I Ate This: Cincinnati Chili

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What: 3-way chili (actually a 4-way, but the cheese was on the side)

Where: Dixie Chili, downtown Newport, Kentucky

When: Friday afternoon

Would I eat it again? Only if I were in the Cincinnati region

“Cincinnati chili is the most overrated regional specialty in the United States,” claimed one of my coworkers who spent six years in the city.

I had to see for myself, so I convinced all 15 members of the Nofziger family reunion party to go to Dixie Chili after our cruise down the Ohio River. Newport is just across the river from Cincy, and the waitress on the Mark Twain told us that Dixie was much better than Skyline or Gold Star, the two biggest Ohio-based chili chains. Even though you can pick up cans of Dixie Chili in the local supermarkets, the restaurant is still run by the Greek family that founded it in 1929.

Actually, the bowl pictured above is my Uncle Dave’s (the four ways: chili, beans, onions, cheese). Cincy chili wasn’t as sweet as I was warned, but it had a) not a speck of chile pepper in it and b) just a little cinnamon and cloves to compensate, which wasn't quite enough. The chili tasted like a pleasant, unremarkable ground-beef soup, which made the onions, beans, and mountain of shredded cheese that came with the four-way utterly necessary. So was an order of made-to-order waffle fries. Now that's a destination food.

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My stomach was still on West Coast time, so I only ordered a "chili coney," which was the size of my fist and only cost $1.59. The skinny soccer mom at the table behind me packed in three.

Dixie Chili was packed, packed, packed, and we passed chili shops everywhere we drove. Tri-State people do love their chili as much as Seattleites love our Dick's.

Twenty points goes to anyone who can guess which Cincinnati-area tourist destination I ate this salad at:

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