Chili Recipes and the History of Skyline Chili
Chili is a world-famous style of chili, also sometimes known as
Cincinnati Chili or Cincinnati Style Chili.
It is named after
the Skyline Restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio where this rather unique
chili recipe was introduced and grew to become famous. The recipe was
invented by the restaurant's founder Nicholas Lambrinides.
Skyline Restaurant was established in 1949. The short-order diner was
located at the top of a steep hill which gave it a view of the
Cincinnati Skyline, and that inspired Nicholas Lambrinides with the
restaurant's name. Lambrinides ran the restaurant as a family
business, along with his sons.
immigrated to Cincinnati from Greece in 1912, bringing with him his
family's recipes like many Greek immigrants did. As was also common
among Greek immigrants at the time, he found work in the food
services industry, first working as a cook for a railroad crew, then
in a hotel kitchen and ultimately as a chef for Cincinnati's original Empress
Chili Restaurant as he struggled to save up enough money to
bring his wife over from Greece. He was able to achieve that goal
after nearly a decade, and they went on to raise 5 sons.
But it was during
his years of working hard in the food industry, long before he opened
his own restaurant, that Lambrinides had developed one particular
recipe that he continued tweaking over the years, striving to perfect
it. Little did he know that recipe would ultimately become famous the
world over. And would still be sought after, talked about, and served
100 years later.
Lambrinides opened his second Skyline Restaurant location. By this
time his sons, now grown had active roles in the company business.
The success of two
Skyline locations spawned an entire chain of Skyline Restaurants
throughout the Cincinnati area during the 1960s. Lambrinides passed
away in 1962 at the age of 82, but his sons continued to operate and
expand the restaurant chain. Eventually there were 110 Skyline
Restaurants, mostly in Ohio, but with additional locations in
Kentucky, Indiana, and Florida.
Due to its
overwhelming popularity and notoriety, through licensing
arrangements, Skyline Chili became, and remains, the "official
chili" of many Cincinnati sports teams and recreation venues,
including the Cincinnati Reds, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Kings
Island Theme Park. Of course, this made it even more famous than it
Skyline Restaurant on the top of that hill no longer stands today. It
was eventually demolished due to the age of the building. .
The actual Skyline
Chili recipe as developed by Nicholas Lambrinides and served in his
restaurants is, of course, top secret. It has always been a
Lambrinides family secret, and remains so to this day among his
The recipe has
remained unchanged since Lambrinides opened the original Skyline
Restaurant. According to his sons, Lambrinides always insisted,
'Don't change a thing with the recipe don't add anything,
don't take out anything, it's perfect the way it is'." And
that's exactly how it has stayed.
sold the restaurant chain in 1998 to a New England investment firm,
which continues to operate the restaurants to this day. As part of
the negotiation and sale, the company had to agree not to change the
recipe. The one and only paper copy of the original Skyline Chili
recipe remains locked in a safe belonging to the company.
Skyline Chili is
unlike any other chili recipe in that it doesn't contain beans and
isn't typically served on its own, like a traditional Chili (con
Carne), which, by the way, originated in the state of Texas. Rather,
Skyline Chili is really more like a meat sauce which is typically
served on hotdogs, burgers, or over spaghetti.
The other very
distinctive characteristic of Skyline Chili is centered around one
specific ingredient that you would not expect to find in either
a typical Chili or spaghetti sauce - chocolate (or cocoa powder -
only the family and the company owners know for sure). It also
includes cinnamon - a popular ingredient in Greek style cooking.
along with its distinct blend of other spices and seasonings, gives
Skyline Chili a distinct flavor all of its very own.
With the world
wide notoriety that came to be associated with Skyline Chili over
time, a lot of other Cincinnati restaurant establishments began
trying to create imitations of the dish, and it became a popular find
on the menus of many diners and restaurants in Cincinnati.
This is how it
also came to be known as Indicate Style Chili or Cincinnati Chili.
About 100 Skyline
Restaurants remain in operation across several states. The chain
describes itself as a cross between fast food and casual dining. Much
link in the original Skyline Restaurant, which was diner-style,
patrons can sit in a booth and be served, or can sit on stools at a
counter near the kitchen. Take out is also available, and some of the
more modern locations offer drive-thru windows.
dishes you'll find on Skyline's menu include:
coney" - a hot dog topped with Skyline Chili, mustard, onions,
"3-way" - spaghetti topped with Skyline Chili and cheese
"4-way" - spaghetti topped with Skyline Chili and cheese
with choice of beans or onions added
"5-way" - Spaghetti topped with Skyline Chili and
cheese with both beans and onions added.
Burritos made with
topped with Skyline Chili.
Also offered are
tossed salad, Greek salads, and french fries
Over the years,
many Skyline patrons have tried to identify the ingredients in
Skyline Chili - especially the ones that give it its unique flavor.
Many believe the unique taste comes from chocolate and cinnamon. Many
people have tried to duplicate the secret recipe to Skyline Chili.
And just like with any Secret Recipe, there are countless
claims of victory. These are some of the better ones.
Back to Back to Food
and Recipes Index