Blue Ash Chili Original / Facebook
Not only is Blue Ash Chili renowned for its namesake dish (available three, four, five, and even six ways), but it also has a mobile food truck and a liquor license (hooray!), and is home of the “No Freakin’ Way Challenge,” where contestants must consume 2.5 pounds of spaghetti covered in 2.5 pounds of chili, two pounds of Cheddar cheese, and one pound of jalapeño caps in 60 minutes or less. If they succeed, the meal is free, and they get their picture enshrined in the restaurant’s Hall of Fame. Founded in 1969, Blue Ash Chili was featured on an episode of Guy Fieri’s Food Network series Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. It has three locations in the greater Cincinnati area.
Blue Jay Restaurant / Facebook
Not to be confused with Blue Ash Chili, Blue Jay Restaurant was actually founded two years earlier, in 1967, by Danny and Tina Petropoulos, who still own and run the joint today. Chili-lovers will enjoy the slightly thicker texture served here, and non-chili-lovers (blasphemy!) can find comfort in the restaurant’s double-decker burgers.
Camp Washington Chili / Facebook
Chains aside, Camp Washington is probably the best chili in town, as evidenced by its winning of a James Beard Award as an “American Regional Classic” for its timeless appeal and commitment to quality food. Founded in 1940, Camp Washington also happens to be one of the oldest chili parlors in the town, still located where it started, on the corner of Hopple and Colerain Streets. Although closed on Sundays, it makes up for this mild inconvenience by remaining open 24-hours a day for the other six days of the week.
Empress Chili of Alexandria / Facebook
The first of three chains on this list, Empress Chili isn’t nearly as expansive as the other two competitors, but it’s easily the oldest. Established in 1922, Empress is still serving the exact same recipe as it was almost 100 years ago, but a recent change in ownership should yield some expansion for the chili parlor staple. But that shouldn’t affect the Empress die-hards, who will still saddle up to their usual seat at their usual location for their usual order.
Gold Star Chili / Facebook
Founded in 1965 by four brothers, Gold Star Chili (in addition to another major player — more on that later) is arguably the pope of Chili-town. However, it’s also a chain with almost 100 restaurants, so how serious can anyone take this recommendation? What’s that, they offer a Coney Crate containing 10 cheese Coneys in one portable box? We withdraw our previous statement.
Yelp / Khlemo S
Looking for a classic diner with awesome chili? Look no further than Pleasant Ridge Chili, owned and operated by three generations of a single family since 1964. Serving all the usual suspects when it comes to chili, Pleasant Ridge also cooks up traditional double-deckers, fries with gravy and cheese, and delicious breakfast dishes all day long.
Yelp / Jason G
Those living in, working in, or visiting the west side of Cincinnati will undoubtedly be familiar with Price Hill Chili, a dining institution since 1962. Featuring chili that isn’t too greasy, but still spicy and meaty enough, Price Hill has expanded from its original layout due to overwhelming popularity, and even added a second kitchen. If you ask the parlor’s regulars, they’ll tell you the chili is still best from the original kitchen in the front. Try the signature wiener bun: two dogs in one.
Skyline Chili / Facebook
As previously mentioned, Skyline Chili is the one of the two major chili giants in town, and most locals will argue it should be number one. Yes, it’s a ubiquitous chain with over 130 locations, but it was born in Cincinnati back in 1949, and most of the locations are still in the Buckeye State, with a handful in Illinois, Kentucky, and Florida as well. Old-school Cincinnatians will point you to the Clifton location, since it’s one of the oldest original stores still in operation, but the beauty of Skyline is that it’s everywhere, be it a Reds game, the Cincinnati Zoo, or even at the Kings Island amusement park.