Lynna’s Grill

Bowl of chili, cheese coneys at Lynna's Grill

This weeks chili stop took down to Latonia to visit Lynna’s Grill.  Possibly our final stop in Kentucky, Lynna’s Grill is located on Winston near Decourcy in downtown Latonia.  The small restaurant consists of booths along the outside wall with tables in the center.  The large menu is chock full of breakfast, sandwiches, and chili.  As our waitress noted, “If we can grill it or fry it, we can make it.”  The clientele consisted mainly of retirees, obviously regulars, who bantered back and forth with the friendly wait staff.  Is Lynna’s Grill a worthy contender on the chili tour?  Read on to find out what we thought of the chili.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

Lynna’s Grill is in Latonia and serves up a full menu of breakfast, grill items, and chili.  I ordered my usual bowl of plain chili.  Our party of five might have stretched the available amount of chili as my serving was so inconsistently hot it had to be microwave chili.  The flavor was good, not great.  The crackers were saltines and not oyster crackers.  The portions were small compared to most parlors and tiny compared to Gourmet Chili for instance.  My Cincinnati chili score is a 5.5.  On my next visit to Lynna’s I think I’ll try the breakfast or a GLT – goetta, lettuce, tomato sandwich or an omelette.

Adam: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

The chili had a flavor of its own; not in a bad way.  The portions were small, a bit small for the final price.  The staff was friendly enough. I don’t think I would seek Lynna’s out for the chili, perhaps more of a diner atmosphere.  At least I was able to get chili this week, unlike last week when they ran out (still very disappointed if you can’t tell).

Andrew: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

I had no idea what to expect out of Lynna’s, but I was immediately pleased with the friendly, familiar service.  I ordered up my usual bowl of chili and cheese coneys and after a bit of a wait was brought two largish coneys and smallish bowl of chili.  The chili at Lynna’s is mild, with virtually no heat and a stronger tomato flavor than most of the chilis we’ve tried so far.  Nevertheless it was well seasoned and not too soupy, with slightly larger chunks of ground beef than is typical.  All in all a perfectly average bowl of Cincinnati style chili.  The coneys were on the larger side and sloppy — had to be eaten with a fork.  The cheese was thicker, shorter shreds than I typically like, but the generous application of mustard and thick-chopped onions made the coneys a bit of a step up from many other places.

Andy: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Lynna’s is the ultimate greasy spoon.  The locals probably love it as it was doing a decent lunch business.  I’m guessing they probably do a decent breakfast.  Service was friendly but just ok.  4-way was average and fries ended up home fries vs. regular by accident.  Portions were small, especially the home fries.  Flavor wise it was again, pretty average.

Dave: [TBD]

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Main Street Diner

Main Street Diner 4-Way

Just down the street from the courthouse sits a small diner on the corner of 9th & Main, appropriately named the Main Street Diner.  The large sign out front says “B/G Restaurant,” a relic from the diner’s 80+ year history in that spot.  Inside is easily the longest lunch counter we’ve come across on the chili tour with a line of booths along the opposite wall.  The menu is diner standard with breakfast, sandwiches, and dinner specials.  The Main Street Diner serves up chili by the bowl, coney, or 3 or 4 way.  5 ways are not offered as beans are not available.  7 members of the chili team made the short trip across town, but only 6 members got to sample the chili as the Main Street Diner made the critical mistake of running out of chili.  Yep, they actually ran out of chili.  So, was the chili good while it lasted?  Read on to find out:


Overall Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

I didn’t care for the chili at the Main Street Diner and was embarassed we brought our out of town guest to experience Cincinnati chili there.  He agreed that he would hold an IOU for some delicious Cincinnati chili on his next visit in town.  The owner was friendly, but the portions were small, flavor was lacking, they ran out of chili, and they serve Saltines as opposed to oyster crackers.  The french fries weren’t any better for me either.  The breakfast looked reasonable there, but this is a chili tour.  My Cincinnati Chili score is a 3 of 10.

Adam: (No rating as a result of chili shortage)

Andrew: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

My first bite of my bowl of chili was a little startling.  The chili had a very different flavor than what we’ve become accustomed to on our many previous chili stops.  It was unmistakably Cincinnati-style chili, but the spice mix was very unique.  As I dug further into my bowl I found that I actually rather liked their take on the style.  There was just enough heat to keep things interesting and the strong cinnamon aroma was delightful.  The coneys were on the small side with shredded cheese likely from a bag.  The proportions were good and overall they were decent, if perhaps slightly underwhelming coneys.  Main Street Diner slides in somewhere around the middle of the pack for me.

