Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cincinnati Chili

Twice in the last week, I’ve done something I’ve never done before. Well, I’ve done it at home, on my own, but I’ve never had anyone else’s.

I ate Cincinnati chili, the famous chili-spaghetti.


Both of the major local chains have a vegetarian selection year-round, but one has been advertising their veg option pretty intensely during Lent. Last Thursday, I got takeout from the Gold Star Chili drive-thru and brought it home. I was a little too scared to go inside.


If I’m being completely honest, I willl admit that the chili was okay. Their website tells me the chili is vegan, and it’s full of beans and corn in a thick, dark, tomato-y sauce. I even think there were lima beans in the chili. I enjoyed it, and not everyone would say they like lima beans in their chili! The spaghetti, though, was awful. It was mushy. Yuck.

So, that’s try #1 at Cincinnati chili. Alex and I agreed we probably won’t be back. But over the weekend, I got an email from our local Loving Hut, announcing their version of Cincinnati 5-way as a menu special. I really wanted to give it a try.


This was pretty cool to try, because it really had that smoky, hot, almost bitter flavor of what I imagine to be the real deal. The email disclosed the ingredients: organic spaghetti, organic tomatoes paste, Gardien crumbles, vegan cheese, sweet onion, and organic beans. They didn’t give away the spices, but there sure were some good ones in there.


This spaghetti was good, and plentiful. I wonder if “real” Cincinnati chili is as much spaghetti as chili –- that’s the idea I got from both restaurants, and it surprises me.

Am I converted to Cincinnati chili? No, but I’m glad I tried it. Here’s to preserving local delicacies! (And understanding why they are apparently immune to globalization.) Who knows, after twice in one week, I may find myself craving this stuff.


  1. Eek, yeah I can't imagine drive-though spaghetti being good at all. I'm sure it's cooked beyond oblivion.
    Do you have any idea where the tradition for Cincinnati Chili came from? Sounds like an odd mix.

  2. Interesting that Gold Star claims their chili is vegan. I know Skyline chili is not, they use Worcestershire sauce in their recipe which is made with anchovies. Too bad, back in my pre-vegan days I could eat like 20 chili coneys from Skyline.

  3. FF - I hear this stuff is a riff of a Greek stew, served over spaghetti and hot dogs to make it appeal to the non-Greek folk.

    Brian - I am not aware that Skyline has vegetarian chili with or without Worcestershire. The offering I referenced is black beans and rice. I've never been interested in going out for black beans and rice.

  4. The Gold Star chili may have tasted bad, but the pic is extremely appetizing. Wish my Loving Hut was as Americanized as your's.

  5. I didn't know such a thing existed! And it sounds great! Thank you for introducing me to Cincinnati chili!

  6. Ew, nothing worse than mushy pasta.

    But I love chili and pasta together; I had no idea it was traditional Cincinnati fare. The Loving Hut version definitely looks and sounds like the winner of the two.

  7. You and shen are killing me with the Loving Hut food! I'm going to have to google it to see if there is one close to me. That Cincinnati 5-way looks very good!

  8. Wow, Cincinnati Chili?? Nothing like that in Sacramento. Never heard of the stuff, but it sounds like an interesting combination. Definitely something the kids would have a blast with, I think.

  9. too bad on the mushy...but it is stillpretty cool that they make a veggie version!!

  10. There is also vegan Worcestershire sauce. I just found it recently. It's just as good.