Reader Request: Skyline Chili

Sepiru Chris, one of my fellow My Town Mondays bloggers, wants to know about Skyline Chili.  Patti Abbott wants the best recipe for Cincinnati-style chili.

I’m going to pass for now on the chili recipe.  Every time I’ve made it at home, I’ve usually bought the Skyline or Gold Star mix.  So today, I’m going to talk about Skyline.


For those of you new to the blog, Cincinnati-style chili is a watery concoction spooned over spaghetti and topped with shredded cheddar cheese.  This is called a three-way.  A four-way is a three-way with onion or kidney beans.  A five-way includes both onions and beans.  I prefer a four-way onion.

Now, let’s be clear on something.  This is not chili in the sense of traditional chili.  It’s really Greek meat sauce.  However, Cincinnati is a heavily German town that’s also 47% black, sitting on the Ohio River.  In other words, our knowledge of food consists of German cuisine, Southern cooking, and a healthy dose of kosher (and non-kosher) deli fare.  Sausage, chicken, burgers and fries, and corned beef, all washed down with gallons of beer.  So when the Greeks first arrived in town, they noticed no one was going to eat at a Greek meat sauce parlor.

So they called it chili, something their Germanic, Jewish, and African neighbors could understand.  They knew it wasn’t chili.

But they liked it.

Now, Skyline is not the oldest chili parlor in town.  That honor goes to the older, lesser known Empress Chili.  Empress shops are basically hole-in-the-wall type places.  You see Skylines and Gold Stars and Dixie Chili stores going in at strip malls, on street corners, and in shopping centers.  An Empress usually inhabits the same tired building it occupied back when Johnson was president.

Skyline, however, is the most famous, and the one that introduced me to this Queen City dish.  However…

As noted, they have rivals.  Empress is still around, and has been since the Great Depression.  Gold Star is the most popular after Skyline, and I prefer them for my coneys.  Yes, I said coneys.  Our coneys are essentially four-ways, only with a hot dog instead of a plate of spaghetti.  Dixie is a Northern Kentucky chain that, after 17 years, I still haven’t tried.

There are small mom-and-pop outfits, too.  In fact, the best I’ve ever had didn’t come from Skyline, Gold Star, or Empress.  It came from a Greek restaurant in Cheviot called Nick and Tania’s.  In a future MTM, I’ll talk about the various chain and independent chili parlors in and around Cincinnati.

5 thoughts on “Reader Request: Skyline Chili

  1. Since EvilJWinter has declined the chili recipe, I will link you to my family’s recipe at
    This is written in a way to make gifts, but you can just make it for yourself.
    FWIW, Louisville has only one Skyline that I know of, so I looked into a franchise for my small town. You must have over $400,000 liquid capital to open one, and Gold Star currently will not franchise. So, I get my chili fix when I go north. We do have it available in cans and frozen, but generally, we just make our own.
    My dad has a few blogs about living over a “chili parlor” as a kid.

  2. I love Skyline. In fact, it’s one of the few things about Cincinnati that doesn’t make me spit and bite my thumb to ward against the city’s evil spirit.

    I worked on the Skyline account briefly in the 80’s when the chain’s slogan was as simple, persuasive and direct as an Irish drunk:

    “Eat Skyline Chili.”

    It worked.

  3. I am 77 years old and have been eating Cincinnati style Chili all my life. My first experiance was at the Empress chili “Parlor” on 5th. St. in downtown Cincinnati with it’s marble countertops and tile floors. In those days they did not serve cheese on the chili or the coneys and the coneys were an affordable 2 for 25c. When I got out of the Navy in 1955 my family moved to an apartment located on the second floor over the “Camp Washington Chili Parlor” It is still there and well known all over the city. I have a recipe for this greek chili on my cookbook. as well as a “family” chili recipe. Enjoy

  4. Woo hoo!

    Thanks for this posting, Evil Winter, and thanks for having readers who post the recipes. (Who knew Junosmom had an alternate name!).

    I am delighted that you posted this.

    Oh, I linked to your recent MTM also as Junosmom and I will continue posting MTMs for Travis till he gets back on his feet.

    Cheers and Happy New Year,

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