Ben: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Chili: Lite, lacked any real kick.  4-way: Noodles were too firm.  Also, I saw the cook pulling them out of a pot with his bare hands.  The chili on top of the plate leaves alot to be desired as well.  Very sparse.  And the crackers?  Stale, square saltines.  Not even oyster crackers.  Somewhere buried in Cincinnati law is a 2nd degree misdemeanor that states you can’t serve saltines with chili.  I should report them to the authorities.  Also, crackers are only served with 4 ways. My friends with coneys were spared the stale-ness.  Coney: bun not steamed, right out of a Kroger deli bag.  Hot dog was small and tasteless.  Cheese, not fresh, also out of a bag and not too sharp.  Hot Sauce: Texas Pete.  They even ran out of chili and one of our chili-tasters had to go with something else.  Seriously, if I were them I would take chili off the menu.   They don’t even offer beans as an option for a 5 way.   The restaurant staff seemed polite and nice, and the diner itself is a classic example of american dive diner (a major favorite genre of restaurant of mine) located in a bustling part of downtown.  I very well may be back for breakfast (after they read this I may want to come incognito) but all in all I can’t recommend this place as a chili joint.

Dave: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

Quality: 3
Quantity: 1
Restrooms: 3
Service:  5
Taste: 4
Facility: 5
Overall: 4

Nathan: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Great downtown location with plenty of parking near the courthouse!  The place had the smell of freshly served breakfast lingering around the parlor as we entered.  Definitely going back for that. The chili was above average, juicy, hot and a perfect amount of cheese.  A great find and I will be back for seconds.

Stephanie: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Main Street Diner on Urbanspoon

Price Hill Chili

Bowl of plain, cheese coneys at Price Hill Chili

We’ve deliberately saved some of the more well-known chili parlors around town for visits near the end of our tour.  As we’re winding down with the last dozen or so stops, it was time to start mixing some of those parlors.  So with that in mind, we finally headed out Glenway to stop at the West Side institution Price Hill Chili.  Located near the corner of Glenway and Guerley Price Hill chili has been serving up their brand of chili to West Side residents since 1962.  Inside the restaurant the ramshackle layout is evidence of the gradual expansion over the years that has led to Price Hill chili practically taking over the block, testament to the devotion of its regular patrons.  We opted to sit at the lunch counter in the original part of the restaurant.  Price Hill chili has expanded to the point where it now has two kitchens, and regulars tell us the chili is better from the original front kitchen and we’re not ones to argue with regulars.  So, does Price Hill Chili back up the hype with delicious chili?  Read on to find out:

Overall Rating: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Price Hill Chili brought their A game today.  The word is out in Cincinnati.  The Chili Report is out and about and your parlor may be next on the list.  PHC and I have a long history.  The menu offers much to choose from and the place is a west side institution.  Sam’s Price Hill Chili delivers steaming hot chili that is not too greasy, but spicy and meaty enough to be a contender for the Chili Report glory.  My usual bowl of plain with pita bread for dipping was just right on a cold and rainy November day.  Let’s face it — most chili would taste great today.   Price Hill Chili is worth a visit.

Adam: ★★★★★★★★½☆

The chili is definitely tasty here.  Sam has been doing this longer than I’ve been alive and he’s good at his job.  I do need to re-calibrate my taste since my order has changed to a bowl of plain only.  To be fair, I should revisit my top three, however, I do believe they definitely belong in the top echelon.  Highly recommended for repeat visits. 

Andrew: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Price Hill Chili is a semi-regular lunch stop for me, but I almost never have the chili as I am a confirmed “Bengal” or “Landmark” devotee.  As a result I actually didn’t have much in the way of a preconceived notion of Price Hill Chili’s chili offerings.  So I guess you could say that I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the chili I got.  My bowl of chili had great consistency, not too watery, and bold flavors.  My coneys were in soft buns that held together well, topped with long, finely shredded slivers of mild cheddar.  The coneys were a little light on the cheese for my tastes, but those who like a little less cheese than is customary would be well-served with a stop at Price Hill Chili.

Ben: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Dave: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Facility:  8
Quantity:  8
Quality:  8
Restrooms:  8
Service: 8
Overall: 8

Ronnie: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I ordered my normal 4-way with onions. The Chili was very tasty and had a good temperature. My only complaint was the noodles could have been strained a little more. The water from the noodles caused the chili to be a little watery (nothing that oyster crackers couldn’t help soak up though). If it wasn’t for the water from the noodles then I probably would have given them an 8.5. Their menu selection for other food looked very impressive. I would definitely pay them another visit.

