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  1. #11
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    I went to college near Cincinnati and developed my love of Cincinnati chili there. I'm surprised to hear Empress described as a "smaller chain" because it used to be second only to Skyline. Gold Star is the relative newcomer.

    There is a good thread on the topic here.

    Thirty years ago they didn't go too far from Cincinnati but today there are Skylines and Gold Stars all over Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and perhaps other states. They're in Louisville, I know. Other places, in the Cincinnati area and elsewhere (even one here in Chicago) offer what they bill as "Cincinnati Chili," but from my experience only those three chains get it right.

    The origin details are somewhat murky, as I think both Skyline and Empress, which are owned by different branches of the same family, claim to have been the first.

    John and Linda's recipe for the dish is very good and authentic. I have made it many times. It is also very easy.

    As for Covington trying to lay claim to some innovative variations, that is news to me, but I've never spent much time in Covington.

    As mentioned above, beans are available as add-ons but the devotees rarely order them. The most common orders are the three-way or the four-way with onions. When you get it in the bowl (as opposed to a coney), you get oyster crackers. Hot sauce is usually available but also is not really part of the traditional experience.

    It has always been understood that both the beans and the hot sauce are offered as a kind of concession to diners who want a more traditional Tex-Mex chili.

    It's always been described as Greek and there are some similar meat sauces in Greek cuisine. I don't believe there is any Mexican connection.

    Cincinnati, by the way, is a great town with a lot to recommend it. Not the least is how close it is to Kentucky.
    Last edited by cowdery; 10-30-2006 at 11:30.

  2. #12
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Excellent again, thanks - looks like people have scoped this out, in writing too!

    There must be some connection to Mexico or the South West, if only in the name.

    I was wrong by the way in saying Trillin called a bowl of plain, chili on spaghetti, he didn't. He did refer to chili only by that term and refers too to the oyster crackers. It was Trillin who referred to Covington restaurants as innovating with eggs and franks but maybe that trend died out since the book was written. I'll go into Covington one day and check it out. I've actually tried twice to get into Covington and ended up on the bridge, in one case, and 5 miles downriver, in another case. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I need an SB-er who knows the area to come with me. Then too when you are trying to put some distance between your windshield and flying stones from passing trucks you can get distracted.

    Trillin also talks about a place called Stenger's, the last he says of the old German workingman's bars in what used to be called (he used the past tense in 1970), "Over the Rhine". What did he eat there? A pile of mettwurst on two potato pancakes with sides of beets and pickles and other good stuff.

    Does Stenger's still exist...?

    Gary

  3. #13
    Connoisseur
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman
    Does Stenger's still exist...?

    Gary
    Sunday, May 02, 1999

    Say so long to Stenger's


    BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
    The Cincinnati Enquirer

    This looks to be the end of an era: After 52 years at the stove, Leo Sunderman is cooling his burners.
    Sunderman owns Stenger's, the Vine Street cafe in Over-the-Rhine that's famous for its blue-plate specials and its eclectic clientele. It may be the only place in town where a tableful of CEOs sits next to a tableful of street people next to a tableful of judges next to Findlay Market shoppers doing Bloody Marys.
    It's a circus, this, which Sunderman presides over with non-stop banter while slicing up sauerbraten, pot roasts and hams.
    But not for long. Sunderman is selling the cafe and building with 11 apartments. It has been in his family 65 years.
    “It's been a good life, but I'm ready to sit down,” he says. “I have five grandchildren and golf to play. I'm ready.”
    One more thing: Real estate agent Chris Schoonover, who has the listing, usually mails post cards with pictures of her listings. For this one, she's sending a picture of Sunderman. “He is Stenger's. The building isn't,” she says.
    Dale

    "All I want to know is who's the player on second base?"

  4. #14
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Thanks Dale.

    I guess all good things come to an end..

    Who upholds today the traditions of old Germania in Cincinnati...?

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 10-30-2006 at 16:50.

