My Town Monday Cincinnati: Price Hill Chili

I’ve worked in Delhi Township for a year now, and not once have I had a chance to dine at Price Hill Chili. Until last week.

Price Hill Chili is like Camp Washington Chili, one of those mom-and-pop chili parlors that has a bigger rep than the chains in some circles. I’d heard about Price Hill Chili a long time ago, but never had an opportunity to visit. After all, it’s on the West Side, and moving between Canada and the US is easier than venturing beyond I-75 from the East Side.

After a stressful morning at work last week, which included a run to Walmart to replace a shirt I spilled coffee on (Didn’t even make it into the building when that happened!), I spotted Price Hill Chili on Glenway. So I made it my lunch destination.

Price Hill Chili is a family-owned chili parlor started in 1962. It is attached to the Golden Fleece Lounge, which is part of the business. As a result, Price Hill has a classier look than other chili parlors, which gives it its own character. Consider Blue Ash Chili and Camp Washington Chili, which both have a raucous fifties diner vibe, or Delhi Chili, which is an old family corner restaurant. Price Hill’s decor and atmosphere is wood paneling, almost like a steak house.  Part of it is to make the restaurant seamless with the Golden Fleece.

Sitting in Price Hill Chili for lunch, though, makes it clear this is a neighborhood institution. Listening to the chatter of the customers around me, I could tell most of the diners had been coming here for lunch probably for decades. For me, I felt the stress of the morning simply melt away as I had my usual four-way onion.

And now to the important part: How was the chili?

Quite good. Price Hill does a thinner chili, typified more famously by Skyline. However, Price Hills seasoning stands out more than Skyline, and the meat is a bit thicker.

I will be back for lunch soon, hopefully without a rotten morning driving me out of work.

 

More at the My Town Monday blog.

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MTM Cincinnati: US Chili

I’ve been wanting to check out US Chili for a while.  Across the street from the more famous Camp Washington Chili, it’s not as polished as the local chains nor as glamorous as its better-known neighbor.  In fact, it’s your basic neighborhood hole-in-the-wall.  The linoleum appears to predate Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the chairs and tables are chipped or cracked from years of usage.

What makes the shop itself interesting is its location.  When you walk in the door, it appears to be little more than a well-worn street corner cafe away from the city center.  Then you spot the bank vault door.  Use the men’s room, and as soon as you turn around to wash your hands, there’s the inside of a vault door.  That’s right.  The restrooms are inside an old bank vault.

US Chili, like most of the mom-and-pops, serves burgers and sandwiches, and like Camp Washington Chili and Blue Ash Chili, it’s a breakfast place.  It’s more of a family affair than the other two stores and closes at 4 everyday.  Like all Cincinnati chili parlors (except Gold Star, which was founded by Jordanians living in Mt. Washington), US Chili shows off its Greek heritage, serving gyros with the rest of its fare.

But what about the most important part?  How is the chili in US Chili?

It’s not bad.  Like all the other places (except Dixie Chili, with its garlic-laiden six-way), I had a four-way onion.  To the unitiated, a three-way is Cincinnati-style chili over spaghetti topped with cheddar.  A four-way is the same with onions or beans added.  A five-way is with onions and beans.  The six-way is unique to Dixie Chili across the river in Northern Kentucky, a five-way with fresh garlic added.  Back to US Chili’s four-way onion.

It’s not bad, on par, I think, with Pleasant Ridge Chili.  Not as spicy as Skyline or as thick as Gold Star, but not bad.  The meat is thicker, and the chili itself is not as thin as Skyline’s.  Very filling, but then most Cincinnati chili is.

So next on my list, Price Hill Chili, assuming I can ever get over there to try it.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

The Best Of MTM Cincinnati: The Chili Wars – Chain Edition

Possibly the most popular My Town Mondays post on this blog to date. – Jim

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about Cincinnati-style chili.  I also passed on posting a recipe, since I’ve never made it from scratch.  George Matthai, in the comments section, offered one of his own.  I also promised to give you a run-down of the different chains and a few indie shops.  Today, I look at the chains after the jump.

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MTM Cincinnati: Pleasant Ridge Chili

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It’s Saturday night…  No!  Sunday morning.  Good God, it’s Sunday morning!

You find yourself wandering the streets of northern Cincinnati, afraid to go into Norwood or Bond Hill.  You want to eat, but the nearest Waffle House is across the river in Covington, and frankly, you didn’t like sitting next to the hooker who passed out on you last time you went.

White Castle?  Forget it.  Those belly bombs only make your hangover worse.  You just want to plunk down and eat at a hole in the wall where you can come down from your big night out.  This being Cincinnati, you want Cincinnati-style chili.

What to do?  What to do?