Stephanie: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Price Hill Chili has taken the top spot on the chili tour for me.  I have been to Price Hill Chili numerous times before, but surprisingly this was the first time I had their chili.  Their chili was extremely flavorful with a bit of heat and a meaty consistence.  The chili, hot dog, cheese and mustard all played very well together on the coney.  All of the ingredients complimented each other and none overtook any of the other flavors.  The cheese / chili ratio was right on point and the bread was fresh and steamed.  The cheese fries were tasty as well….even though they do serve up the crinkle cut variety.  They were cooked nicely and topped with a healthy dose of freshly shredded cheddar that was left to melt on its own….as with most other places they would have been even better if they had been salted after they were pulled from fryer.

Price Hill Chili on Urbanspoon

P&S Restaurant

Bowl of chili, cheese coneys at P&S Restaurant

The P&S Restaurant is located in a small strip mall on Springdale Rd. just off of Colerain Avenue near the Northgate Mall.  In business since 1979, P&S features chili prominently on the front page of their menu.  Notably, they offer six (sour cream) and seven (sour cream and jalapenos) ways though amazingly none of the chili team took them up on either offering.  The interior of the restaurant is done up tastefully in dark colors with a large number of tables and booths and a lunch counter near the back.  The rest of the menu is encyclopedic — P&S offers all manner of breakfast, sandwiches, lunches, and dinners and a wide selection of desserts.  So was the trip up north to Colerain Twp. worth it?  Read on to see what we thought.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆


Individual Ratings:

Adam: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The food was pretty good on taste.  The portions were decent based on pricing.  The prices were fine.  The staff was pleasant and friendly.  A little bit of a geographical challenge for a regular lunch stop, but if you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth a visit.  I’m looking forward to the piece of Oreo cookie pie I brought back with me.

Andrew: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

This was a pleasant surprise for me — it took some doing to even uncover the fact that they serve chili so imagine my surprise when we walk in to discover that their chili offerings are the top feature on their menu.  I ordered up my usual bowl of plain chili with a couple cheese coneys.  The food was delivered quickly and everything was fresh and piping hot.  The chili had a meaty texture to it and an intriguing blend of spices with a bold flavor.  The coneys were on soft buns and weren’t too messy to be picked up and eaten by hand.  My only complaint is that cheese seemed a little dried out though judging by the cheese shredder visible in the kitchen they do shred it fresh in-house.  Overall this ranks among the better chili restaurants we’ve visited.

Dave: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Facility: 6 Stinky bathrooms
Quantity:  6
Quality: 5  No taste — just spice, cheese stale
Service: 7
Overall: 6

Stephanie: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

P&S’s chili was a bit spicier than most of the places we have been to so far.  Their chili had a nice consistency and a fair amount of heat, but not a ton of flavor.  I went back to my “usual” at P&S, the coneys arrived quickly, with fresh bread and hot chili.  The hot dogs were standard, and the chili/cheese/dog ratio was balanced nicely.  P&S has  “normal” fries that were cooked well, but something was off with the flavor of the cheese…almost like it was stale.  It looked to be freshly shredded cheddar, but it was almost as if it wasn’t sealed properly in the fridge and it had dried out, or they had attempted to freeze it and it got freezer burned.  As the cheese melted on the fries and coneys the off flavor was slightly less noticeable, but still not great.  The staff was extremely friendly and attentive….and I would be tempted to go back and try their Straffle!

Tim: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I live less that 5 minutes from P&S Restaurant and this is the first time that I have ever eaten here.  Sorry to judge a book by its cover but the peeling letters on the P and S sign out front has kept me from stopping in.  I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in- A well painted mural on the wall, clean tables, everyone in a uniform and a diner setting with bar stools. I thought to myself, I can see coming back here with the family.  Ok, ok- enough of the visuals… let’s get to the chili. I ordered my usual- The 3-way.  Well piled cheese, and I could tell instantly it was fresh from a block that they shredded from the kitchen. That pushes them over a 4 star just on the cheese factor.  Pasta was perfect, thicker than most, but not too thick.  Chili looked meaty, a little heartier than the local chains. I took my first bite without hot sauce to see if the flavor stood on its own. Not too bad. The taste was a little bland, not the flavor that I hoped to expect. This made me pull out the hot sauce to give it a little zip.  A good portion size for this 3-way.  The best part of today’s experience was the waitresses were well attentive and fast to answer any questions. I think at one point we had all 4 waitresses helping us out (possibly because we sat at the bar, but not certain).  All in all –I would say- a good experience. I think this fine establishment earns an 8 today.