  5. #15
    Is it any wonder, really, that SB.com is so popular?! Look it, here -- we're talking (as in, expert opinion!) about Cincinnati chili!!! See Jim for software-writing expertise, Dane for networks, Chuck for bourbon and publishing, Gary for whisk(e)y and beer history and technology, Bettye Jo for insider bourbon info, Bobby for day-lilies and Jim Beam, Cliff for trademark and internet property issues, Doug for sand-blasting, Julian for bourbon production, profile selection and marketing, Ken W. for corporate distillery info...
    Well, you see my point, I trust.
    Bourbon draws us here, but the sheer capacity of expertise within and among our membership surely makes this a must-visit site for almost any question. Bottom line is -- WE KNOW EVERYTHING!
    Tim

  6. #16
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman
    Thanks Dale.

    I guess all good things come to an end..

    Who upholds today the traditions of old Germania in Cincinnati...?

    Gary
    I can't speak for Cincinnati, but I'm going to guess it's similar to here in Chicago. We've probably lost half of our German restaurants in the last 25 years, which means we only have 500 or so left.

  7. #17
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    A few random comments on things mentioned above:

    1. "Over-the-Rhine" is a neighborhood in Cincinnati that used to be a working class German area in the early 1900s. Today it is a very rough neighborhood, to put it mildly. Vine Street was starting to get gentrified a bit maybe five years ago, with a couple of art gallerys and cafes, but in recent years that seems to have faltered somewhat as the drugs and crime have pushed back. There were also some racial disturbances due to a police shooting a couple of years ago which didn't help. Too bad, because the neighborhood has some amazing architecture...old 19th century brick buildings that would be beautiful if they were renovated, but that won't happen as long as developers are afraid to even go there.

    2. Cincinnati chili is of Greek origin, concocted by Greek immigrants who moved to the city. No connection to the southwest or Mexico.

    3. Indeed, Empress Chili has seen better days. When I was a kid they were all over the city, but now I only know of two. Dixie Chili was another chain that used to be common, but which I think has fallen on hard times. I've never tried that one. Skyline and Gold Star are doing quite well, though.

    4. Cincinnati is indeed a great town. As I mention above, there's some really great 19th century architecture if you look around for it. And Covington, right along the river, has some really wonderful buildings as well. It's funny, as soon as you go over the river it feels like you're suddenly in the south.

  8. #18
    Connoisseur
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    Quote Originally Posted by robbyvirus
    It's funny, as soon as you go over the river it feels like you're suddenly in the south.
    My co-worker from Cincy explained to me why the bridge is a double decker. The upper deck goes south so they can toss their shoes down to those heading north.

    And lets not foget a better selection of fine bourbons on the south shore.
    Dale

    "All I want to know is who's the player on second base?"

  9. #19
    Bourbonian of the Year 2010 and Guru
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    Skyline has stores in many locations, not just Cincy: Louisville, Indy, even up in Michigan. You can even order their chili in cans online.
    2010 Bourbonian of the Year

    As long as you have good whiskey you're not "unemployed", you're "Funemployed!!!"

    I'm no Pappyophile

  10. #20
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    When I lived in the Cincinnati area, in the early 70s, so many Kentuckians who had moved north would go home on weekends that the Brent Spence Bridge (the "double-decker" described above) would be backed-up southbound for miles on Friday afternoon/evening and the same would be repeated northbound on Sunday night. It was quite a phenomenon.

    Also at that time, Cincinnati itself was "squeaky clean" and all of the vice was on the Kentucky side of the river, particularly in Newport. There was a big scandal when Cincinnati's mayor got busted for visiting a Newport prostitute. He got caught because he paid her with a personal check! The dope was none other than TV talk show host Jerry Springer.

    Back to the chili, I will concede Gary's point as to the name. It probably was "borrowed" from the Tex-Mex dish. Why is probably something we'll never know. It could just as easily, and perhaps more accurately, have been called "Greek Spaghetti."

    At about that same time, the early 70s, the New Yorker's food writer at the time, who just happened to be Calvin Trillin, came to Cincinnati and wrote about three things: The Maisonette, a well-known local gourmet restaurant, a road house near Oxford most notable for the full size theater organ the owner would play during dinner, and Cincinnati Chili.
    Last edited by cowdery; 10-31-2006 at 10:35.

 

 

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