K-Dot’s Family Restaurant

5-way at K-Dot's

After what felt like an interminable chili tour hiatus as a result of some Lent-related dietary restrictions on the part of a few members of the chili team, this week we finally hit the road again in search of the best chili in town.  Today’s stop took us back out Glenway to a relatively new diner known as K-Dot’s Family Restaurant.  Housed in an old Pizza Hut a few blocks off of Glenway on Westbourne, K-Dot’s serves up breakfast, sandwiches, and chili.  The interior consists of booths lining three of the walls in the square room, with tables and chairs taking up the center of the restaurant.  The specials on the board today had a distinctive German flavor, including metts, sauerbraten, and mock turtle soup which all sounded quite tasty, but we refrained and ordered up our usual chili.  Is K-Dot’s worthy of consideration among the city’s chili elite?  Read on to find out…

Overall Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Adam: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

The food was pretty good, flavorful and not bland.  The portions were usual.  The prices were reasonable.  The staff was friendly.  A little bit of a geographical challenge for a regular lunch stop, but if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit.  I’m also interested in their other menu items too.

Andrew: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Ah, chili time again on a beautiful spring day!  I ordered up my usual bowl of plain, 2 cheese coneys.  The chili at K-Dot’s is a hearty, thick, meaty style chili with arguably the biggest chunks of ground beef floating around in the mix that we’ve seen.  That lent the chili a unique texture, skewing more towards a traditional chili than Cincinnati chili.  The flavor was unmistakably Cincinnati chili, but among the sweetest I’ve encountered and with more of a tomato tang than I’m used to.  It also had a nice zest to it — spicier than many, but seemingly created using a different pepper than most everyone else.  Overall a very unique take on Cincinnati chili.  The coneys, unfortunately, bordered on dreadful.  The biggest problem they had was a lack of chili.  The sparse covering of chili caused the spongy white buns to overwhelm the coneys, making the overall coney experience dry and bready.  Given some of the other items we saw coming out of the kitchen, I’d be hard-pressed to choose to order chili again at K-Dot’s.

Ben: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

I liked the family style restaurant at K-Dots, and the dishes that passed me destined for other patrons certainly looked great.  Their goetta was thickly sliced, their double deckers huge, but the chili was kinda lacking.

Chili: Meaty, not soupy at all.  Lots of flavor, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.  This flavor had a very noticeable tomato, sweet taste.  Not what I typically look for in Cincinnati chili.

Cheese: bagged.  Lots of it, but bagged.

Noodles: OK, not bad, but not writing home about them either.  Just writing here about them.

Hot Dog: Boiled and kind a small.

Buns: Fresh, but not steamed.

Service: Quite friendly and decently fast.

Price: Perfect.

Overall, I’ll give them a 5.  I wouldn’t recommend the chili here to an out-of-towner.

Dave: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Facility: 8
Service: 7
Quantity: 7
Quality: 4
It had an odd flavor. I could not finish my serving.  Since it had a variety of other food it would be worth the effort to go again and try something else.  It is a little far to go.

K-dots Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Lake Nina Restaurant & Tavern

Bowl of chili, cheese coneys at Lake Nina

Our weekly survey of Cincinnati chili has taken to us to some interesting places.  Pizza joints, hole-in-the-wall diners, cookie-cutter chains, you name it we’ve been there.   And yet here we are, nearing the end of our tour and we wind up at a seafood restaurant.  Easily the most bizarre setting yet for Cincinnati chili, Lake Nina Restaurant & Tavern, known for their “fish logs,” is situated just off of Pippin Rd. along the shores of a small lake.  If you’re traveling north you can’t really see the restaurant from the street, so keep your eyes peeled.  The interior is one room filled with booths along one wall, tables in the middle, and a long bar stretching across the the other wall done up in dark wood paneling.  The menu is focused on seafood, highlighting their popular fish logs along with an assortment of fried chicken, double-deckers, and sandwiches.  Amidst all the seafood, inexplicably, you’ll find chili available by the bowl or 2, 3, or 4-way.  Coneys are not on the menu, but can be had upon request.  So can a place focus on fish deliver the goods?  Read on to find out!

