Cincinnati Chili

Rick Cooks Home Cincinnati Chili

Early this century, many Greek immigrants to U.S. cities made their living running coffee shops, hash houses, lunch counters, diners, and other predecessors to the fast food industry. During the post-war years, the popularity of chili con carne had spread into the Midwest. In Cincinnati, Nicholas Lambrinides, the owner of the Skyline, a Greek diner specializing in spaghetti and meat balls, decided to cater to the growing demand for chili. He knew that chili was some kind of spicy ground beef and beans, and that was enough. What he came up with was this dish spiced with Eastern Mediterranean spices, and offered variations ("Ways") as follows:

2-Way: Spaghetti topped with chili
3-Way: Spaghetti topped with chili and shredded mild cheddar cheese
4-Way: Spaghetti topped with chili, shredded cheddar cheese, and either diced onion or red beans
5-Way: Spaghetti topped with chili, shredded cheddar cheese, diced onion, and red beans

The dish was a great success for the diner, and as others tried to copy the recipe, Cincinnati Chili was born. Even the local amusement park, Coney Island, offered a sandwich called the Coney, which is a wiener on bun with mustard topped with chili, chopped onion, and cheddar cheese. Coneys are the most popular wieners ("hot dogs") sold at Cinergy Field.

Not being a fan of kidney beans, my favorite is Four-Way with onions. Also, I find that too many places either overcook the spaghetti, or don't drain it well, or both, but I guess that's part of the charm. The spices are the thing.

This recipe is from friend Glenn Wernz, a native of Newport, Ky. The Skyline recipe is secret, but this one is close.

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Cincinnati Chili

*Serves 6*

2 lb ground beef
2 large onions, chopped (2 c)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 square (1oz) unsweetened chocolate
2 squares (2oz) sweetened chocolate
2 to 3 T chili power (according to taste)
1 t ground cinnamon
3 t brown sugar
1 t ground cumin
t ground allspice
t ground turmeric
t ground cardamom
t ground cloves
1 t salt
1 bay leaf
1 c water
1/3 c tomato puree
1 T beef bouillon granules
2 T cider vinegar

Hot cooked spaghetti
Shredded cheddar cheese
Diced onion
Kidney beans

Brown ground beef and drain
Mix ground beef with remaining ingredients and cook to taste (30 min to 1hr)

2-Way: Spaghetti topped with chili
3-Way: Spaghetti topped with chili and cheddar cheese
4-Way: Spaghetti topped with chili, cheddar cheese, and chopped onion 5-Way: Spaghetti topped with chili, cheddar cheese, chopped onion, and kidney beans Coney: Hot dog on bun with mustard topped with chili, chopped onion, and cheddar cheese

If you want more bite, add 1 t crushed red pepper