Things Distinctly Cincinnati and Why We Love To Eat And Drink Them

July 5, 2010

I lived in Cincinnati for twenty eight years before I ventured off of the “Big Muddy” and headed westward. There were things I really missed that were distinctly Cincinnati that you could only get in the tri-state area and were just not available here in San Francisco until recently like frozen boxes of Skyline Chili. You had to live there to really enjoy the products that are offered in The Queen City or as they call it now The Blue Chip City. I never understood why they dropped the old moniker. I really like how The Queen City rolled off my tongue.

What I’m going to attempt to convey to the non-‘Natians and newbs to the cuisine that has helped us get over hangovers as well as contributing to our mid-section growth, is that this stuff is really good. It’s unique and tasty, greasy and spicy sometimes but always satisfying, making you yearn for them if you are not within a stones throw of an outlet that served these delectable morsels of deliciousness.

Chili. It’s just a word to some. To others is a religious experience. Everyone says they have the perfect recipe for chili. Some like it chunky and spicy. A lot of folks love it the way we serve it in Cincinnati. Over spaghetti with beans, onions and of course, Tabasco. The origin of Cincinnati chili is very interesting. Basically Germans sold tons of hot dogs, sausages and bratwursts during the turn of the century. Signs littered the German neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine section of Cincinnati which was named after the Ohio river which reminded them of their home. There were also Macedonian immigrants that sold hot dogs such as the Germans but added chili to their dogs creating the chili cheese dog or as we refer to it as a Coney Island.

Chili jargon also includes the 3 way which is chili, pasta and cheese. The 4 way is with onions and the 5 way is served with everything including beans. My mouth is actually watering just talking about it. Add oyster crackers and you are embarking on a journey through age-old spices and a belly full of goodness. The main ingredients in Cincinnati chili is chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and a strange ingredient that most people don’t know that goes into the chili which is cocoa powder. Yep, we put chocolate in our chili! It has been served in Cincinnati since 1922.

This is the three-way chili spaghetti


Cheese Coney

People always have opinions about potato chips. I’ve actually gotten into arguments with people over what the best potato chip is. I think it has a lot to do with demographics. Some people like Lays, Mike Sells, other “corporate” chips that flood the supermarkets but in Cincinnati, we have two potato chips and then there are those Pringle type chips but most people don’t consider them real potato chips. Husman’s is considered the king of Cincinnati potato chips with Grippo’s closely following in its shadow. I could get punched in the face saying this to some die-hard Grippo fans, but I’m here and they are there and I’m going to say that Husman’s is a far superior to Grippo’s and I think it has to do with greasiness. Human’s are just more greasy which I equate to tasty when it comes to chips. Grippo’s always tore the roof of my mouth to shreds so I didn’t like them. I do love their BBQ style though. Very delicious. If you are every in Cincinnati, I suggest you try the potato chip challenge and decide for yourself.

This is how Husman's used to be sold. I love it!


Classic Grippo BBQ potato chips

Cincinnati beer used to be big business. By 1860, there were over 36 breweries in Cincinnati. This growth trend was basically squashed with the introduction of prohibition and only two breweries existed when I was a kid. Hudepohl and Burger. Both were the epicenters for some of the lousiest beer I ever consumed but gems like Little Kings and Christian Moerlein stood out as local favorites for their punch and flavor. Places like Boston Beer Company have now basically set shop up in Cincinnati gobbling up the competition.

The original Christian Moerlein label


There is only one word that comes to mind when I’m about to order eggs for Breakfast. Goetta. A delicious German pork dish that you fry like breakfast sausages. Made with pin oats and spices, it can be found in all major super markets and diners throughout the Cincinnati area. Originally a peasant dish meant to stretch meat product, today over one million pounds of Goetta is produced annually. The Pennsylvanian Dutch cousin to Goetta is called Scrapple. The ingredients are basically the same except Scrapple is made with corn meal rather than oats which Goetta is made. I love them both and find them both very enjoyable.

A perfectly cook Goetta patty


My wife's favorite Pennsylvania Dutch treat. Scrapple

There is only one ice cream that will ever win people’s favorite in Cincinnati and it’s Graeters Ice Cream. Founded in 1870, you will never find a more creamy and delicious ice cream. I highly recommend the black-raspberry chocolate chip. Stunningly good.

Simply wonderful and decadent

One Response to “Things Distinctly Cincinnati and Why We Love To Eat And Drink Them”

  1. timothy w. gray said

    Now that I live in Texas, it is interesting how differently think of chili. People in Texas would never dream of putting chili on spaghetti. To them, it is anathema. Mind you, they will put chili on salad, or just about anything else – but not pasta. Well, I guess they don’t know what they are missing.

    I also have noticed that folks in Texas make the chili extremely hot. They will put in all types of peppers and spices, to make it outrageously hot. They will add jalopenos, Anaheims, and other chilis, to make it so hot that you can barely eat it. Obviously, you wouldn’t do that with a pasta dish.

    Folks in the Southwest simply have a different philosophy about chili. To folks in the Midwest, it is a garnish, but for folks in Texas, it is the centerpiece.

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