WHIO-TV investigative reporter Jim Otte and Dayton Daily News Associate Editor Ron Rollins know there is more to Cincinnati-style chili than just beans, spaghetti and shredded cheese.
There is history in every bowl.
That history is one of the reasons — just one — Otte favors Skyline Chili and Rollins, one of MyDaytonDailyNews.com’s Leadbelly Boys, is a Gold Star Chili fan.
Raised in the Western Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati, Otte had his first serving of Skyline Chili when he was 10.
“When you would go to a family thing, it would be there,” Otte said. “It was a huge treat when I was really little.”
He still eats Skyline at least once a week.
Otte said his father-in-law is friends with members of Nicholas Lambrinides’ family. Lambrinides founded Skyline in 1949.
“My Skyline connection is deep,” he said.
Otte has been known to take Skyline on camping trips. Campers are drawn in by the aroma like moths to a flame.
Raised in the Cleveland area, Rollins didn’t know about Cincinnati-style chili or the Battle for Ohio between the Bengals and Browns until he was an undergrad at Miami University in Oxford.
The only gridiron rivalry that mattered in his mind was the Browns versus the Steelers. Chili definitely did not contain spaghetti.
Then he fell hard for Gold Star.
The uptown Gold Star remained opened until 4 or 4:30 a.m. nightly and was “crazy busy” Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Rollin recalled.
He picked up one of his favorite after-bar closing memories on one of those nights.
“There were these guys one night in a packed restaurant who were clearly from out of town,” Rollins recalled. “They were picking at the chili and really not seeming to get it and people were kind of noticing it. At one point, one of the guys in the group jumps up, throws down his fork, starts to curse and says ‘Damn it, this food has gasoline in it’ and he stomps out. His friends are kind of looking around like, ‘I guess we have to go. He’s driving.’ And they leave. About three beats later, people at other tables started reaching under their empty tables and grabbing the food. It looked like ‘The Walking Dead.’ Man it was crazy.”
Rollins and Otte agree that a Deadspin writer was wrong for recently panning Cincinnati-style chili and dubbing Skyline ‘abominable garbage-gravy.’
That’s where the agreement ends.
“I like Gold Star much better than Skyline,” Rollins said.
He considers Skyline pretty good.
“That’s where you are wrong,” Otte told Rollins.” Skyline is so much better. It’s got that true cinnamon taste. That you are not going to get anywhere else.”
He considers Gold Star “OK.”
Which man has it right? And which can identify their favorite Cincinnati-style chili by taste, sight and smell?
Otte and Rollins squared off for the video above.
Watch to see which man and which chili won our blind Cincinnati-style chili taste test.
Contact this columnist at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com or Twitter.com/DDNSmartMouth