Essentials: Three-Way, Gourmet Chili, Newport, Kentucky
The most essential Cincinnati chili parlor isn't in Ohio.
There are 250-some Cincinnati-style chili parlors within the I-275 loop, many of them owned by competing chains Skyline and Gold Star. I’d send you to Gourmet Chili, a vintage diner that’s technically just outside the Midwest.
Order a classic three-way: chili ladled over tender—not al dente—spaghetti, with a mound of shredded cheddar on top. The baharat-spiced chili has a kick that most others don’t. While you can taste the famous (or infamous) cinnamon note, seventeen or so other warming spices add complexity. It reminds me of the chili at Empress, where the Macedonian Kiradjieff brothers created Cincinnati chili in the 1920s. (Empress’s current incarnation is also on the southern side of the river—in Alexandria, Kentucky, ten or fifteen minutes further from Ohio.)
Gourmet’s space has its own history. It’s been a chili parlor since Petro Manoff, who slung chili for the Kiradjieffs, opened Liberty Chili there in 1929. The Sarakatsannis family ran it as the Crystal Chili Parlor for years before passing it on to current owner Steve Stavropolous in 1986. —Dann Woellert
Dann Woellert is a Cincinnati food etymologist who explained Cincinnati chili for Midwesterner last week. He curates the blog Dann Woellert the Food Etymologist and has written four books about Cincinnati’s favorite foods.
Kevin Necessary is a freelance illustrator and editorial cartoonist. He is currently the editorial cartoonist for The Cincinnati Enquirer. His cartoons are syndicated by GoComics, and his cartoons have been published in a variety of publications such as The Week and Politico. A Cincinnati native, Kevin will fight to the death defending Cincinnati chili. He lives with his wife, Julie, and three cats, Huckleberry, Grayson, and Bonnie.