Cincinnati Greek Chili

AKA “Gold Star Chili” or “Skyline Chili”.

The thread about “Chicago Style” hot dogs made me think about food named for cities, and hence, this stuff. I’ve never had it, only heard accounts of it, which make me curious. My question - if I were to pick one of the recipes, and try to make a batch, would I get the right experience? A secondary question might be whether I would WANT the experience. You can answer that, too, if you like.

Background - the stuff doesn’t seem to be “chili” in the sense normally understood by anybody outside Cincinnati. The active ingredients usually include cinammon and cocoa powder … yes, cocoa powder … in addition to ingredients more customarily found in meat dishes.

Cocoa powder? No kidding? I’ve been wondering…

As to whether you’d want to try, the Cincinatti-style chili that I’ve had isn’t particularly hot (not at all, really), nor does it have any other flavors that some folks don’t like. Whether it would come out any good by the recipe you have, I can’t say.

By the way, if it does work, could you post the recipe over in one of the recipe threads in MPSIMS?

I have a package of Cincinatti Chili mix in my cupboard. The stuff does not even remotely resemble chili in the traditional sense, taste or preparation-wise. There is indeed cinnamon in the ingrediants. The instructions call for “boiling” the hamburger in water and adding this spice packet. After boiling for several hours, you are left with a thin gruel that could be eaten with a straw. I reccomend adding an old tennis-shoe, boiling for several hours, then eating the shoe. This stuff is pure slop. But then this is just my opinion. One of my specialties is good ole’ Texas style “come on ice-cream!” chili, the kind you can eat with a fork. Hell, my dog wouldn’t eat that Cincinatti shit. But then, that’s just his opinion.

Cocoa powder? No shit? The cinnamon part is obvious, but I wouldn’t have guessed cocoa powder!

Having lived in Ohio all my life, and in the Cinci area for a decade or so, I’m familiar with the Gold Star/Skyline chili stuff. Being also a fan of serious chili, that is Tex/Mex chunky firewater, I have always hesitated to call the overly-sweet, pasta-and-cheese-based Cinci-style concoction ‘chili.’ It ain’t even close. I’d rather compare it to spaghetti, although spaghetti buffs will probably object to that…

Let’s just say it’s a local thing – although it’s spreading – and leave it at that.

Actually, some of the recipes seem to call for some unsweetened chocolate instead of the cocoa powder, and a few leave the chocolate component out. Some tell you to brown the hamburger lightly first, others make a point of telling you to boil it raw (!). The cinnamon seems to be an invariant.

And, as already noted, it is to be served over spaghetti, optionally topped with grated cheese, onions, beans.

Doesn’t sound like chili to me, either. Not that I’m a purist about normal chili - it MAY contain beans, in my opinion. Two twists I like when making chili - instead of hamburg, use about half hamburg, half italian sausage. And stir in a chunk of cheese - not enough to be readily noticable, but enough to melt in and improve the texture a bit. Other than that - HOT!

The Cinci stuff sounds more like somewhat odd spaghetti sauce. I’ll report back if I try it.

I’ve tried this recipe from Good Housekeeping…can’t vouch for it’s authenticity, but it was decent tasting. Not very much like chili, more like a cross between Bolognese sauce and something Greek. The kids like it a lot.

3/4 16-ounce package spaghetti
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
1 medium-size onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 15- to 16-ounce can pink beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
toppings: 1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, 2 tablespoons nonfat sour cream, 3 green onions, chopped

  1. Prepare spaghetti as label directs, using 2 teaspoons salt in water; drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, in nonstick 10-inch skillet over medium heat, heat olive or vegetable oil. Add onion and 3 tablespoons water; cook until onion is tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Add chili powder and cinnamon; cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  3. Stir in pink beans, tomatoes with their juice, beef broth, tomato paste, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; over high heat, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
  4. To serve, divide spaghetti evenly among 4 warm dinner plates. Spoon chili over spaghetti; serve with toppings. You can buy it there.

I’m a Censornatian myself… the only way I can stand the stuff is on a cheese coney (hot dog w/mustard, onions, chili, and cheese), or chili cheese fries (self explanatory).

If you want the experience at home, I suggest buying skyline in the can… the powdered stuff tends to come out watery and scatalogical.

If in Cincinnati, skip the chains (skyline and gold star), and hit the local chili parlors, one of which can be found on just about any neighborhood strip. They’re our version of the local greasy spoon. Camp Wahington Chili serves the best stuff by far, even if their new building sucks, and Price Hill Chili has the best looking waitresses, as well as a sandwich called the Bengal, an artery-hardening 1/2 pound monster of bacon, ham, and cheese.

