On a Skyline

If you are in the Blue Ridge Mountains, travel Skyline Drive.

If you are in Brooklyn, marvel at Manhattan’s skyline.

If you are at a scenic mountain range overlook, enjoy the stunning peaks encroaching into the skyline.

If you are in Cincinnati, enjoy eating our local cuisine that we locals call Skyline.

In Cincinnati, Skyline is a chili. It’s not soup or a stew. It’s not in the style from Texas or even the rest of the country. Actually, as this past post on chili shows, it is very different from the normal mindset of what chili is or should be. Then again, it’s so Cincinnati – thus one of the great examples of specialized, local cuisine in the United States.

Cincinnati serves chili as a topping for – of all things – spaghetti! Whenever I take a visitor on their first trip to this culinary institution, I ask them these basic questions: Do you like spaghetti? Do you like shredded cheddar cheese? Do you like raw onions? Do you like red kidney beans? Based on their answers, I can tell them how to order the right way without looking at the menu.

  • 3-way: Spaghetti, chili, cheese
  • 4- way: Spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions
  • 4-way bean (my fav): Spaghetti, chili, cheese, beans
  • 5-way: Spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions, and beans

Tabasco Sauce is available at the table for those desiring to add a touch of heat.

Yet – Cincinnatians have other ways of ordering their locate favorite after identifying “the way.”

  • Wet – extra liquid
  • Dry – liquid drained
  • Semi wet or dry – have way
  • Extra something (beans, onions, or cheese)
  • Inverted – Served upside down than the normal way, (thus cheese is on the bottom)
  • Dieters can get it without the cheese

Skyline Chili is not the only chili restaurant in the city, but it is the most popular and my preference. When President Obama came to town in July, he visited Skyline – and even ordered the correct way (and my fav)” 4-Way Bean. Gotta love the coneys, too! Enjoy the short commercials.


And this one that includes another Cincinnati tradition

64 thoughts on “On a Skyline

      • I like 3-ways, the old fashioned way. And cheese coneys too, of course!

        Sadly, I found out last fall that I am allergic to dairy & yeast, so no cheese or hot dog buns for me anymore.


        Soooo, now I order spaghetti with chili only, which is still better than no Skyline at all!!


        • Woo hoo! It’s fiitting that a Cincinnatian is the first to comment. Thanks for commenting and sharing your preferences … Too bad on the bummer news, but one must do what one has to do.


  1. I first tried Cincinnati chili here in the DC area about 30 years ago — on spaghetti? I was a very fussy eater, didn’t like spicy, didn’t like beans. Was basically a pain in the ass. But I could have this Chili!!!! Yum.

    I am a more adventurous eater now, but there is a soft spot in my heart for a City that knows that there are different strokes for different folks.


    • Elyse,
      Know that you seem more willing to try, a 4-way seems like the order for you. Meanwhile, no more imitations for you, so you have to get here to try. Thanks for stopping by.


  2. But you failed to mention, in all your other skylines, that in Chicago, you can legally view the skyline while on LSD – provided you’re not in a pick-up truck! 😉
    (LSD is Lake Shore Drive, made famous by a song of the same name. That’s for everybody else – I know YOU know better, Frank.)
    I miss the version we had, for a VERY short time, in Chicago. They called themselves 5-Way Chili, but I suspect they were a variant of Skyline – though they used macaroni, not spaghetti, and the macaroni was an option, not standard. Great stuff, and without those blasphemous beans! 😀


  3. Wow, you love their chili. I recall you doing a detailed post on Skyline a few months ago. (and confirmed it with a quick site search).
    I guess I have to add Ohio to my list of places to go for lunch.

    Love the other skylines you list too!


    • Guapo,
      Note only I, but count Ginger Snaap in as well. Although one can find Skyline in Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton, it is a Cincinnati dish – thus here, it’s easy to find. And yes – I still recall your sudden urge for the Philly steak lunch. 🙂 OK … so how would you order it? Thanks for commenting.


  4. This is a complete revelation to me! I have never heard of chili and spaghetti, and the idea of Skyline is completely new to me, too! I don’t think I would be too easily convinced to call any of the options “spaghetti” but I am more than sure they are really good! I love to learn about regional dishes! And the cheese isn’t even parmesan? If I’m going to take a leap into this new world I’ll take the whole deal…I like onions! Debra


    • Debra,
      Ah ha … you have hit one of the issues with this regional dish …. perception! We have a taste and appearance mindset for spaghetti and this dish challenges the preset perception. The chili tastes nothing like an Italian sauce. Chili doesn’t taste like chili. Grated Parmesan is not even close to shredded cheddar. Heck, locals don’t even twirl it on a fork! Therefore, because it challenges the mindset, first timers can struggle. But hey – you seem like a gamer so it’s a 5-way for you! But you have to get here to try it. Thanks for commenting.


    • Spiced,
      That a way! Step into the culinary arena! By the way, being that you are a tad far from here, I imagine Google can provide numerous recipes for Cincinnati Chili … and maybe even a version of Skyline’s secret recipe. Thanks for commenting … and let me know when you are visiting.


  5. I will add to my things to try. Being a died in the wool Texan who knows how to Burn (that is cook) real true Texas style Chili I was reluctant to try it last time I was there, especially on spaghetti, sounded to odd. I didn’t have a local around to convince me otherwise so I passed what is obviously a treat, shame on me.


  6. I’ll have mine 5-way, but can you hold the meat? I’ve been wondering if they have a vegetarian option. (Is that sacrilege? lol!) Ever since we had Cincinnati style chili, I’ve been serving my (vegetarian now so beans are not optional) almost the same way although I vary the noodles/pasta (different shapes rather than spaghetti all the time).


    • Robin,
      Although the chili is not meaty (as in chunks people expect), hamburger is an ingredient. I guess one can order it sacrilegously without the chili, but I’m not sure about the taste. Good news is that Skyline has expanded their menu in recent years fit accommodate a variety of diets and palates. 🙂 Thanks for visiting.


  7. WOW look at all that cheese! Sounds good to me serve me up a dish. It’s interesting how some meals are specialized to some areas. Fresh caughtTrout would probably be a Montana specialty.


  8. I have never been to Cincinnati but now I’m thinking of booking a flight just for this. I’ve always heard of Cincinnati chili, but haven’t yet had the pleasure. I think 4-way or 5-way might be what I’d like best.


  9. I have always been a fan of cheese coneys. Just the smell of Cincinnati chili takes me back to my teen years in Mason, OH. I have a lot of sentiment there. There is a Skyline in the Tampa Bay area, near Clearwater Beach. It’s a bit of a drive from my house but I go there occasionally for the sole purpose of eating.

    Our local grocery store sells frozen Skyline chili, but it’s not quite the same without the small hot dogs/buns and the atmosphere of the restaurant.


    • Luke,
      I’m happy to be able to reignite memories for anyone from this area … and it is great that you have access in Florida as well … especially the restaurant! Thanks for commenting.


    • Lisaman,
      Definitely not hot, but for some, the Tabacco bottle comes in handy. (Not me!) However, there is a spicy flavor – more like a cinnamon or nutmeg. Hope that helps … and try it if you come to the area! Thanks for visiting.


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  14. topping everything with chilli sounds like an Indian cook to me! Boy do they love their chilli 🙂

    Skylines are a great way to see a city … like this post of local traditions!
    Thanks for joining in the fun Frank, from your angle 🙂


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