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.


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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

Cretan’s Grill

Bowl of Chili, Cheese Coneys at Cretan's Grill

Cretan’s Grill, or Cretan’s Chili Restaurant as the sign outside says, is located on Vine St. in the heart of Carthage.  The interior is done up in classic wood paneling, linoleum floors, and a chromed-out lunch counter along the wall.  Wooden booths line the opposite wall with a row of tables and chairs in between.  The menu includes the Cincinnati chili items you’d expect, with the notable exception of chili with beans or 5-ways — no beans at Cretan’s.  Cretan’s also serves up double-deckers, burgers, and a nice selection of plate lunches.  Six members of the chili team ordered up a mess of chili — read on to see what we thought.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

 

Individual Ratings:


Aaron: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Cretan’s Grill in Carthage is a simple little old school diner that serves chili, burgers, and double deckers.  It is like walking back in time.  The menu is laminated text and the pricing is great.  For less than $5 I sat down to a bowl of chili and coney.  The chili is tasty and was served hot.  It had a great flavor and was on the mild side of my internal spice scale.  It didn’t wow me, but it wasn’t lousy like some of the other places we’ve endured.  This Cincinnati chili was a 6.5 for me given the great value.


Adam: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

I was pretty disappointed that they have chili in their name but don’t serve a 5-way.  So I did have to substitute my normal order with a 4-way and French fries.  The food was okay on taste, nothing unusual to report.  The portions were average and pricing was very reasonable.  I would have scored higher if a 5-way was on the menu.


Andrew: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

I ordered up my usual bowl of plain with two cheese coneys.  The food arrived promptly and I immediately dug into my bowl of chili.  My first impression was that the chili was on the watery side, so I added some oyster crackers to help solidify things a bit.  Curiously, the oyster crackers weren’t really able to soak up much of the moisture.  Stir though I might, I just couldn’t keep the meaty bits of the chili emulsified with the watery bits.  The chili had a mild flavor with mild heat.  Tasty, but not as delicious as some of the bolder chili’s we’ve encountered.  I was also a bit put off by the slightly gristly nature of the beef in the chili.  This chili required some chewing which was neither expected nor enjoyed.  The cheese coneys came in delightfully soft, steamed buns.  They were a little light on the cheese for my tastes, and the watery nature of the chili rapidly caused the bottom of the buns to disintegrate.  Nevertheless the cheese coneys were delicious, tempering my slight disappointment with the bowl of chili.


Andy: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Cretans Chili was a surprise.  Seems like the more old school a place looks, the better the chili on this tour.  The chili was meaty and had good flavor.  Fries were pretty average.  No fountain drinks, you gets cans but this isn’t a deal breaker.  The surprise was the price, they may have been the best value on the tour.   The service was fast and friendly.  Cretans comes in at a solid 8.0 for me.


Nathan: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

What a great find!  I thoroughly enjoyed Cretan’s.  For me it’s a solid stop on our tour and return visits are forthcoming.  The service was great, its a small quaint diner that serves beverages fresh from a can!  The chili was one of the best I’ve had and is deserving of high marks. The food came out hot with a fresh spattering of melted cheddar, my 3-way looked perfect and tasted even better! Even the funny looking oyster crackers were fresh.


Stephanie: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

The cheese coneys were light on chili and cheese in my opinion…the hot dog definitely overtook the taste of the chili, which when tried without the dog had a nice flavor and consistency.  Cretan’s does not officially offer cheese fries on their menu, but I ordered cheese fries anyways.  I was given a side of cheese, and then my fries arrived shortly after.  Cretan has the kind of fries I like, they were cooked well but unfortunately not seasoned, I did like the ability to add the cheese myself, so that it would melt on its own…but I didn’t love the $1.40 price for a small side of cheese.  Overall, Cretan’s was decent….I would definitely consider going back to try one of their double-deckers.


