Gold Star Chili
Another major chain of Cincinnati-style chili, Gold Star Chili has about 90 locations, most of which are in or near the Queen City. There’s a definite rivalry with arch-competition Skyline Chili, and for awhile you either liked one or you liked the other. Nowadays, though, Gold Star seems to prefer corner strip malls and food courts, more a convenience as opposed to a full service restaurant like its competition. Love it or hate it, the chili here is definitely different from the stuff made by everyone else.
So Gold Star Chili is not as sweet as other Cincinnati chili restaurants, owing to the fact that it does not use chocolate or cinnamon nearly as much as the others do. Instead, the chili here is savory and tangy, it’s got a little bit of warmth to it like a spice or two. The coneys and spaghetti are great with this chili on them; the chili is saucier and not as watery, which is always a plus. There’s plenty of cheese and other toppings if you choose them, but again not an overwhelming amount. All told, it’s a marked departure from other formulas, and I think variety is a good thing. Interestingly, they also put their chili in some nachos and burritos which are creative.
Gold Star has a small number of other non-chili items if you’re so inclined; there are double decker sandwiches and salads and ice cream shakes, which are good if you don’t like chili, but then again not a terrible variety. The fries and side dishes are pretty classic, crinkle-cut fries which can be cheesy or spicy. They’re about what you would expect, about the same as everyone else. Like other menu items, they’re just there to top with chili.
The environment here is good enough; it’s got a spacious dining room though unlike most places this one is built for convenience; you can get a 10-pack of coneys to go, the business is built as a walk-up stand so you can pick it up and go, instead of a sit-down, waiter service environment. Many of the area malls have one in their food courts, which to be honest might be the first place you discover this chili outside of the city. I like the convenience of the stuff, though a little of the friendliness is lost. I think it’s just seeking a different audience.
Everybody has a side in the Cincinnati chili war. I’m unprepared to say I like Gold Star best of all the options around town, but it is definitely unique. If you’re an out-of-towner wondering which place to try to get a taste of this city’s cuisine, I’d just say to keep that in mind.
- Chili is the star of the show here, if you don’t like it, there aren’t a lot of alternative menu options.
- Consider the chili burritos or the chili nachos if you’re tired of coneys and spaghetti.
- This is a convenience-centered chain, which you can grab and go with ease.