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The 10 Best Places for Chili in Cincinnati

February 25, 2020

These top Cincinnati spots offer the best chili in a city known for it.

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Chili Is King in Cincinnati

In Cincinnati, chili is a beloved local favorite and one of the regional dishes visitors to the city will definitely want to try. But the way Cincinnati serves up chili may take newcomers by surprise. For one thing, it's served on a plate rather than a bowl. For another, the chili is sandwiched between a mound of spaghetti and a pile of cheddar cheese. Created by two Macedonian brothers who opened the Empress Chili Parlor in 1922, this distinctive local chili was defined by the brothers' Mediterranean heritage and cooked with spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, giving it its distinctive flavor profile. The classic 5-way Cincinnati chili comes with spaghetti, chili, cheese, beans and diced onions but diners can customize theirs any way they choose from one-way on up.

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Top Cincinnati Chili Restaurants

By some counts, more than 200 restaurants specialize in serving signature, Cincinnati-style chili in the tri-state area surrounding Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Chili parlors have been rising around the Queen City for nearly a century. But with so many options, where is a traveler to go to find the best chili in Cincinnati? These staple spots won't steer you wrong.

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Camp Washington Chili

A James Beard winner for American regional classics, this 24-hour per day Cincinnati icon is still serving chili six days per week, just as it has since 1940. Locals know Camp Washington Chili as “the Godfather of them all,” a classic chili spot whose blend of Greek herbs and spices tingle tastebuds from early morning hours to the latest of late nights. Camp Washington’s 5-way remains a top choice for locals, even 75 years after the restaurant opened its doors.

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Empress Chili

When Tom and John Kiradjieff blended Mediterranean spices with spaghetti noodles, chopped onions, shredded cheese and kidney beans beside downtown’s Empress Theatre in 1922, they transformed Cincinnati forever. Their restaurant, Empress Chili, is often dubbed the originator of Cincinnati chili. Today, the 3-way remains the most popular item at Empress, followed closely by the classic cheese Coney.

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