P & S Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Lucy’s Deli

4-way at Lucy's Deli

Lucy’s Deli sits on Reading Rd. in the heart of downtown Reading.  Parking is convenient with a small lot located right next to Lucy’s.  The interior is comprised of two rows of booths with several rows of tables and chairs in the middle, decorated like an arts + crafts store exploded within.  Be sure to check out the heart-shaped aquarium by the cash register.  The menu is mostly sandwiches with a heavy focus on double-deckers, but we were pleased to note that the chili selections were featured first in the menu.  Does the chili deserve its top billing?  Read on to find out…

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Individual Ratings:

Adam: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

The food was okay on taste.  I did need to go with a second helping of hot sauce.  The portions were average based on pricing.  The prices were decent.  I don’t think I would go out of my way for chili, but other menu items looked interesting.  Similar to Thelma’s Diner, they may focus on the diner aspect much more than a chili parlor; but that’s okay.

Andrew: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

I ordered up my usual bowl of plain, 2 cheese coneys.  The bowl of chili came out way before the coneys did — long enough that I had actually polished of the bowl of chili before the coneys arrived.  The chili was meaty with a nice texture, but pretty flavorless.  I wound up having to splash some hot sauce on it to liven things up a bit, something I almost never do.  After the disappointing bowl of chili, I hoped the coneys would pick things up a bit.  The coneys were on the large side and sloppy enough that I wound up eating them with a fork.  The onions on the coneys were very coarsely chopped which allowed a lot more of the onion flavor to come through, while giving the coneys an interesting crunchy texture.  The buns were fresh and the cheese was good, though shredded too short for my tastes.  The chili, however, was still a disappointment.  Its lack of flavor meant that the cheese, hotdog, onion, and mustard flavors all shined through nicely, but there was just no chili taste.  I can’t recommend the chili there, but judging by the gorgeous double-deckers I saw being whisked to and fro this is a fine place to get a terrific sandwich.

Ben: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

I enjoyed Lucy’s Deli.  The chili was meaty, not greasy, but had an aftertaste to it that I couldn’t put my finger on.  The cheese appeared to be freshly grated but clumped up a lot making large cheese balls that I didn’t want to eat.
4 way: The noodles were cooked properly and were not stale.  Obviously fresh. The amount of cheese wasn’t overwhelming, but it wasn’t the same texture that I prefer.  The chili portion was OK, not too sloppy and no leftover soup after the noodles were gone.
Coney: Messy, but that’s not a bad thing.  Served in a bowl and not on a small plate, the coney was the star of lunch today.  The bun was fresh and soft, the hot dog had great flavor, not your typical dog that is served up at chili parlours across the area.
Oyster Crackers: Given w/o request.  New England Brand.  Extra crax cost $.20.
Hot Sauce: Frank’s Red Hot, oddly enough w/o the label, but the contents were the same.
Overall Score: 6/10.  A decent contender, but the cheese and the after taste keep me from throwing Lucy’s up there with the top dogs.  (Side Note: Their sandwiches looked phe-nomnom-inal.  May be worth a trip back for their bacon/turkey/egg sandwich.)

Dave: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Facility: 6
Quality: 5
Quantity: 7
Service: 4
Overall: 5
Not much flavor but good portions

Stephanie: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

After consuming more hot dogs in the last few months on the chili tour than I have had total in my entire life, I made the executive decision to go with chili cheese sandwiches instead of coneys at Lucy’s.  I need to preface this next statement by saying, I love cheese.  I would give up pretty much any other food before I give up cheese and I firmly believe you can never have too much cheese.  But on this one occasion there might have been too much cheese, well maybe not too much but the cheese definitely overpowered the chili on the sandwiches….I think if I had gotten coneys that the ratio of cheese to chili to hot dog would have been fine, but without the hot dog it was off.  The bread was fresh, as was the cheese and the chili was hot, there just wasn’t enough of it…I didn’t dislike the taste, but it just lacked an overall flavor.  Lucy’s offers French Fries or for $0.25 more you can get Amazing Fries, which are seasoned waffles fries.  They are not the typical frozen variety, they are a homemade version…which with cheese lived up to their name.  The fries were cooked very well, the seasoning was tasty and normally I hate when they melt the cheese on the fries in the microwave, but the Amazing Fries remained crispy.  I feel as if I owe Lucy’s another try, next time I would get a coney to see if the chili would stand up better with the compliment of the hot dog…..and I would definitely go back for one of their double-deckers, they looked incredible!

