Cincinnati Chili Tour 2016

 

Cincinnati Chili Tour 2016!

[Cincinnati Chili Tour Video – 2016]

We did our second Cincinnati Chili Cincinnati Chili Tour 2016Tour on Saturday, April 23, 2016. Our first tour was on February 9, 2013, so we thought it was time to do an update. Last time we visited five locations. This time we dropped two parlors and added three, bringing our total up from 5 to 7. And by the way, our 2016 video is at the bottom of this page.

Here are the stops on our Cincinnati Chili Tour 2016.

Cincinnati-Chili-Tour-Route-2016#1 Price Hill Chili 10AM
4920 Glenway Ave #2
Cincinnati, OH 45238
(513) 471-9507

#2 US Chili 11AM
2965 Colerain Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45225
(513) 541-4665

#3 Camp Washington Chili NOON
3005 Colerain Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45225
(513) 541-0061

#4 Park Chili Parlor 1PM
4160 Hamilton Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45223
(513) 541-9902

#5 Blue Jay Restaurant 2PM
4154 Hamilton Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45223
(513) 541-0847

#6 Pleasant Ridge 3PM
6032 Montgomery Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45213
(513) 531-2365

#7 Blue Ash Chili 4PM
9565 Kenwood Rd
Blue Ash, OH 45242
(513) 984-6107

The Group

Our group consisted of Fred, Brian, Chuck, Tim, Bob, Robbie, and Bill. The first four are locals and the last three are transplants, so to speak. Fred, Brian, Bob, and Bill also went on the inaugural 2013 tour.

Chili Defined ??? The Big Question

My chili usually consisted of chili, spaghetti, onions, and beans. I skipped the cheese. The question of the day was what is this officially called. A person at Skyline in Westerville called it a “5 way, no cheese.” The titles during our tour included, “4 way” – “2 way with onion and beans” – “chili spaghetti with onion and beans” – “4 way bean” – and “4 way, no cheese.” We all kind of settled on “4 way, no cheese,” but I still like “5 way, no cheese.” 🙂

The Apron

Kudos to Tim for coming up with some cool aprons, complete with logo!

Cincinnati-Chili-Tour-2016-apron-logoOfficial Cincinnati chili tour 2016 apron

The Disclaimer and Evaluation Parameters

First, I must state that we are not professional food evaluators and we don’t play one on TV and we didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

We evaluated each chili parlor on 4 categories: food, cleanliness, service, ambiance. We tossed the high and low scores in each category.

Our evaluation is based on a 1 to 10 chilies scoring system, where 1 chili is not so good and 10 chilies is excellent. As with our 2013 tour, we videoed segments of our event and you can see that at the bottom of this post.

1st stop, Price Hill Chili

This is the place that has grown along Glenway avenue over the years to encompass multiple buildings. The main entrance is now in the back, but we always go through one of the front doors and wind our way through all the buildings to the back…er…um…front.

There’s plenty of character and ambiance in this old place – right down to the brick that juts out over the door frame where you walk into the patio. Story goes that a brick hit the original owner in the head at this spot so he stuck it on the wall (not in the wall…on the wall).

We ordered some goetta (unique to the Cincinnati area) at Price Hill as well. Last time, we only ordered it at Camp Washington. The goetta was pretty good. In the video you’ll find a brief description of what goes into it and get to see what it looks like.

Chili was good, service was good, and the place was pretty clean. We were served by the owner’s daughter and the owner came out to chat with us a couple of times as well.

Someone at Price Hill texted another chili location to let them know we were coming.

On a sad note, and something we did not know, is that one of the owner-brothers, Chris Beltsos, son of restaurant founder Sam Beltsos, died Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at the age of 47 after a long battle with cancer. May he rest in peace as the Price Hill Chili tradition continues.

2nd stop, Camp Washington Chili

Bill and Chuck with Camp Washington's patriarch, 80 y/o Johnny Johnson. (4/23/16)
Bill and Chuck with Camp Washington’s patriarch, 80 y/o Johnny Johnson. (4/23/16)

Camp Washington is probably the most famous of all the Cincinnati chili parlors. They have been on numerous TV shows and their building really stands out from all the rest.