Overall Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★½☆☆☆☆☆☆

Yes, we went to a fish house on a lake for our chili tour.  If you have plenty of time then the pace set for geriatric won’t bother you at lunch.  It’ always a bad sign when chili is a small blip on a menu.  Fish and Americana are definitely the focus.  Lake Nina’s is definitely eclectic in one way, and old school in another.  It’s not chili you smell when you walk in the door though, it’s fish.  I went back to my standard fare of a bowl of plain chili and added some breakfast potatoes with onions.  While I was expecting sliced and homemade potatoes with grilled onions, I instead received the frozen variety potato chips with a small pile of cold onions dumped on top.  Did I miss the secret code word required?  The chili itself was just there and not very flavorful that day.  Portion sizes were small, prices were high, and there was some grumbling at the table about the coneys.  I wouldn’t go back for the chili, but would stop in for other items like the fish.

Andrew: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

I’m still kicking myself for not getting a fish log.  Who in their right mind orders chili at a seafood restaurant?  We do, I guess.  But I assure you we only do it once.  My bowl of chili was inoffensive.  On the sweeter side with a pleasing texture and very mild spices it did nothing to offend, but nothing to please the palate either.  I’ve had worse on the tour but certainly many, many better.  The cheese coneys, on the other hand, were there worst I’ve had thus far.  Light on the chili in strangely spongy buns topped with some mix of thickly shredded cheese obviously from a bag.  Not good at all.  I will say the other entrees I saw being served looked pretty good, just stay away from the chili.

Andy: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

Lake Nina disappointed in the chili department.  Their specialty is probably breakfast or fish during lent.  It was serviceable though.  Portions were ok.  Price was average.

Ben: [Rating TBA]

Stephanie: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

I have nothing positive to say about Lake Nina’s cheese coneys.  The cheese fries were passable but barely…and since I have no interest in their “World Famous Fish Log”, I don’t see a repeat visit in my future.

Lake Nina Restaurant and Tavern on Urbanspoon

Skyline Chili

Bowl of plain, cheese coneys at Skyline Chili
Bowl of plain, cheese coneys at Skyline Chili

What is there to say about Skyline?  There’s one on every corner, their TV ads are inescapable, and the name is pretty much synonymous with chili in Cincinnati.  The only issue for us was choosing one Skyline to visit for the purposes of our little survey here.  Ultimately we settled on the Skyline near the corner of Beechmont of Salem which claims to be the oldest Skyline in its original location.  Since the original Skyline location has been bulldozed and rebuilt across the street we’ll settle for this one.  Located in a small 60’s-style strip mall just outside Mt. Washington in Anderson Twp. this Skyline location features a large rectangular lunch counter along with a large assortment of booths and tables.  We’d all been to Skyline before, and let’s face it — if you’re reading this, so have you!  Nevertheless we were intrigued to see if our experiences at now over 30 different chili parlors has changed the way we see the old standby.  Read on to see if it did:

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Whenever you are feeling good and hungry it’s Skyline time.  It’s almost been a year of chili tour mayhem and we finally stopped into the face of Cincinnati Chili.  Most of us on this tour probably eat more skyline than other Cincinnati chili due to sheer number of Skyline Chili parlors available in every community.  Skyline has achieved what all of the other mom and pop chains couldn’t.  How did they build a franchise model and grab the hearts and minds of Cincinnati patrons?  Plain vanilla figuratively speaking.  Skyline has built a chili business with, until recently a very limited menu compared to Price Hill Chili or Gourmet Chili or any of the other single location chili parlors in town.  Skyline focused on a chili parlor business without all of the breakfast and double decker menu items found elsewhere.  The chili is prepared for the masses – not too spicy, but sweet enough that Grandma or the Grandkids will enjoy it.

While Goldstar and Skyline certainly have leadership in market share, our chili tour doesn’t value a plain vanilla experience.  We’ve enjoyed meeting many of the business owners who didn’t know we were on a quest to find Cincinnati’s best chili.

My Skyline experience today was a 6 of 10 for my bowl of plain chili and garlic toast.  It is expensive than almost every chili parlor we’ve visited and not quite as flavorful as some of our tour darlings.  Skyline is great in a pinch and there is something to be said for delivering that consistency and same brand experience across the city.  Many might have expected Skyline to be higher on my list.  Alas, taste buds don’t lie.  Certainly try Skyline if you haven’t.  Just don’t miss out on some of the lesser known greasy spoons in town that serve up Cincinnati style chili!

Adam: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The food was textbook quality for skyline, which I happen to enjoy.  Nothing surprising to report.