Lucy's Deli on Urbanspoon

Papa Dino’s

4-Way from Papa Dino's

A pizza joint on the chili tour?  Have we lost our minds?  A tip led us to discover that Papa Dino’s does in fact offer up chili by the bowl, way, or coney cooked up according to Papa’s secret family recipe.  Papa Dino’s is located at the corner of Calhoun and Clifton, right across the street from Hughes high school and UC’s campus and has been a late-night favorite of UC students for decades.  Some us had even been to Papa Dino’s previously, but none had ever had their chili or even recalled that they offered chili.  Papa Dino’s has a large menu filled to the brim with pizzas, sandwiches, appetizers, you name it.  Oh, and chili.  So, after all the chili was dished out, can a place known for its pizza compete with the dedicated chili parlors??

Overall Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Individual Ratings:

Adam: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Didn’t offer a 5-way, so I went with a 4-way.  I was pretty disappointed when my food was brought out cold, too cold to eat.  I did receive a new order without complaint and I received a discount for said mistake without asking for it.  The food was okay with flavor, but a little greasy for my liking.  The portions were big, but I cannot compare portion to cost due to the discount received…  I don’t think I will be overly excited to try them again, but maybe…

Andrew: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

A mixed bag.  Papa Dino’s offers a cup or bowl of chili which is relatively rare among Cincinnati chili parlors which usually just have it by the bowl.  So I ordered up a cup of chili and two cheese coneys.  The cup of chili, still quite large, arrived with a heaping mound of cheese on top, usually an option rather than standard.  The cheese coneys were enormous, easily dwarfing even the largest cheese coneys encountered thus far on our survey of Cincinnati chili establishments.  Portions were clearly not a problem at Papa Dino’s.  The cheese coneys were topped with lots of fluffy, finely shredded cheddar, freshly chopped onion, and a nice smear of mustard all sitting inside a pillowy-soft, fresh bun.  Very well prepared and very impressive.  Ultimately the downfall for me was the chili itself.   The chili had very strong flavor of tomato, not what you normally expect from Cincinnati-style chili and tended more towards a chunkier style of chili.  It’s certainly not Texas chili or even “generic midwest diner chili” but it certainly strains the definition of Cincinnati chili.  Still, it was tasty and boy was there lots of it.

Ben: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

There’s an old adage, “Do one thing and do it well” which seems to typically equal success.  So I guess I shouldn’t be super surprised when a pizza joint in Clifton gives me an overwhelming “Meh” with their chili.  The chili itself had an overbearing tomato flavor to it, which makes sense considering their other main dish is pizza.  The noodles were too fat, and don’t seem to be the typical noodles you find in chili parlors.  Even the coney was “meh”.  But, I did enjoy both the service at PD’s as well as the portions.  The price kinda reflects the portions, but I’m OK with that.  Maybe we’ll come back on a pizza tour, but as for future chili lunches, this place is off the list.

Nathan: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Like most college restaurants often do, they support late night eating binges from students.  So monster portions is what I now think of for Papa Dino’s.  The service was great and we received drinks promptly.  I ordered a 3-Way that came out weighing more than most small children…I could only eat half.  The chili was sweet, a little hot sauce flavor was added for my taste, and it had more ground beef than what you find in traditional Cincinnati Style Chili.  Everything was fresh and tasty and it was a very satisfying meal.  I would definitely go back for a second visit

Stephanie: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Papa Dino's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Dixie Chili

Bowl of chili, cheese coney at Dixie Chili

Dixie Chili, in business since 1929, has 3 locations across Northern Kentucky in Newport, Erlanger, and Covington. We visited their location on Monmouth in Newport, just a few doors down from Gourmet Chili where we started our chili adventure. Dixie Chili is unique thus far in our chili tour in that food is ordered and served cafeteria style. You place your order and pay at the register where you are given a tray which you then slide down a long counter along which your food is handed over one piece at a time. Once you’ve collected all of your food you take your tray to a table to dine. As a result, there is no lunch counter to sit at, just a collection of booths and tables. The inside of the restaurant is immaculate, done up mostly in white and red tile, lending something of a classic diner vibe to the place somewhat akin to Camp Washington Chili. The menu at Dixie Chili has all the traditional chili parlor items, along with a “Chili Man Dip” which is cream cheese, chili, and shredded cheddar with beans and onions, and a six way which includes fresh chopped garlic.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Individual Ratings:

Aaron: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Dixie Chili in Newport disappointed me today.  I feel like they may have had an off day as I have been in the past and it seemed tastier.  The chili was meaty and hot, but really lacked flavor today.  It was a not a good mix for a bowl of plain chili and might have been better on a 3-way or coney.  It has a good chili parlor feel and a cold piece of pecan pie ended what was a pretty average meal.  I know they can do better, they just didn’t deliver today.  My Cincinnati chili score is a 5 of 10.  We may have already experienced peak chili on this tour with strong showings by Gourmet chili and Empress among others.  I’ll stop back to Dixie in the future.