Johnny Johnson is THE name that is synonymous with Camp Washington Chili. He was sent by his parents to the U.S. from Greece in 1951 for a better life. Johnny’s dad said he and his sister should change their names so people would accept them, so they did. Johnny changed his from Ioannis D. Iannnou and that was a really good idea. His first job in the U.S. was at Camp Washington Chili, started by his uncle Steve and another business partner eleven years earlier in 1940. The rest, as they say, is history –

Johnny Johnson Way
Johnny Johnson Way

it’s the only job Johnny has ever had.

Camp Washingiton-Original Chili Parlor
Camp Washingiton – Original Chili Parlor

At their 75th Anniversary celebration the street outside Camp Washington was renamed, Johnny Johnson Way. See the video story, below, for more about it.

Camp Washington Chili was originally on the same corner where they are today, but the original building was closer to the street, (like US Chili bank building) and was torn down to widen the street.

Camp Washington Chili
Camp Washington Chili

Here’s a view of the “newer” 1950’s diner-style building they have today.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the news story about Camp Washington’s 75th Anniversary.

The chili was good, reasonably spicy, but we had a bit of an issue with the chili temperature. It was slightly cooler than we would expect it to be. One of us even used the word “cold” in reference to their chili and that is not a good thing at a chili parlor. 🙁

Anither thing…blues/rock guitarist Lonnie Mack even wrote a song, titled Camp Washington Chili. Here it is:

Cincinnati Chili Tour 2016-group at Camp WashingtonIn the category of ummmm “overall friendliness” however, Camp Washington did really well and they even got a snapshot of our group. They also stuck us on their Facebook page within moments of the picture being taken. That being said, we don’t really have a category for overall friendliness, so it is not reflected in our scoring. Sorry, CW.

You can still find Johnny working behind the counter nearly every day while his daughter runs the day-to-day operations.

3rd stop, U.S. Chili

US Chili-Mosler safe doorU.S. Chili is directly across the street from Camp Washington. Rumor has it that the guy at U.S. Chili may be in some sort of a feud with the guys across the street, but I digress…

This place is inside an old bank building. The main vault still exists and the inside of the vault seems to be the men’s restroom. That is pretty much the ambiance of the place.

TheUS Chili-inside bathroom-Mosler-safe-door chili here was actually pretty good – quite meaty and with a smooth texture. Some of us felt this was the best chili. Cleanliness, however, was not their strong suit. Opinions ranged from barely tolerable to downright disgusting. We talked with one of the locals who was eating there. He said you come here for the chili…nothing else. 🙂

4th stop, Park Chili

We walked up to the building which had brown paper on the windows and sporting a SOLD sign. Did a little research and discovered that they had just closed on March 22, marking their 100th anniversary, so we missed them by only a few weeks. Park Chili had been in business in the same location since 1937 and owner Norm Bazoff’s father opened his first chili parlor in Oakley in 1921. (Don’t ask me how they did their 100 year anniversary math.) The Park Chili building and 2 adjacent buildings were sold to the new owners for $165K and they plan on reopening as a neighborhood restaurant, called The Park, and still serving Cincinnati the Park Chili chili recipe. Maybe the owner just got tired.

You will see in the video that, as a result of Park Chili being closed, many of us marked them off our apron with a black Sharpie provided by a waitress at our next stop, just two doors down, Blue Jay Chili.

5th stop, Blue Jay Chili Parlor

Blue Jay is a nice, community restaurant and hangout place. Definitely an old place with a bit of character. Their chili was pretty meaty with good flavor. One of the orders got messed up, but it’s easy to recover when you’re serving food that is already made. One nice thing is that they served their chili with nice large plates under the bowls so if you spilled something, you could scoop it right up. I always have to ask for the plate at our local Skyline. Not a whole lot else to say, except we’re pretty sure there was a drug deal going down across the street. The waitress seemed to accept that as “normal.” 🙂

6th stop, Pleasant Ridge Chili

In addition to their chili, they are known for their “Fries, Cheese, and Gravy Combo.” No one in our group tried this, but our waitress said it was really good. The chili was fine, but many in the group felt the portions were skimpy. When it came time to pay up, we discovered that this is a cash only restaurant. Ooops. I had to bum some money off of someone.