Well, if you wander into Pleasant Ridge along Montgomery Road, you can hit Pleasant Ridge Chili.  Yes, it’s a hole in the wall.  My wife says she used to hit it a lot in her radio days.  Most recently, we hit it after church on a Saturday night.  (We go to a rough church.  I drank Sam Adams at a small group meeting.  The pastor was bleeped during a service.  Yes, I said bleeped.)

Pleasant Ridge Chili is not as iconic as the chains like Skyline or Gold Star, nor the mom-and-pop places Camp Washington and Blue Ash.  However, like Camp Washington and Blue Ash, it’s a small place that’s open late and serves breakfast early.  However, whereas Blue Ash and Camp Washington are diners specializing in chili (Blue Ash is probably more famous for its double-decker sandwiches), Pleasant Ridge is what it is, one of those old neighborhood chili places that never left its original building, at least not since 1970.

The neighborhood of Pleasant Ridge has an eclectic mix of other holes in the wall, including an Irish tavern, an Ethiopian restaurant, and a bar and grill called The Gas Light.

And of course, why post about this place if not for the chili?  Pleasant Ridge Chili is mild compared to the others, maybe closer to Skyline than anything else.  However, the meat is coarsely ground, making the meal more filling.  It’s not the best chili in Cincinnati.  I still give that crown to Dixie, but will gladly agree to disagree on Camp Washington.  But it is more satisfying than most of the chains.

And it’s not a bad place to grab a quick to-go meal or to chill out after bar hopping on a Saturday night.

[More My Town Mondays posts with Travis.]

MTM Cincinnati: Camp Washington Chili

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One of the grand traditions of Cincinnati culture is to hit the chili parlor after the bars close on Friday and Saturday nights.  Skyline and Gold Star stores regularly stay open as late as 4 AM on weekends.  One place goes a step further.

Camp Washington Chili.  Situated along Hopple Avenue near Cincinnati State, it’s one of the oldest chili places in the city, founded in 1940.  Like Empress, Skyline, and Dixie before it, Camp Washington Chili was founded by Greeks who perfected the watery stew Cincinnatians call chili.  The patriarch of Camp Washington is Johnny Johnson, a Greek immigrant who came to the store in 1951 and eventually took it over.

Camp Washington Chili is a diner, much like Blue Ash Chili, but it’s older, even less commercial (if that’s even possible, considering Blue Ash’s lived-in feel).  The menu is smaller, though they do serve breakfast.

And now to the important part:  The chili.  Camp Washington favors a meat sauce over the paste with a strong amount of cinnamon.  Very filling and very satisfying.  The sauce is sharper, tangier than most of the chains.  As with all the chili parlors (except Dixie), I had the four-way onion.

Camp Washington is a Cincinnati institution and makes me miss another chili place with a similar atmosphere:  Oakley’s late, lamented Chili Company.

MTM Cincinnati: Blue Ash Chili

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Blue Ash Chili is the first mom-and-pop chili place I’ve looked at for My Town Mondays.  How much longer will it be mom-and-pop is anyone’s guess.  They’re opening a new shop in Mason, north of the city.

But my visit this past Saturday was to the original on Kenwood Road in suburban Blue Ash.  In the heart of Blue Ash’s retail district, you can almost miss it if you’re not careful.  My apologies to the guy in the Cherokee behind me when I found the place.  Sorry, dude.  I was the guy in the 2005 Dodge who slowed suddenly.  But this is chili.  This is important!

Anyway, like the Gold Star chain, Blue Ash chili was founded in the 1960’s and was not a spin-off of Empress like Skyline or Dixie.  The store is an aging diner with a larger menu than most of the chains, comparable to Frisch’s (the local and original Big Boy franchise), only without the lame commercials.*  Blue Ash Chili even serves breakfast.

However, you’re probably not interested in their onion rings, their big breakfasts, or their deli sandwiches.  There’s only one reason anyone reads about chili parlors on My Town Mondays:  The chili.

So, what’s it like?

If you use Skyline (watery paste) and Gold Star (meaty sauce) as points of comparison, Blue Ash chili favors the Skyline-style recipe.  The meat is finely ground with a strong hint of cinnamon.  However, Blue Ash Chili is thicker and just a little spicier than Skyline.  It actually reminds me more of Empress (the original chili) than anything else.

Blue Ash Chili has a comfortable, lived-in feeling.  As I said, it’s more of a diner atmosphere than the chains give.  You can even get a beer there if you’re so inclined.  Props go to Michelle, my waitress, who talked me into ordering fries (they were OK) and a piece of German chocolate cake for dessert.

More My Town Monday posts with Travis.

*It’s gotten to where I have to change the radio station whenever a Frisch’s ad comes on.  Food’s good; the advertising is nerve-grating.