Adam: ★★★½☆☆☆☆☆☆

It was the Ponderosa of chili parlors, no server.  The food was bland and without good flavor. The portions were small based on pricing.  This was a repeat and not a great one.  It was a bad day for Dixie Chili.

Andrew: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

I was pretty jazzed upon walking in the door.  The decor is fun, the menu has some interesting flourishes, and the line nearly out the door promised big things.  I ordered my usual bowl of plain and cheese coney but I couldn’t resist also ordering up one of their “Chili Man Dips.”  After negotiating my way through the cafeteria line I brought my food to the table and dug in.  My first impression of the chili was that it had a decent amount heat, but absolutely no flavor.  The chili was thick and meaty, but just bland.  It did better as part of a coney, but it rendered the chili man dip flavorless as well.  With your chili Dixie gives you a tiny bag of oyster crackers.  I would not be exaggerating to say there were approximately 10 crackers in the bag.  Additional oyster crackers are $0.15/bag.  Never before have we encountered a chili parlor being so stingy with oyster crackers, much less charging for them.  Overall better than a few, worse than most and frankly, if you’re going to eat chili on Monmouth I see no reason to stop at Dixie when Gourmet Chili is a few blocks away.

Andy: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Today’s tour brought us to Dixie Chili in Newport.  I was surprised by the cafeteria style setup on ordering but, it was very efficient*.  If you order a 3 way and a coke, you wont sit without your food which is nice from a lunch time perspective.  I insert an * because some items are made to order so you have to wait such as waffle fries.  These took a while, it was like their fryer was only single order size.  But, the blue cheese dipping sauce made it worth the wait.  I give them a 10.  But, the chili on the other hand was very mild, almost “not there” if you will.  Portion size was fine.  Price was fine.   So, Fries 10.  Chili 5.  Wait on fries minus 1.  Score = 6.5

Ben: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Dave: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Flavor: 3
Service:  3
Quantity: 6
Overall:  3

Nathan: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

I enjoyed Dixie Chili today.  It was a pleasant change from your traditional parlor style eatery.  The cafeteria style made it easy to get drink and crackers and by the time I reached the end of the line, my 3-way and cheese Coney were waiting.  There is ample seating in the dining area, which by the time noon came around I understood why, the line was out the door.  The chili was good, perfect amount of cheese and everything was fresh, including my bun and dog.  This was definitely the thickest chili I’ve had to date, and it made it difficult to crunch up my crackers and soak up the juice, but I managed.  All in all the experience was good and chili was good, nothing dramatic here, but if you want a good, quick affordable lunch check out Dixie Chili.


Dixie Chili on Urbanspoon


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.

Thelma's Diner on Urbanspoon

Covington Chili

Covington Chili

Covington Chili has been serving up chili to Covington locals since 1936, making it among the oldest of the chili parlors we’ll be visiting.  Situated on Madison Ave. near Pike St. Covington Chili occupies a narrow building, leaving room for a row of booths along the wall and a long lunch counter.  Some tables and chairs occupy the back of the restaurant.  The menu includes the usual assortment of breakfast, gyros, and double-deckers in addition to the standard chili fare.  Six members of the chili team visited Covington Chili today — read on to see what we thought.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆


Individual Ratings:


Adam: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Nowhere close to “Chili Biddy” status.  The food was decent on taste.  The portions were okay.  The price was fair.  I’d repeat visit but not at the top of my list.

Andrew: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Covington Chili has been serving up chili for 75 years.  I love visiting some of the old, historic chili parlors and generally figure if they’ve survived this long, they must be doing something right.  The exterior and interior of Covington Chili is, frankly, run-down and is probably about 50 years overdue for a makeover.  Thankfully, the chili needs no such work.  My bowl of chili was perhaps the meatiest I’ve had thus far which resulted in a hearty, meaty flavor.  The heat wasn’t immediately apparent, but about halfway through the bowl I started to notice a slow burn in my mouth that really made the flavors of the chili start to jump out on my tongue.  The coneys were excellent — fresh bread, nicely grated cheddar, and a healthy dollop of mustard made for a coney that was definitely a cut above the average.  Not the best chili I’ve had so far, but it definitely stands a bit above most of the parlors we’ve visited and is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

Andy: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

At first glance, Covington Chili didn’t look promising.  It definitely has that old school greasy spoon look.  The wait staff was just ok at best although they appeared busier than maybe their normal pace.  Fortunately, the chili made up for it.  Very meaty 4 way with good flavor towards the mild side and a good portion size.  The fries were average.   Deducting a few tenths for service, I’m still giving them a solid 7.