Cretan Grill on Urbanspoon

Patrick’s Sports Bar & Grill

Bowl of chili, cheese coneys @ Patrick's

Today we made another trek down Glenway to another Westside chili parlor, Crookshank Chili.  We weren’t certain it was still open, so we called ahead.  “Crookshank,” answered the voice at the other end of the phone call.  We verified they were open for lunch and headed out.  After a couple of passes down Crookshank, we couldn’t find it.  So we called back for directions.  “Patricks!” answered the same voice.  Huh?  Turns out Crookshank Chili is closed…ish.  But in its place is Patrick’s Sports Bar & Grill which keeps the chili tradition alive.  Inside an old bank, the decor is traditional sports bar with televisions on every available surface.  The menu is also standard sports bar fare, but with the welcome addition Cincinnati-style chili.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Individual Ratings:


Aaron: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

More bar than chili parlor, we ventured out to the former Crookshank chili.  Patrick’s “Crookshank” chili has a bar menu with Cincinnati style and Texas style chili.  I ordered the Texas chili to sample for the table and a 2 way.  The Texas chili was below average for me.  The 2 way chili was meaty but not very flavorful compared to Gourmet Chili or Empress.  The spaghetti was undercooked for my liking and I stopped eating with half a plate left.  I believe Patrick’s is better known for other items on the menu and I would suggest you stick to the double deckers or hoagies.  My Cincinnati chili score is a 3 of 10.  For a future visit to Patrick’s I will personally look elsewhere on the menu.


Adam: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

We were in route to Crookshank Chili, which apparently doesn’t exist and was replaced by Patrick’s.  They do serve chili, but I’m not sure they should have been a stop on the chili tour.  The food was a little below average on taste for me.  The staff was courteous.  The portions were average based on price.  Perhaps a good stop for a double-decker tour; they looked ridiculously huge.


Andrew: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

We keep finding chili in the strangest places.  Patrick’s serves Texas-style chili along with Cincinnati chili — if you’re there to try it, they refer to the Cincinnati-style chili as “coney chili.”  I had a bowl of “coney chili” and a couple of cheese coneys.  The chili was on the thin side and my first few bites had a bit of a gritty texture that wasn’t pleasant.  I did however enjoy the flavor of the chili and was pleased to note that this chili ratcheted up the spice level more than most.  My coneys were topped with a terrific fluffy cloud of orange cheddar, sitting atop a massive serving of chili in between the buns.  If you like your coneys wet, this is the place for you.  I wound up having to eat them with a fork as the sloppy serving of chili completely overwhelmed the buns.  Overall…pretty average.


Ben: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆


Dave: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Quantity: 7
Quality: 6
Facility: 6
Service: 5
Cheese: 7
Flavor: 7
Overall rating: 7


Patrick's Sports Bar and Grille on Urbanspoon

Sam’s Chili

Bowl of chili, cheese coneys at Sam's Chili

Today we made yet another trip out Glenway to sample some chili.  Sam’s Chili is a tiny parlor located along Glenway in Price Hill.  The interior consists of a small counter with four booths on the opposite wall.  The menu includes items such as pizza, burgers, fried chicken, fish…you could eat there daily and never have the same thing twice.  As tempting as the other items were, we all ordered up chili our usual ways.  Read on to see what we thought.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

 

Individual Ratings:


Aaron: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

My expectations were low as we pulled up to Sam’s Chili on Glenway across from Seton High School.  The menu and venue seemed more akin to greasy festival food than a Cincinnati chili parlor.  Alas, they serve Cincinnati style chili there and had a full featured dessert menu as well.  The portion size of my chili spaghetti was weak by Cincinnati standards and the chili had a texture that reminded me of Chefboyardee which could be good or bad depending upon your pallete.  In general the chili wasn’t super greasy or watery and reminded me more of a meaty chili sauce.  It actually was pretty good.  It wasn’t overly spicy but it had a tasty flavor that was tempting enough for me to consider ordering more.  Sam’s has potential.  It is definitely atypical. 


Andrew: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

The chili was slightly above average.  Meaty with good flavor, but certainly not up to the standards of some of the higher-rated establishments.  The coneys were interesting — Sam’s uses what appear to be tiny beef dogs instead of the traditional porkWhile they were on the small side, they added a distinctive flavor to the coneys that I liked quite a bit.


Andy: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Sam’s chili is definitely a greasy spoon but very good.  The Chili had a great flavor and a thicker texture.  The portion of the 4-way was below average.  Fries were typical but the seasoning moved them into the plus column.  If you are looking for more than chili, they have a pretty big menu.


Stephanie: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆


Sam's Chili 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