Who would have thought that chili without green pepper, tomato chunks or a blast of hot chile pepper stood a chance on the American menu? Cincinnati Chili has none of the above, but people love it.
Athanas Kiradjieff and his brother, John, Macedonian immigrants who had a small restaurant in Cincinnati called The Empress, first created Cincinnati Chili in 1922. Their chili was more a meat sauce than a stew, and instead of a fiery blend of chile peppers, it was gently seasoned with sweet Middle Eastern spices. Cincinnati Chili was served in layers, and customers ordered it by number. One-way was plain chili, two-way was spaghetti topped with chili, three-way was with added cheese, and four-way was with another topping of either kidney beans or chopped raw onions. Five-way, the most elaborate, was everything: spaghetti, chili, onions, beans and cheese. Every order came with a side of oyster crackers.
In 1949, Nicholas Lambrinides, a Greek restaurant worker with an eye for a good thing when he saw it, started Skyline Chili, a chain of Cincinnati-style chili parlors that today blanket the Midwest. Using Lambrinides’ secret recipe, Skyline cooks make one million gallons of chili every year, mostly for three-way chili and Coney chili, a hot dog on a bun topped with chili and cheese. We admit we might have fudged a bit in our recipe by cutting down a notch on the meat, but it still has a good beefy taste.
By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.