Andrew: ★★★★★★★★★☆

I’m a Skyline guy.  I eat at this Skyline — it’s the closest to home and as a Skyline connoisseur I’ll submit that quality-wise it’s the best in town.  But I’ve been abstaining.  No Skyline since the beginning of this chili adventure.  So I came into Skyline today as close to a blank slate as I could possibly be.  And I still loved it.  Yes, Skyline is easily the wateriest chili in town.  A bowl of chili needs a healthy handful of oyster crackers to thicken up to a more acceptable texture.  But that’s ok by me because Skyline also has the best oyster crackers in town.  I love that Skyline’s chili is boldly flavored with enough heat to require a swig of coke every few bites to cool things down a bit.  I love the fluffy orange cloud of mild cheddar they pile atop the coneys.  I even love the flavor of the weird, tiny little hot dogs they steam up for the coneys.  And yet…I can honestly say now it’s not the best there is to be had.  It’s still near the top of the list for me, and I’ll still be a regular visitor, but places like Gourmet Chili, Pleasant Ridge Chili, and Price Hill Chili all rank even or a bit higher for me.

Andy: ★★★★★★★★½☆

Skyline….it’s in the blood stream.  Bridgetown Skyline circa early 1990s would have earned a 10.0 with their sleeper 3-ways!  It’s almost always good

Ben: [Rating TBA]

Nathan: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Skyline is a solid 8 for me.  It was my home turf Skyline in Anderson Twp too, so I’m sure that skews it in their favor.  It is always consistently tasty, and today was no exception.  There is something about having servers bring you crackers as your sitting down, for whatever reason skyline really gets why people come to their restaurants.  Quantity, Quality and Affordable lunch.  See you next Tuesday night!

Stephanie: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

I don’t feel I can accurately review Skyline’s Chili since there was hardly any on my cheese coneys.  Due to the lack of chili they are get a 5 from me…..their cheese fries saved them from a 3.

Skyline Chili on Urbanspoon

Nick & Tom’s Restaurant

Cup of chili at Nick & Tom's

Nick & Tom’s Restaurant doesn’t exactly scream “chili joint.”  A brief perusal of the menu does nothing to disabuse that notion either.  Sure, they serve it but it’s clearly not a focus.  And yet Nick & Tom’s was a “must-stop” on our chili tour.  What piqued our interest was the surname that belongs to Nick & Tom — Lambrinides.  A name steeped in Cincinnati chili tradition.  A relative of theirs, Nicholas Lambrinides, started a little chili parlor that might ring some bells — Skyline Chili.  With that in mind, the chili crew trekked out to Bridgetown to see if chili really is a family tradition.  Nick & Tom’s is a large, rambling restaurant featuring everything from steaks and chops to sandwiches, chili, and everything in between.  We settled in at the bar and ordered up our usual chili selections.  Read on to see if chili is in the genes at Nick & Tom’s:

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

I deviated from my normal bowl of plain and went with a 2 way chili at Nick & Tom’s on Bridgetown.  More like a neighborhood eatery than chili parlor, Nick & Tom’s has a full menu and chili is more of an after-thought.  I would suggest other menu items before the chili at Nick & Tom’s. The flavor was somewhat mild comparatively, but the chili was a little on the watery side that day.

Adam: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

The food was pretty good.  The portions were of good size.  The prices were slightly elevated.  The staff was friendly.  A little bit of a geographical challenge for a regular lunch stop, but if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit.

Andrew: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

First things first — I loved the fact that I could get a *cup* of chili in lieu of a full bowl.  And was glad I did once I saw the MASSIVE cheese coneys that were set in front of me.  The cup of chili was tasty — fairly bold in flavor and meaty in texture.  Not too shabby.  I swear I say this every week lately, but these were hands-down the biggest of the tour.  Cheese coneys at Nick & Tom’s are served one way — two of them, open-faced, on a giant plate.  These coneys aren’t some “size-of-your-pinky-finger” dogs in small buns.  These contain 1/4-lb. hot dogs in full size buns, smothered in chili and cheese.  Bring your appetite and a fork.

Andy: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Nick and Toms was pretty good.  Cool atmosphere and chili in a place you probably wouldn’t go looking for it.  Price and portions were average.

