grilled Ribs
Pork Ribs
1 c. Soy Sauce

1 c. honey

1 c. BBQ Sauce
1 Gold Star Spice Pack

Slow roast Ribs in a SEALED deep pan at 250 for 4 hours. Mix Soy Sce, Honey, BBQ & GS Spice pack. After ribs are done, remove from oven and cool over night.  When cooled, pour sauce over ribs to coat. After about 30 minutes in this mixture, drain and remove and place in 9×13 pan. Pour barbecue sauce over the ribs and place in 375 oven for 30 minutes.  If you prefer, grill and BASTE with sauce.  Turn frequently.

I was really pleasantly surprised at what Chef Mike ended up creating for me to try, and how easy they would be to duplicate at home.  It’s fun to turn something so traditional- Cincinnati Chili– into something fun and different.

Gold Star Chili has offered a prize to one of my lucky readers.  You may have heard about Gold Star’s “Your Way” promotion– how do you like your chili?  Me, I’m a 4-way onion kind of girl, but I hear there are folks who like them “wet” or “inverted” or any one of a number of ways.  What’s your favorite way?  Tell me in the comments and I’ll randomly pick a reader to win a T-Shirt with their choice of “way”.  Deadline for entry is Monday– so get those entries in!

(Just a note– I’ve not been compensated in any way (except for sampling the food) by Gold Star or anyone else for this post.  And if I didn’t like what he did, I wouldn’t post about it!)

Gold Star Chili on Urbanspoon

32 thoughts on “Gold Star: Not Just Chili Anymore (and a contest)”

  • Looks like a fun experience. I just wonder if it’s reasonable to expect gourmet cooks to use a premade spice pack? It runs counter to my “create it from scratch” instinct. I verge on being a purist though, so I might be an anomaly.

    You did sort of tempt me with the ribs though … they might be worth the deviation.
    .-= Courtney´s last blog ..Confessions of a Terry’s Turf Club Junkie =-.

    • I’m not a fan of the spice packs normally either– of the recipes I had, the one that I’m REALLY thinking about making is the ribs. They were really quite delicious.

      I looked at the ingredients– aside from MSG, it’s just spices, unlike spice packets that have thickeners and other weird stuff in there.

  • I’m always amused when I hear the phrase “walking taco.” In Texas, that dish is called “Frito pie” and it’s a staple at high school football games. There, they just cut a slit in a snack size bag of Fritos, ladle in some Texas chili (chunks of beef and no beans), top with cheese and add a fork. I’ve noticed that some Sonic Drive-Ins also offered it as Frito pie.
    .-= Carla´s last blog ..Short Hops: December 8, 2009 =-.

  • The picture (and mere thought) of the eggs with Dog Star, err, Gold Star Chili on them made me throw up a little in my mouth.

    • It was actually really good– I was surprised, I figured it would be a little much. I suppose that you could use your preferred sort of Cincinnati chili instead…

  • the Jenny-way: Small three way, dry (I don’t like it soupy!), inverted with a side of sour cream. It’s a winner in my book.

    My friend Pam does hers the “Pam Way” – she gets a side of extra cheese, and each forkful of chili gets a little bit of extra cheese and an oyster cracker on top. Deeelish.
    .-= Jenny K´s last blog ..It’s A Wonderful Life – tonight!! =-.

  • How fun! Can you do Gourmet White Castle next? 🙂

    I love a good Walking Taco. It is what I also go for at any festival I attend.

    And a Dave-way would definitely be a 5 way dry. Inverted if I’m feeling particularly festive.

  • Carla – you beat me to it. As a displaced Texan I’m usually the first in line for a good Frito Pie. I made some just last week with some “imported” Wolf Brand Chili. But RANCH DRESSING??? Sacrilege!

  • So how about using Gold Star chili in a lasanga dish? I’ve always played with the idea but never actually tried it.

    You could use the staple items of Gold Star – its chili and cheese.


    • Cincinnati-style chili (and how it is served) is based on pastitso, which is kind of like Greek lasagna. Perfect pairing. I don’t know that I would recommend it with the below commenter’s suggestion of White Castle meat…

  • My favorite way is three way, greasy – real chili eaters don’t call it wet – it is greasy.

    I read above about someone talking about lasagna with cold star. I actually did this one, and where I used White castle patties as the meat layer in the lasagna – I think I had two layers of meat, three layers of noodles, shredded cheddar cheese. Oh yea, layer of chili over each layer of meat. I gotta tell you – it was very very good.