Ben: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Having been born, raised, and a staunch supporter of everything Covington for all my years I must be the first to admit I am ashamed that today was my first visit to Covington Chili.  I’ve always seen it sitting there across from the Madison Theatre on Madison Ave and always thought that it looked tasty, but never have I ventured inside.  Today, we make it right.  The chili parlour  itself ranks up there with some of my other favorite contenders.  Long, narrow, and dimly lit, it’s the quintessential diner with the long bar and stools on the left overlooking the cooking, and tables up against the wall on the right.  At the front of the restaurant sits a large jukebox that remained quiet throughout our stay.  The menu items have your typical parlour items of chili, sandwiches, and breakfast fare.  On a non-chili note I saw the chicken wrap and it looked fantastic!  We sat at the bar and was waited on one of the youngest chili servers we’ve experienced on our tour.  Service was prompt and enjoyable, even though we overheard that someone else missed their shift and our waitress was running the whole show.  I was quite impressed that she kept everything flowing pretty solidly even though the restaurant was filling up with the lunchtime rush.  The chili was meatier than some of the other contenders, yet still had a bit of soupiness left at the bottom of the 4-way.  There didn’t seem to be too much of a spicy punch to the chili, and the aftertaste was minimal at best.  There was definitely ample chili on both the 4-way and the coney and wasn’t sloppy.  The onions were flavorful and the cheese was fluffy and thinly grated, as it should be.  The bun was OK, not too soft yet didn’t seem to be two day old bread, one day at most.  We had to ask for oyster crackers, and that may have been due to the lunch rush, but when delivered they fresh and crunchy.  The hot sauce was in a squeeze bottle, and not too hot.  Maybe they fill their squeeze bottles with Frank’s or Texas Pete’s, a mild yet flavorful burn.   Overall, and hometown biases aside, I rate Covington Chili towards the top.  The combination of parlour ambiance coupled with a pretty decent chili and decent price makes this a solid 7 out of 10 stars.  A repeat visit is certainly doable.

Nathan: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

Covington Chili was tasty.  My 3-way was served up exactly the way I like it.  Enough fresh cheese, not a mountain, for a nice layer covering the plate edge to edge.  Best of all is was a juicy serving which allows me to make the most of my two packs of oyster crackers…soaking it all up.   I plowed my 3-way as if it where a late night 2AM 4th meal.  Which begs the question, does my hunger affect my overall chili rating?  Who cares…the chili is worth a return trip, the parlor itself yielded a nice counter with plenty of seating along the adjacent wall.  Perhaps the best part was the bill, a regular 3-way and a Pepsi for under six bucks.

Stephanie: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Covington Chili on Urbanspoon

JK’s Chili

JK's Chili

7 members of the chili team ventured out to visit today’s chili contender, JK’s Chili.  JK’s Chili sits in the corner of an unassuming strip mall across from the railroad tracks in Madeira.  The interior consists of an 8 stool lunch counter, a handful of tables, and a row of booths along the wall.  Open only for breakfast and lunch, JK’s serves up traditional chili parlor fare:  breakfast, double-deckers, fried sandwiches, and of course chili.  Notably, they offer a cheese coney special which nets you 4 cheese coneys for $5, a bargain that’s pretty tough to beat.  As great as that deal is, we’re in search of the best chili, not the cheapest.  So, what did we think?

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Individual Ratings:

Adam: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

It was close but she earned the “Chili Biddy” title today.  The order was accurate but just a bit slow.  The food was average on taste, a little bland.  I felt like I needed to add hot sauce to spice it up a bit.  The portions were average for the cost. I’m a definite maybe for repeat visits.