Ben: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

I tried to order my usual 4 way with Beans and a cheese coney, loaded, but they don’t do things like that around Nick and Tom’s.   Instead of having regular kidney beans, they’ll throw a layer of black bean soup down on top of the chili, which wouldn’t be fair to the other contestants and the consistency of our report.  So I opted for a 4 way, with onions, and they also had some jalapeno’s on it, pickled, not fresh.  Also, when I ordered they normal accompanying coney, I was told by the kind lady “Our coneys aren’t typical, it’s more of an open faced coney, you sure you want it?”  I declined, thinking that it also wouldn’t be fair to the other parlors by switching it up, and after seeing Andrew’s I realized I made the right decision.  One coney is more than enough for a meal.

–       Cheese: Bagged, not fresh, and a lot of it.  Wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either.
–       Chili: meaty.  Didn’t pool up at the bottom of the noodles, but really didn’t have a ton of flavor either.  No real bite, and the hot sauce was needed to bring it up a bit.
–       Noodles: very good, not over done and good ratio to chili.
–       Oyster Crackers: came in a small bowl, unbagged so I couldn’t tell the brand on them.  But they were large, puffy, and quite good!
–       Hot Sauce: I was presented with a small bottle of Tabasco.
–       Service: OK.  Not overbearing, not underwhelming, just OK.

Overall I’m going to give Nick and Tom’s a 5.  I certainly wouldn’t take an out of towner here for a sampling, and I was pretty disappointed with the cheese and the lack of chili bite.

Nick & Tom's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunnyside Grill

Bowl of chili at Sunnyside Grill

This week’s stop on the chili tour took us all the way out west to Cleves, where we visited Sunnyside Grill on the corner of Wesselman and Harrison.  Sunnyside Grill occupies a small cinder-block structure that contains a small lunch counter with large tables in the center and booths lining two of the walls.  The menu emphasizes portions — the biggest double-deckers, burgers, etc. you can find.  They even offer the $22 WTF burger which includes, among many other ingredients, fried chicken, country-fried steak, and a pork tenderloin.  Yes, on the burger.  Oh, and they have chili too.  4 members of the chili team made the trip and you’ll find our thoughts on Sunnyside Grill’s chili below.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

The Sunnyside Grill was a welcome stop on the chili tour this week.  Today’s lunch would have broken anyone’s resolutions for 2012 at gluttony was the main theme of the menu.  At the Sunnyside Grill, the service is prompt and the portions are large.  The chili was the closest to homemade that we’ve had on the tour.  It was a little sweet for my liking, but it had a pleasing taste and consistency.  What I didn’t need was the “never frozen” burger I added instead of fries.  Hence the gluttony on a budget as prices were very reasonable.  Our party agreed that future visits were in order and I may have found a new food option a mere 10 minutes from my house.

Andrew: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Holy portions, batman!  My bowl of chili was fairly average in size, but the cheese coneys were monstrous.  My two coneys easily filled the large oval “3-way-style” plate they were perched upon.  The massive mound of cheese atop the coneys was unique among all of our stops thus far in that it was very obviously hand-grated from a block of cheddar.  This made for large, flat curls of cheese — quite different from the shredded cheese one normally finds atop Cincinnati style chili.  The coneys also included a full-sized hotdog, a very generous ladle of chili, large pieces of chopped onion, and a hefty schmear of mustard.  They were far too big and messy to pick up and eat, so I devoured them with a fork.  While the coney accoutrements were exemplary, the chili just didn’t do it for me, either in the bowl or on a coney.  I liked that it was clearly homemade, but it was far too sweet for my tastes — the flavor skewing more towards Manwich than Cincinnati chili.  The texture was nice and I had no trouble slurping my way through the bowl but the overpowering sweetness was just too much.

Ben: [Rating TBA]

Nathan: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Sunnyside was a great find and I will definitely go back.  The food looked great with massive sandwiches being doled out left and right during the lunch crowd.   The chili was juicy and runny on my three way, to my liking, but slightly sweeter I prefer.  All in all a solid 6 1/2 for me.

