In the "Queen City" of Ohio, chili is king.
We move for jobs, a better climate and to be closer to friends and family. But what about chili? If you’re a chili fanatic consider Cincinnati, the “Queen City” of Ohio as the chili king. Over the years, Cincinnati’s passion for chili has continued to spread, and every year visitors make their way to the chili city for a bowl. Cincinnati is known as the Chili Capital of the World, and many factors contribute to Cincinnati’s success in this local dish.From historical influence to a highly competitive landscape amongst chili parlors, here are a few reasons why Cincinnati has remained the world’s Chili Capital.
Cincinnati chili is unique because it isn’t of the ‘con carne’ variety; Cincinnati chili got its origins from Macedonian restaurateurs who introduced Greek-style chili, seasoned with cinnamon, allspice and cloves, and often cumin and chocolate.
Situated on the banks of the Ohio River, Cincinnati had always been caught between northern and southern identity, and for much of its early establishment, had no culinary specialty to call its own.
This changed briefly in the mid to late 1800s, when Cincinnati was known as Porkopolis, influenced by German immigrants’ love of pork. However, when the pork processing industry moved to Chicago, Cincinnati once again became a blank slate for culinary creativity.
Luckily, this meant that Cincinnatians were open to new cultural cuisines, and the city welcomed Macedonian-styled chili.
From the start of the 20th century, immigrants from the Balkans, particularly Macedonia, opened restaurants in Cincinnati and introduced Greek-style sauce to the city’s cuisine. Initially, the chili was served on hot dogs, but after one restauranteur paired chili with spaghetti, the dish became increasingly popular among local diners.
Before long, chili parlors were appearing left and right. Cincinnati chili’s exceptional mix of spices gives it a flair that you can’t find in Texas-style or red bean chili.
Plenty of Chili Parlors
Cincinnati is home to over 180 chili parlors. With so many local businesses specializing in chili, it makes sense that Cincinnatians continue to love this unique dish. Some of Cincinnati’s favorite chili parlors includePrice Hill, Empress, Blue Ash, Pleasant Ridge, Camp Washington, and of course, Gold Star and Skyline.
According to the book A New Benchmark in Cincinnati, Cincinnati has more chili restaurants per capita than any other city in the world.
Ever since the first chili parlors opened up, Cincinnatians have developed a fierce pride for their chili. In fact, Cincinnatians’ enthusiasm for chili has sparked what is humorously known as The Great Chili War between competing chili empires, Gold Star and Skyline.
With so many chili parlors in the city, there is a chili dish for everyone. From deliciously creative vegan versions to the affectionately nicknamed “heart attack on a plate”, Cincinnati chili can be suited for anyone and everyone.