Andrew: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

As a lifelong eastsider and former Madeira resident I am ashamed to admit I did not know of JK’s existence until very recently, despite it having been there for over 30 years.  Still, better late than never, I was anxious to give their chili a try.  I ordered my usual bowl of plain with 2 cheese coneys.  Service was expedient and I quickly found myself digging right in.  The chili was relatively meaty, but gave off very little in the way of aroma.  My first bite was met with overwhelming disappointment.  While the chili was indeed meaty and had a nice texture, it was utterly devoid of flavor.  Subsequent bites did not improve the situation, so I turned to the cheese coneys.  The cheese coneys appeared to be very heavy on the chili, a fact which was confirmed immediately upon picking the first one up.  Ordinarily I don’t consider a little extra chili to be a bad thing, but again the flavorless chili failed to impress, serving only to so liquefy the bun of the second coney that it had to be eaten with a fork.  Finally returning to my half-eaten bowl of chili, I tried doctoring it with a few dashes of hot sauce and few shakes of salt but to no avail.  Not quite the worst chili I’ve encountered thus far, but unless you live or work in the area it probably isn’t worth the trip.

Andy: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

J Ks Chili met all the requirements today.  Good portions, meaty chili, solid fries and reasonable prices.  The only knock is that the chili was mild for my taste.   The folks that ordered Cheese Coneys had to be happy, they looked pretty big and were on 4 for $5 special.

Ben: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

JK’s chili parlor sits on the end cap of a multi-tenant storefront in the quiet town of Madeira.  If you aren’t paying attention you could easily pass it up and not see it.  The outside of the parlor is plastered with signs such as “4 coneys for $5!” which is enough to entice us in even on a non-chili tour.  The parlor itself is a typical parlor with one awesome addition, you can buy lottery tickets at JK’s!  From $20 scratch offs to $1 pick threes, you can scratch away your retirement funds.  Unfortunately they don’t have Keno, and Stephanie was really looking forward to this. Inside the front door and past the lottery tickets we find a long counter with about 10 seats on the left and about ten tables throughout the rest of the restaurant, more than enough seating for our chili team.  We arrived at noon and were quickly given 2 tables (even though I prefer to sit at the counter) and were quickly given our drink orders.  Upon receiving our drinks I ordered the normal 4-way with onions and a cheese coney, with mustard and onion.  The waiter has the distinct honor of being the first male on the chili tour to serve me.  I typically prefer my chili to be served by a “Biddy” as our teammate Adam coined, but even though he lacked the henish qualities of our previous biddies, he did serve the chili in quick fashion, and without reminders.  The coney was the first to arrive to my table.  It had an awkward lean to it that I must assume was from an abundance of chili with a shorter than bun size frank.  The buns were fresh and soft, but it was a mess to eat.  I was excited to see that they kept it local with Shur-Good oyster crackers, but they had a chewier texture to them, almost as though they were stale.  The hot sauce was Frank’s Red Hot, and was, well, not that hot and left a lot to be desired.  The 4-way quickly made it’s appearance, but if we’re judging on appearance, I’m a bit disappointed.  The typical chili parlor serves their 3, 4, and 5 ways on a dish that is a hybrid between a bowl and a plate, curving up to keep the sauce centered with the noodles.  JK’s serves their chili on a normal round plate that allows for the whole concoction to flow around with reckless abandon.  The chili itself bit flavorful, but then the flavor quickly left.  There was no aftertaste whatsoever, and the onions overpowered the dish. The noodles were fine, not too firm, not to soft, and were easily managed with a fork.  The cheese on both the coney and the dish were sharp and soft, just like they should be.  Overall, I’m going to have to give low marks for JK’s.  The appearances along with the overall lack of flavor are what gives JK’s 4 stars out 10.  It’s OK, but it’s just not up there with the heavy hitters.

Dave: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

Facility:  4
Taste:  4
Service: 4
Taste: 4
Quantity: 6
Quality: 4

Nathan: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

JK’s was located in a little strip mall, set back off the road enough that we nearly drove right past it, bonus points for “off the beaten path”. I love the small Chili Parlor feeling of a counter as soon you walk in.  What more do you need.  The server was great, I’m not really sure if he said anything when he walked up but I got my coke quickly and the meal came soon after.  I had my usual 3 Way.  I had a double take moment when the server brought my order, the plate was round and the cheese was edge to edge with no mountain, this is a good start.  Props on the delivery.  Fresh cheese too, it wasn’t pulled out of a freezer, definitely grated earlier that day.  The spaghetti was thinner, but the chili suited my taste buds just fine.  I liked it.

Stephanie: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

The coneys at JK’s had a great cheese to chili to bread ratio.  The bread was fresh, the chili was hot but what really made the coneys was the mustard. One can only assume it was just your regular run of the mill yellow mustard, but something about it really made the chili flavor pop on the coney.  JK’s served up a hearty helping of cheese fries, to my dismay they use crinkle cuts but they were cooked and seasoned well.

J.K.'s Chili on Urbanspoon