Sunnyside Grill on Urbanspoon

Gold Star Chili

This week we hit up one of the two big Cincinnati chili chains, Gold Star Chili.  Gold Star has been the toe-to-toe rival for Skyline Chili for years.  Recently Gold Star has taken the lead in innovation by being the first of the two chains to introduce items such as chili dip, french fries, and seasonal novelty items like a chili burger, hot mett coneys, and on and on.  We’ve been holding off on the big chains until late in the tour to really give us a chance to evaluate their chili in comparison with the all of the other contenders.  I’d like to say that we visited the Gold Star on 4th St. in Covington because it’s the oldest, newest, weirdest…something.  But the truth is it was just the most convenient for our lunch today.  This particular Gold Star looks much like pretty much every other Gold Star you’ll find — Gold Star seems to have done a better of job of homogenizing its retail location than Skyline although I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s a good thing.  In this case there was a counter, but no stools so sitting at the counter isn’t an option.  Instead we opted to occupy a couple tables in the middle of the restaurant.  After all the chili we’ve eaten, can one of the biggest names in Cincinnati chili stand up to the competition?

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Gold Star Chili was good, not great for me yesterday.  My bowl of plain was what I expected from a chain and I appreciated the garlic toast option, however I didn’t walk away with Gold Star on the leader board.  The Chili tour stop at Gold Star is almost an unfair comparison to owner operator chili parlors.  Gold Star appeals to the masses and is tasty on a Coney and has a great presence in Cincinnati and really gives back to the community.  At this point in the chili tour I prefer spicier chili and Gold Star is mild by those standards.  Pay Gold Star a visit if you are in the mood for milder Cincinnati chili.  If you want something spicier try Empress or Gourmet Chili.

Adam: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

The food was just average today.  There was a lack of good restaurant service also.  The order was accurate without reminders.  I followed up Blue Ash Chili’s 6-way with adding jalapenos to my 5-way.  With that the food was still just average on flavor; I did need to add a second helping of hot sauce, which, I believe the Hot Sauce is the same as the Very Hot Sauce.

Andrew: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

In the eternal battle of Gold Star vs. Skyline, I’ve always fallen on the Skyline side.  Growing up we always ate at Skyline, despite there being a Gold Star across the street.  Nevertheless I do frequent Gold Star fairly often.  I like that they’re always coming up with some new, creative way to serve Cincinnati chili and so I’ll always make it a point to try those out when they’re available.  In fact, today I tried out the hot mett cheese coney.  The hot mett was the tiniest little mett I’ve ever encountered.  Skyline’s tiny wieners would dwarf this thing.  It was topped with chili, a hot sauce, spicy cheese and jalapeno slices.  It was very spicy indeed, and quite tasty — actually a step up from the regular coney I also injested.  My bowl of chili though was a disappointment, reminding me of why I prefer Skyline.  Gold Star’s chili always has a gristly texture that’s a turn-off for me.  The flavor is on the subdued side with nothing to really grab your interest.  I’ll put the chili here at a 5 — perfectly average Cincinnati chili.

Ben: [Rating TBA]

Stephanie: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Blue Ash Chili

Chili Lasagna at Blue Ash Chili

As our chili adventure begins to wind down, we’re hitting up some of the popular chili joints we’ve been saving up for near the end of the tour.  Our stop this week brought us to Blue Ash Chili which recently won fame by being featured on Guy Fieri’s show, “Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives,” a fact you will become instantly aware of upon entering the restaurant.  Guy’s name and image is everywhere.  In the menu, on the walls…we’re pretty sure they kidnapped him and are keeping him in the basement.  Blue Ash Chili’s layout is a little different than most.  There are two rooms, one containing a couple rows of booths and a couple rows of tables, the other has one row of booths and one row of tables where lunch stools once stood.  The place is packed most days for lunch and today was no exception.  5 members of the chili team plus 7 guests descended on Blue Ash Chili like a chili apocalypse.  The menu includes some interesting chili items — a 6-way featuring deep-fried jalapeno caps, chili lasagna, and a chili philly.  They also serve up among the biggest double-deckers you’ll find in town and some tasty looking burgers.  Vegetarians might look elsewhere.  Amid all the hoopla, the chili team focused in on their usual chili orders and the results can be found below.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Adam: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

The food had decent flavor, but they were not too generous with the chili.  A bit overloaded with spaghetti.  I did enjoy the 6-way today, yes 6-ways; it includes jalapenos.  It’s definitely outside the range of a usual lunch stop from Downtown, but if you’re close try it out.  I do think they could do better, maybe ask for extra chili.