I’m not Greek, but I love Greek food.

How does this relate?

yabob While your posting title was provocative, it obviously meant that Cinci chile was “Greek” to you(didn’t match up with any known chili).

Then, tatertot posted a recipe, prefaced with the comment that

I looked for what would make it Greek, but can’t find it.

While I live in Northern Ohio, I’ve had Cinci chili. And, assuming you like almost any version of what passes for chili in the rest of the US, Cinci chili sucks.

I had understood that Cincinatti-style chili was invented by a Greek chef, who was trying to follow a customer’s description of chili, but used the spices he was familiar with instead of the standard American ones. Does this make sense, samclem?

Actually, it meant no such thing. I’ve just heard the stuff called that, whether there is any justification or not. I agree it doesn’t match up to actual Greek cuisine in any way, either.

The Skyline web site has a history page that does credit the recipe to a Greek chef who came to Cinci in 1949 - Lambrinides. The stuff reminds me of the meat used in pastitsio (ground beef or lamb, tomato sauce, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.), but only slightly.

Thanks for setting me straight about the Greekness of Skyline chili. I should have read a bit first.

I guess I’ll have to go on a quest to find out if the info is just puffery from the homesite or true.

Like Gilligan, it did remind me ever so slightly of pastistso, but it was more like a weird bolognese sauce. Some recipes are probably more Greek-tasting than others.

  1. I have several recipes for chilis that call for cinnamon and/or unsweetened cocoa, though rarely in the amounts used in Cincy-style chili. The two ingredients seem to go particularly well with pork chilis.

  2. Given the odd ingredients found in many chilis (my personal favorite - I soak my bulgar wheat in orange juice when making vegetarian chili), I think it is fair to call Cincy-chili “chili”. A chili has two requirements: ya put in chili powder and cumin, and ya slow simmer it. By this definition, **tatertot’s] Good Housekeeping recipe ain’t chili - it cooks too fast. BTW, most commercially available chili powders already have cumin in them.

  3. If ya use hamburger in a chili, ya end up with mush. If you can, ask your butcher for chili-grind ground beef (lamb, pork, etc.). This is a much thicker grind, and will stand up to the 2-3 hours of simmering without falling apart. If you can’t get chili-grind, used diced beef.

  4. Back to Cinci-style chili: I love the stuff, especially my version ;), if it’s done right. I go for a sweet-hot combination that I stole from a restaurant: I serve the Cincy chili on a bed of hominy that has been sauteed with crushed jalapeno peppers. Yu-uum!

Tater…I read your recipe through four times…you DID mean to include meat of some sort, didn’t you?

There’s an excellent and supposedly authentic recipe for Cincinnati chili in Jane and Michael Stern’s masterwork, SQUARE MEALS. My copy’s at home, so I can’t type it out for you just now, but everyone should own this book anyway; positively the funnest cookbook ever written.

DOH! I re-read through my recipe and that ain’t the one I used either…if anyone is interested, I’ll dig through my massive stacks of recipe clippings.

The one I used did come from GH, this’ll learn me to just copy the recipe from the website without thoroughly reading it first. And it did have meat…like I said, I don’t know how authentic it was, but it tasted pretty good. Just not like chili. Or spaghetti. But good.

I’ll just go back to MPSIMS where I belong, if ya’ll don’t mind. :o

PS Ike I love Jane and Michael Stern, they rock, could you send me the recipe, por favor? In return, I’ll mail you chocolates.

Totally agree, black455.

I went to school at UC. After a night of drinking Hudephol, Little Kings, and Burger, we often found ourselves at one of the local chili establishments. I fully agree that Camp Wahington Chili has the best stuff around, especially after a night throwing back Cinci brews.

The Skyline Chili chain was indeed owned by the greek Lambrinides family for many years. I can’t verify the rest of the story.

Don’t tell the people at Camp Washington Chili that you hate the new building. It was designed by their daughter.

Chili lover here. Used to go to Cincy monthly for work. Had to try the chili. Yuck! To me, sweet and chili just aren’t supposed to go together (though I’d gladly give any of your concoctions a taste test, SuaSponte.)

Boy, I guess it couldn’t get much better than tossing down Hudies and following them with some sweet Skyline Chili. Please tell me you were joking. I used to eat and drink my fair share of slop when I was a student.

Now The Barn Rib Pit is another matter… What a dive! Gotta love it.


Forgot the blankety-blanking cookbook at home. Sorry, just wanted to let you know I wasn’t ignoring your request.

I’ll either post it tomorrow from work or at home tonight, if my four-year-old can rehook our Internet access before his bedtime.