Thelma’s Diner

5-way & Fries at Thelma's Diner

Our intention today was to visit the West Side Chili Parlor, but we arrived to find it closed and replaced by Thelma’s Diner.  Luckily for us, Thelma’s Diner also serves up homemade Cincinnati chili which our waitress swears is better than West Side’s was.  Thelma’s Diner is located on Glenway in a small strip mall on the north side of the road.  It has a large sign out front and is fairly easy to find.   Inside, the diner is small, seating maybe 25 people and has more of a home-cooking diner feel than the traditional chili parlor vibe.  The large menu included a number of tempting breakfast foods and sandwiches and we will probably stop back to give those a try.  Today, however, it was time to sample some chili.  Read on to see what we thought.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

Thelmas serves up chili with a smile.  The staff is friendly, the restaurant is clean and the chili is tasty.  The menu is full featured and I briefly considered ordering a breakfast pretzel sandwich.  Alas, it’s a chili tour day and a bowl of plain with a side of sweet potato fries were on the menu.   The chili is solid and portions were large.  The chili was served hot unlike some of our more recent stops, meaty, and reminded me more of a homemade version.  It’s not as spicy or flavorful as Gourmet chili or Empress, but close.  The fries were just ok.   My Cincinnati chili score is a solid 7.5 of 10.  I look forward to going back and ordering some form of pretzel breakfast sandwich.

Adam: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

There was not a Chili Biddy in sight, but our waitress was okay.  The food was pretty good on taste.  The portions were average based on pricing; however, I did not get the heavy chili as requested.  The prices were decent.  I don’t think I would go out of my way for chili, but other menu items looked interesting..

Andrew: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

Suprise visit to a surprise chili parlor.  Thelma’s Diner wasn’t on the list and we didn’t know it existed.  But they had chili on the menu so naturally we gave it a try.  I ordered up my usual bowl of plain, 2 cheese coneys.  The coneys were well constructed with fresh buns and nice amount of chili, though they were perhaps a little light on the cheese.  The chili was interesting — the ground beef was ground very fine, giving the chili a smoother texture than most, somewhat like what you find at Skyline, though not as watery.  Despite the fine grind the chili was not overly watery or soupy and required only a smattering of oyster crackers to thicken it up.  The flavor was excellent — a complex combination of spices underlined by a not-too-hot spiciness that left some heat in the mouth but didn’t overpower.  All in all a very good showing for a very new chili contender.

Andy: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Was intrigued about Thelma’s Diner since it stood where Westside Chili used to be.  After a call to the league office, we got the Chili Report lineup change approved and gave it a go.  Small place, huge menu.  4-way details: The chili had a good taste but there was something about the cheese.  It was just ok and just enough to cover.  Portion size was average.  I was surprised by the availability of sweet potato fries which were good, not great.  Bottom line:  Good, not great this trip.

Ben: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Today’s stop on the chili tour was Thelma’s Diner, located in the same exact spot with the same exact decorations as West Side Chili Parlor was.  In fact, we were trying to find West Side Chili Parlor when we discovered that it was changed to Thelma’s.  Either way, they promised that the chili recipe was “better” than WSCP, so we had to give them their shot.  As where the name has changed, the parlor has not.  The parlor itself is clean, almost too clean if there is such a thing.  There isn’t your typical long diner bar with stools that sit close to the ground, but they did have a “bar type” area that looked as though it belonged in someone’s basement and had tall stools.  The staff seem to be very young and their uniforms appear to be hand-made, which is, well, awesome.  Service as a whole was enjoyable.  Their staff seemed to work as a team in getting drinks and making sure that we were happy, and that’s great to see.  The varied menu has chili as an option, but it’s certainly not their main focus which seems to be their Pretzel  Bun sandwiches.   Our meal staggered itself to the table, with me being the first served of our party.  The cheese, where it seemed it was freshly grated and smooth, was sparse and mostly melted when it arrived at my seat.  You can order extra cheese for $1.25, but I think that is unnecessary as they should give you enough to begin with.  The chili itself was pretty meaty, which I liked, leaving only a small pool at the bottom of the 4-way.  The taste wasn’t overwhelming, not really spicy, not really sweet nor bold, just kinda there.  The noodles of the 4-way were soft and cooked perfectly.  As for the coney, the bun seemed fresh and the chili wasn’t messy.  The cheese, again, was sparse and partially melted.  The dog was decent, and the mustard was noticeable and good.  The typical accompaniements were there, with unknown mildly hot hot sauce, and oyster crackers.  The first oyster crackers that were given to us were made by Burry and packaged in typical cracker package form.  Small in size, they were, well, typical.  I’m not sure which one of our teammates asked for extra crackers, but when they were delivered they brought us out a whole bowl of a completely different brand’s oyster crackers!  These were a bit larger than the Burry brand, and had salt on them.  Their brand may be unknown, but I’m suspecting Zesta.  Overall, I’m pretty happy with my dining experience at Thelma’s.  A chili parlor it is not, a solid restaurant it is!  7 / 10 stars.

Dave: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

Quantity:  7
Taste:  7
Facility:  8
Service:  8
Quality:   7
Overall:  7.5

Stephanie: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

The chili itself was decent, it had a nice flavor and a good consistency…..but the rest of the elements of the cheese coneys weren’t great.  The buns and hot dogs were on the stale side, the cheese which was lacking in quantity was very mild and soft, which did not compliment the chili.  The cheese fries were by far the worst I have had on the tour to date….and would probably rank in my top 10 of bad fries.

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