Andrew: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

This is a tough one to rate for me.  It is the tale of two chilis.  My bowl of chili arrived at the table a little late, so I started with the cheese coneys.  They were phenomenal.  Best so far.  Everything balanced out perfectly — each bite had chili flavor, a stab of tang from the schmear of mustard, a little bite from the onion, and plenty of gloriously fluffy mild cheddar.  I could eat the cheese coneys at Blue Ash Chili all day.  My bowl of chili on the other hand was surprisingly average.  There was nothing objectionable about it, but the flavors seemed a bit muted and there was very little spice to it at all.  The chili is about a 6.5 for me, but the coneys were as close to a 10 as I suspect I’ll find.

Ben: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Not my first trip to BAC, and not my last.  BAC is usually heralded amongst local chili-heads as one of the better in the area, probably why they’ve wound up on multiple TV shows and in magazine articles as a true Cincy Chili joint.  Blue Ash Chili deservedly stands out amongst the others for a few reasons, but not all of them chili, per se.  As where the chili is definitely good, it’s everything rolled into BAC that makes it trip worthy.

– Variety.  No where else in town are you going to find the variety of chili offerings they have.  The 6 way with fried jalapeno chips.  The kinda boring “Guy Way”, and of course their insane challenge, the “No Freakin’ Way”.  And they’re right, no freaking way am I going to punish my body with that for a T-shirt.  Throw in a couple of different styles of coneys (one with cole slaw), a “Chili Philly” and the rather decadent looking Chili Lasagna and you have a smorgasboard of chili-concoctions.
–  Everything else.  Their double deckers are huge.  Their Entrées tasty.  Their parlor feel (minus the beloved counter seating).  It’s a true chili parlor.

But we aren’t here to judge a carnival show of a menu, we’re here to judge chili.  So let’s break it down.

–       Cheese:  Abundant, sharp, and freshly shredded.
–       Chili: A good, meaty chili.  With a small heat it’s not overbearing in flavor, yet definitely stands on it’s own.
–       Coney: One of the better one’s I’ve had on this tour, maybe the best.  Great buns (heh), Great dog, not too sloppy, not too not-sloppy, and a GREAT mustard finish.
–       4-Way: One word, Noodles.  Lots of them.  They’re good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s really a noodle plate with a splash of chili.  And since the chili is very meaty, it stands triumphantly atop the noodles, and refuses to ooze to the bottom of the plate.  When you cut through the noodles you’re left with absolutely no chili at the bottom and made me wonder “Should I have ordered extra chili?”  Disappointingly too much noodles, not enough chili.
–       Oyster Crackers:  My favorite kind, the New England Oyster Crackers.  Hearty, and fluffy, these are awesome.  Although, they are in some new packaging I noticed.
–       Hot Sauce: Served in a non-descript cruet on every table, this hot sauce is good, maybe great.  More flavorful than Tabasco, hotter than Red Hot, yet not too hot.  Perfect for the task at hand.
–       Service:  Pretty Great.  I mean, it took long to get our order to our table, but we had a ton of people! They worked as a team, were very courteous, my drinks NEVER went dry, and not a thing was needed throughout our meal.  One of the kitchen crew was even wearing a “Rev Horton Heat” hat, which may or may not give them an extra half point.

Overall, a good showing.  I give them a solid 7.  Truthfully, I was thinking Blue Ash may get an 8 or higher, and really give a run for the money.  Maybe it was an off day and the chili spoon was too heavy for the cooks.  I’ll give them another shot next time I’m up BA way.

Dave: [Rating TBA]

Stephanie: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

Blue Ash Chili on Urbanspoon

Angelo’s Family Restaurant

5-way at Angelo's Family Restaurant

Located just a few blocks away from our recent stop at P&T Restaurant, Angelo’s Family Restaurant sits on Winton Road just south of the Cross County overpass.  5 members of the chili team ventured north to Finneytown to give the chili at Angelo’s a try.  Parking is abundant and convenient and the restaurant itself is spacious with copious numbers of booths and tables lined up amid the homey decor.  The wide-ranging menu includes chili, lunch sandwiches, home-style comfort food, a large number of dessert options and chili.  Everyone loaded up on their usual, and you’ll find the results below.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

Angelo’s wins an award for the slowest chili lunch yet on the tour.  It’s been several years since my last visit for that reason alone.  With a full menu geared toward the 5:00 dinner crowd, Angelo’s sets a pace all of their own.  The chili was meaty and hot, but lacked flavor.  Angelo’s breakfast and other Greek fare are better options.

