05 October 2009

Lost City: Cincinnati Edition: The Gold Star Chili Cafe

No matter how depressingly anonymous they can be, one can, if one searches, find regional idiosyncrasies in every airport. (And, no, I don't mean the gift shops that sell "Virginia Is For Lovers" t-shirts as opposed to "I Love New York" t-shirts.

In the Cincinnati airport, its the Gold Star Chile cafe. Gold Star is one of the local fast food chains in the area that serve chili "Cincinnati-style." That style is basically finer and grainier than typical, thicker chilis (it's more a liquid than a solid), with an emphasis on cumin and other spices, and a lack of kidney beans. Also, Cincinnati-style chili tends to be serves more like a topping, over pasta and other ingredients. You can have it "three-way," served on spaghetti with mounds of shredded cheddar; "four-way," which adds onions to the mix; or "five-way," which includes the neglected beans.

Gold Star's main competition is Skyline Chili. People argue bitterly over which is best. Skyline is older, was founded by a Greek family and is the "official chili" of the Reds. Gold Star was founded by four Jordanian brothers and is the "official chili" of the Bengals. Others include Empress and Dixie. The Gold Star concession at the Cincinnati airport is huge, taking up a central position in the food court. You can get your chili all the "ways" you please. You can also buy cans of Gold Star and Skyline chili is the nearby gift shops to take home with you. I bought one of each. I ate them on successive days for lunch. Having no cheese, I made an unorthodox "three-way" or pasta and onions.

To tell the truth, I liked both. I don't know which was better. Funny, I tried Cincinnati chili a while back and didn't think much of it. This time I thought it was kinda great. Now, where can I get the stuff in New York....


Karin Rosner said...

You must order it online, or make it yourself. America's Test Kitchen had a very good version that I liked a couple of seasons ago.

Haverchuck said...

Edward's on West Broadway in Tribeca does Cincinnati NIght once a month, featuring Montgomery Inn Ribs, Graeters Ice Cream, Skyline Chili, and Larosa Pizza.

Matt said...

The rule of thumb is that out-of-towners don't usually go for Cinci chili the first time, then like it the second time. Sounds like your experience.

I keep a supply of the stuff safely stored in Park Slope in case of emergencies.