  • I think a lot of people don’t know, or maybe don’t want it, but you can get a 4-way “vegetarian,” which is with their “red beans and rice.” Sorry for the overuse of quotations, but I wouldn’t really consider them red beans and rice. It’s the same mix they put in the burrito, which is more like a gravy of beans with a little bit of rice. Either way, it’s delicious. Put a little bit of cheese on it, a ton of onion, and flip it over. Deelish!

  • Ooops! Chili FAIL. The previous comments apply to the competitor! But Gold Star has the best REAL vegetarian chili, and it’s lowfat too. Filled with great stuff like mushrooms and onions and even lima beans, which I normally don’t like. Lesser known on the menu is their Texas and firehouse chilis, which I like to get in a 4-way to be different sometimes. Firehouse has a great red pepper spice on top.

    But…my Cincinnati twist on Gold Star is goetta smothered in Gold Star and cheese!

    • No worries! We at wmdm are equal opportunity chili eaters. I’ve never tried their Texas or firehouse chilis… and your twist sounds pretty delish!

  • Camp Washington Chili; made fresh by Johnny Johnson using the same recipe each and every day since 1951. Made on sight, not in a central factory commissary. Winner of the prestigious James Beard Award. Never soupy, never greasy (sorry, greasy & watery aren’t the same thing. Skyline & Gold Star are often ‘watery’ because they are shipped from their factory commissaries in condensed form, and water is added at the franchise locations. Some locations add more water than others in order to save money). Camp Washington Chili is possibly the finest example of Cincinnati Chili commercially available today. By contrast, Delhi Chili is far and away the worst chili I’ve ever had in my life. Completely inedible.

    • I like Camp Washington; I usually head to Dixie for chili. I haven’t been to Camp Washington in a while, so maybe it’s time for a revisit.

      Delhi Chili– I grew up nearby and never went there (though my grandmother went there for breakfast quite often). I guess I didn’t miss anything.

  • Fun article! Those ribs? I don’t know why I didn’t think of that!! (Hello Captain Obvious.) They sound delish.

    In the past, during my Price Hill years, I used to buy jars of standard pickles at IGA and add things to them —- huge cloves of garlic or hot peppers. The first time I thought, “CHILI PICKLES!” and dumped the entire package in, well, that was a mistake. Then I learned to just put in some of it, not all of it. They were pretty yummy, in an odd way. An inexpensive, which was a plus.

    As boring/dull as this sounds, I’ve sprinkled the mix on top of deviled eggs. But I haven’t done that since I discovered the joys of Penzey quality smoked paprika. 🙂

    Also: burgers. Inspired my Marcel Desaulniers, I have made burgers filled with cheddar cheese but the outsides liberally coated in chili mix. Pan sear it for awesome flavor, taste & smell and bake it in the oven so it doesn’t dry out. Oh, yummy yum yum!

    As far as local chili parlors go, I’m in the “can’t we just all get along boat”, and I try not to take sides (though I do favor Dixie Chili for the superior chili cheese sandwiches — I’m convinced the doughier bun adds a lot to the taste of that). I recently revisited Camp Washington, but miss that old dive atmosphere.

    But, in the spirit of the evening, I give you my Top 5 What I Like Best About Gold Star list!

    1. During part of the year, they serve foot long coneys.
    2. Sometimes, I just crave nacho chips and their chili dip, which they sell in the restaurants (so no party invite necessary).
    3. When I need a brief respite from Cincinnati style chili, I enjoy their Texas Style. It’s surprising good.
    4. Man cannot live by chili alone, and their salads — while fast foodie — have always been fresh, tasty & well-portioned for me.
    5. As dorkified and retro as this sounds, to this day I still quote their old spokesperson Pete Rose when a coney hits the spot after I have had a few beers: “Them dogs is good!” [smiles at camera] *hahahaha* 😀

    p.s. Have you tried Newport Pizza Company’s Cincinnatus pizza made with Cincy-style chili and cream cheese? zOMG. Orgasmic.

  • What a neat experience and post. And now you have my creative wheels spinning. Last year, I adapted a Memphis Corn Pudding recipe to have a savory kick to it. (Yep, that savory/sweet combo!) I now want to try it with the Gold Star chili packet spices. If it works, it certainly would be easier. I’ll keep you posted.

  • Thanks for this!

    I make a homemade Cincinnati chili variation of Gold Star (which I’ve always preferred over Skyline), and it generally lasts 3-5 days. Over that time, we eat chili by itself, chili coneys, and “fancy” 3-ways with the chili, angel hair or thin spaghetti (whatever’s in the house), and finely shredded organic mozzarella. Somehow, we manage not to get sick of it!

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