Adam: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The food was pretty good.  The portions were of good size.  The prices were reasonable, but pricey on the pie.  The staff was very friendly, but moving on their own pace.  A little bit of a geographical challenge for a regular lunch stop, but if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit.

Andrew: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

I was really quite surprised with the quality of chili here.  The bowl of chili was meaty and flavorful and I happily slurped down the last bits of it.  The coneys were nicely presented with a good ratio of dog/chili/cheese/onion/mustard all set in a soft bun.  Service was slow and scattershot, but once the chili arrived, I was a happy camper.

Ben: [Rating TBA]

Dave: [Rating TBA]

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J&J Restaurant

Bowl of chili, cheese coneys at J&J Restaurant

This week we made our fifth (!!) stop on Glenway Avenue, this time venturing out to J&J Restaurant.  Located in a small strip mall near Kroger’s, J&J’s Restaurant is a tidy little diner sporting four rows of booths and a small 4-stool lunch counter at the back with an ancient mechanical cash register looming large in the center of the counter.  (Need I specify this is a cash-only facility?)  The menu is typical chili parlor — a collection of breakfast, sandwiches, and chili.  8 of us made the trip out to J&J’s, so we had to pile into two booths.  Take note if you’re going with a big group as there is no group seating available.  We all ordered up our usuals, so read on to see how this Glenway establishment stacks up against the rest.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

J&J’s on Glenway has friendly service, is clean and very reasonably priced.  My sub $4 bowl of plain was good, not great though.  The chili almost seemed like the ground beef was put through a blender that day.  It wasn’t too greasy but generally lacked the flavor you get from Empress, Price Hill Chili, or Gourmet Chili.  I prefer J&J’s for breakfast over the chili.  My Cincinnati Chili score is a 6.5 of 10.

Adam: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

The chili was thick but missing a little zing.  I would suggest Franks Red Hot sauce in lieu of tobasco sauce to mix with the flavor of the chili. If they were to spice it up a bit, they could approach the leaderboard.  The portion was quite impressive and the prices were reasonable.  Props to the Biddy, yes she’s back.

Andrew: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Portions were huge.  The chili had a little Jeckyll & Hyde thing going for me.  On the one hand, it was very thick and meaty, yet it also managed to be awfully watery.  I was hesitant to add oyster crackers as it was already quite thick, yet the amount of water at the bottom of my bowl was increasing with every spoonful.  I broke down and added some oyster crackers, which utterly failed to soak up any significant portion of the water.  Flavorwise the chili was a little nondescript — I prefer a bolder flavor than what I found at J&J.  So I enjoyed the texture, but the odd wateriness and lack of flavor made the chili just ok for me.  My coneys had hands-down the most chili slopped into them that I’ve found anywhere.  Unfortunately that also meant that chili flavor and texutre overwhelmed everything else in the coney.  The cheese was freshly shredded and plentiful though, which I always appreciate.

Andy: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Good portions, fair prices, friendly staff, clean place.  Cash only.

Ben: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

4 Way: I saw the server take Adam his 5 way, and it was HUGE. Then when they brought out my 4 way, it was typical.  So, maybe Adam winked at the waitress, maybe they liked the cut of his jib, or maybe they are inconsistent.  Either way, they didn’t really cheap me on the portions so I should quit my complaining.  The noodles were perfectly cooked, the chili was nice and meaty, leaving very little soupiness at the bottom of the plate.  Flavorful chili, but not overbearing.  The hot sauce was needed to bring it up.  The cheese was decent in portion, and obviously freshly shredded.

Coney: Sloppy.  Pouring over the edge of the steamed bun, this coney was solid.  The mustard and onion weren’t jumping out at you (I like it when they do), but this was a solid coney.  Make sure you eat this one fast as it’ll fall apart due to the abundance of chili on the bun.

Oyster Crackers: Shur-Good, and lots of them.  Not my favorite oyster crackers, but not bad.  They certainly didn’t skimp on the amount of bags they threw on our table either.

Hot Sauce: Tabasco.  It is what it is.

Service:  Prompt, and courteous.  Our waitress was very nice to us, and the rest of the staff would was too.  The lady who took our money (Cash Only) was talking about the back of the restaurant like someone who worked at Oz.  “Out back, behind the curtain, they make everything in house.  They make their own meat out back I tell you what.  They make their own chili too back there, secret recipe, nobody knows it.”  Made “out back” sound intriguing and mystical.