7th stop, Blue Ash Chili

This was our final stop for the day. It may be that we were just suffering from chili and general eating burnout by this point, but nothing jumped out as significant. That in itself is significant because in 2013, we really liked Blue Ash. Fred and I had slaw Coney’s and those were really good. However, Bobs no-cheese Coney had the remnants of cheese on it, which Bob had to carefully pick off. We give that our “bad form” award.

The Chili Scores

Here are our scores for the chili parlors visited during this year’s tour. Again, we are not professional food evaluators and we don’t play one on TV and we didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

We evaluated each chili parlor on 4 categories: food, cleanliness, service, ambiance. We tossed the high and low scores in each category.

Our evaluation is based on a 1 to 10 chilies scoring system, where 1 chili is not so good and 10 chilies is excellent. As with our 2013 tour, we videoed segments of our event and you can see that at the bottom of this post.

Our winner this year was Price Hill Chili with 8.70 chilies, followed by Blue Jay Chili with 7.50 chilies. Price Hill really separated themselves from the pack this time around. Another way of looking at it is that some of the others did things to hurt their scores.

Not surprisingly, U.S. Chili was at the bottom of the pack with a score of 4.05 chilies. Their chili was probably the best flavored, but everything else brought them down.

Most surprisingly, Camp Washington came in with 6.45 chilies and leaving them in 5th place. It’s a surprise because they’re pretty famous and popular and did so much better when we visited in 2013. The food temperature issue and a couple of other things did them in. This is still a good place to visit.

Pleasant Ridge and Blue Ash were kind of clumped in with Camp Washington in the mid-6 chili score range and that is probably typical for the average chili parlor.

Cincinnati Chili Tour Scores - 2016

Additional Scoring

Here are some additional chili scores in the following unofficial categories:

Planning – 10 chilies

Driving – 10 chilies

Execution – 10 chilies

Company – 10 chilies

Behavior – 9 chilies (because there is always room for improvement)

Aprons – 10 chilies (thanks, Tim!)

For the Next Tour

Here are some things we will probably change for the 2017 tour.

  • We are limiting the number of chili parlors to five. Any more than that makes us downsize our orders.
  • We push for each person to order the same thing at each parlor so we can get a better evaluation.
  • We’re going to add Dixie chili back into the tour for 2017.
  • We’re dropping U.S. Chili for 2017.
  • We’d like to add one new place to review in 2017.
  • Actually, here’s the list we are considering for 2017 (in no particular order): Dixie, The Park (formerly Park Chili), a new one, Camp Washington, and Price Hill.
  • We’re thinking we should make Camp Washington and Price Hill the last two next year, after we have been eating chili all day. 🙂

If you would like to go next year…

We have already had requests to participate in our Cincinnati Chili Tour 2017, so if you are interested, please let me know sooner rather than later.

 


Official 2016 Cincinnati Chili Tour Video

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Bill Golden

Doer of Many Neat Things at Golden Services, Inc.
Bill Golden - Renaissance Guy. Born in southwest central Ohio. Moved a lot growing up. Married with five kids and down to two dogs (from four).

Bill is somewhat diverse. Designs and optimizes websites/social networks, tunes pianos, recently retired seller of suet and feeders, and offers free information to help people improve their resumes.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults-unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.”
~JC in The Message
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Author: Bill Golden

Bill Golden - Renaissance Guy. Born in southwest central Ohio. Moved a lot growing up. Married with 5 kids and down 2 dogs (from 4).Bill is somewhat diverse. Designs and optimizes websites/social networks, tunes pianos, recently retired from selling suet and feeders, and offers free information to help people improve their resumes.“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults-unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.” ~JC in The Message

2 thoughts on “Cincinnati Chili Tour 2016”

  1. Hello,
    I actually ran into you guys while you were on your tour during your US Chili stop. I was actually dragging my girlfriend along on a mini-chili tour that day. I live in the Louisville-area but I’d love to join you on your tour next year if there’s space. My email address is gjw34@case.edu

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