Did you know that the Cincinnati Reds have an official chili? They do. It’s called Skyline Chili, and it’s a longtime foodie favorite among Queen City locals. But you don’t have to wait for Opening Day to get in on a hot steaming bowl of deliciousness. Why not? Because Skyline Chili also makes for the perfect March Madness meal. Here’s a closer look at the champion of all chilis, along with why it’s a must have for any March Madness bash.
A City and its Chili
When most people think of chili, they think of the Mexican-inspired cuisine, AKA “chili con carne,” made famous by the Lone Star State. However, Cincinnati style chili is an entirely different ballgame. And while the expression “everything’s bigger in Texas” may be applicable to many things, most Cincinnatians would argue that chili is not one of them.
According to CityBeat, “Certain cities are in part defined by their native cuisines. Although at times stereotypical, one cannot debate the value of partaking in a hot slice of New York-style pizza in the Big Apple, a hunk of deep dish in Chicago or a greasy cheesesteak topped with Cheez Whiz in Philadelphia. These dishes are unique and delicious, and there’s a reason locals and visitors alike enjoy them, especially during athletic contests.” Thanks to Cincinnati chili — a meal that “lives on as a symbol of our city’s history and the type of stuff everyone here grubbed on late-night during college” — Cinci squarely earns a spot in this group.
Meanwhile, What’s Cooking America declares, “Outside of the state of Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio is the most chili-crazed city in the United States. Cincinnati prides itself on being a true chili capital, with more than 180 chili parlors. Cincinnati Chili is quite different from its more familiar Texas cousin, and it has developed a cult-like popularity…. This is truly the unofficial grub of Cincinnati.”
So what makes Cincinnati chili different than its Texan namesake? While it shares a ground beef base, its influences are Mediterranean, not Mexican. Explains What’s Cooking America when comparing the two, “Cincinnati Chili has a thinner consistency and is prepared with an unusual blend of spices that includes cinnamon, chocolate or cocoa, allspice, and Worcestershire.”
Cincinnati Chili is also different in terms of how it’s eaten. Says What’s Cooking America, “The people of Cincinnati enjoy their chili spooned over freshly made pasta and topped with a combination of chopped onions, shredded Cheddar cheese, refried beans or kidney beans, and crushed oyster crackers. If you choose ‘the works,’ you are eating what they call Five-Way Chili. Make sure to pile on the toppings – that’s what sets it apart from any other chili dish.”
The Reigning Champ of Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati may be full of chili parlors, but one name rises above the rest. With roots dating back to the village of Kastoria, Greece, the generations-old Skyline Chili recipe finally made its way to the United States with Nicholas Lambrinides, who was chasing a longtime dream of sharing his mother’s and grandmother’s authentic food with friends and family in America. He opened his first restaurant in 1949 — overlooking the Cincinnati skyline, hence the name — and history was made.
Skyline Chili has expanded since those early days, but every location still uses Nicholas’ original recipe featuring a secret blend of spices and using only the highest quality ingredients. Today, Skyline Chili stands tall as the perfect embodiment of the American dream. It’s especially fitting, then, that former President Barack Obama himself once enjoyed what locals refer to as “Skyline Time.” Wrote Dann Woellert in his book, The Authentic history of Cincinnati Chili, of Obama’s storied stop,
“His visit makes Skyline the only presidential parlor in Cincinnati. But to countless Cincinnatians, Skyline is better than presidential. It’s their hometown favorite chili.”
Cincinnati Chili and March Madness
While the ballpark may first come to mind when thoughts turn to Cincinnati Chili, you don’t have to travel to the Great American Ballpark — or even step foot in Ohio, for that matter — to dig in thank to one of the latest trends to take over the culinary world: gourmet mail order food. With a little help from FoodyDirect, you can have all of your favorite gourmet foods — including Skyline Chili, of course — delivered directly to your door.
Even better than tucking into a bowl of Skyline Chili on your own? Adding a hearty helping of Skyline Chili to your March Madness menu. After all, sports fans show up with more than themselves. They also show up with their appetites, and we can’t think of a better way to satisfy them – while lightening up on your own hosting duties in the process — than by ordering legendary Skyline Chili from FoodyDirect.
You may not know which teams are making it into the Final Four yet, but the Cincinnati Bearcats have as good a shot as anyone. After all, they’re one of the 20 winningest basketball programs of all-time. So why not serve up the world’s winningest chili while you’re at it? Shop FoodyDirect’s extensive inventory of foods for Skyline Chili and hundreds of other offerings fit for March Madness, Final Four, and beyond.