Diner: Clean, almost too clean to be a chili parlor.  Only 4 seats at the counter, and they were in groups of 2, placed far from each other.  As where I’m sure the health inspector loves this place, the ambiance is that of any-diner-USA.

Overall, I’m going to give J & J a solid 7.  The only thing keeping it from 8 or higher is the facility and the portion inaccuracy.  This is Cincinnati Chili done right.

Dave: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Facility:  7
Service:  6
Quality: 6
Quantity: 5
Cheese: 6
Overall score:  6

Nathan: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

J&J’s was a solid stop on the tour for me.  My regular 3-way was a generous portion with a mountain of cheese, which for me is easy to remove what I don’t want.   The chili lacked “zip” so I did add some hot sauce.  It was plenty juicy and fresh,  I made good use of my TWO (2) packs of crackers.  Clean friendly service and I will definitely make a return visit to try a mountain sized double decker!… We saw plenty of them floating around the dining room…they looked fantastic!

Stephanie: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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P&T Restaurant

Bowl of chili, cheese coneys at P&T Restaurant

Today we made our first stop in Finneytown, where we visited P&T Restaurant.  P&T is located in a small strip mall along Winton Rd. just north of Cross County Hwy where it has been dishing up Cincinnati-style chili and diner fare for over 50 years.  The interior features dark wood paneling and aging naugahyde booths with a 5-stool lunch counter at the back.  The restaurant appears tidy with a steady stream of regulars filing in and out for their P&T lunch fix.  We sat ourselves at the lunch counter and perused the large menu featuring breakfast, sandwiches, dinners, and chili before placing our usual chili orders.  Read on to find out how P&T stacked up against the competition.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Adam: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

The chili was just okay for me today.  They refrigerated the hot sauce which made my food taste somewhat cold.  The portions were a bit small for the price.  Marcie and The Boss Man were the classic definition of a “Mom and Pop Diner” and friendly as all get out.  I don’t think I would go out of my way for the chili; however, I am willing to bet the sandwiches and breakfast food is ridiculous.

Andrew: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

Stepping into P&T Restaurant is definitely like taking a step back in time.  The decor evokes a 60’s neighborhood diner, as does the staff which also does not appear to have changed in the last 50 years.  Service was friendly which helped make up a bit for the slow kitchen — P&T was probably the slowest place we’ve visited to get our chili in front of us and our orders came out in haphazard, piecemeal fashion.  My bowl of chili was a little underwhelming.  Very greasy and on the bland side for my tastes, though it did come out piping hot.  My cheese coneys were run-of-the-mill.  The hotdogs were more flavorful than average, but the cheese left a lot to be desired.  Overall a fun place to visit, but the chili doesn’t warrant a special trip.

Ben: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

This place could use a bit of work to bring it up to repeat visits.  It’s your typical diner located in a strip mall, which is good, but there are some definite knocks against it.
Cheese: Obviously bagged and out of a fridge.  Fail.
4 Way: The portion size was solid, but the noodles were served cold, yet soft.  Not a huge puff of cheese on top, but I also didn’t think I got cheated.  Chili was flavorful, decently meaty, and a good amount of chili on top of the noodles.
Coney:  Meh.  The bun wasn’t steamed, the dog wasn’t good, and the cheese was bagged.
Oyster Crackers: Given upon request.  Generic in name, but good in taste.
Hot Sauce: I’ve never seen hot sauce served like this, as it’s apparent that they poured it into old ketchup bottles.  I’m pretty sure that it’s Frank’s Red Hot though, just poured fvrom the large restaurant style bottles in the back.
Service: This may truly be a mom and pop coney shop, with Mom working the front and Pop cookin’ it up in the back.  Gotta love that.  But, they are also the only employees that we noticed.  This lead to slow service, staggered food delivery, but also genuine hospitality.  The waitress even introduced herself and “The Boss” in the back.  I was out of there with my typical 4-way and a coney for under $7.  Overall I’m going to give them a solid 5.  If they made a few changes I could see myself returning, if not for the hominess alone.

Dave: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Facility: 7
Service: 3 Too slow
Dried out cheese:  2
Quantity: 2 Too small
Quality: 3
Overall rating:   3

Stephanie: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

P&T gets 2 stars from me.  The only good thing about our lunch at P&T’s was the stop at Graeter’s on the way home.

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