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Cincinnati Three Way Chili - Iconic Cincinnati Food Favorites

What to Eat in Cincinnati Ohio – Two Iconic Cincinnati Food Favorites

In North America, USA by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch19 Comments

Do you know what foods in Cincinnati are famous? We visited Cincinnati Ohio specifically to eat our Cincinnati food favorites, Graeter’s Ice Cream and Skyline Chili, at the source. But what did we think of the Queen City beyond these two iconic foods?

Cincinnati Skyline at Dusk

Cincinnati Skyline at Dusk

Founded in the 18th century and later settled by German immigrants, Cincinnati Ohio is a classic Midwest American city best known for its professional sports teams and prime location on the Ohio River. Before our visit, we didn’t know a lot about the city beyond what we learned from the classic television sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati

But we knew about the Cincinnati famous food and wanted to try the two best things to eat in Cincinnati.

What Food Is Cincinnati Famous For?

We were intrigued to visit Cincinnati since it’s the home of both Graeter’s Ice Cream and Skyline Chili. Yes, we will travel for food, and these two Cincinnati Ohio food icons were reason enough for us to add a stop in Cincinnati to our US road trip.

Although we weren’t sure what we’d find to do beyond eating chili and ice cream in Cincinnati, this food travel opportunity was enough for us to stop in the city for a quick visit. We loved the city’s vibe and quickly found a number of fun things to do in Cincinnati like the American Sign Museum and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

As we traversed the city’s streets, many colorfully decorated with evocative murals, we discovered a surprisingly progressive city with a food culture that includes third wave coffee shops, a happening craft beer scene and lots of donuts. We quickly learned that the Cincinnati cuisine is for real.

Iconic Cincinnati Food Favorites

Cincinnati Three Way Chili - Cincinnati Food Favorites

Cincinnati Three Way Chili

There are so many reasons to visit Cincinnati. We visited Cincinnati for just two of them – Graeter’s Ice Cream and Skyline Chili. We wanted to try these famous Cincinnati food icons in Cincinnati, the city of origin for both of these popular foods.

Graeter’s Ice Cream

Graeter's Ice Cream - Cincinnati Food Favorites

Graeter’s Ice Cream – So Many Flavors, So Little Time

Graeter’s Ice Cream was our initial impetus to visit Cincinnati. Just like we can’t resist Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream, we couldn’t resist an invitation to visit the Graeter’s Ice Cream plant in Cincinnati for a special ice cream tour. We’ve since eaten amazing ice cream in global cities including Girona, Naples and Bologna, and Graeter’s stands along with the ice cream in these European cities.

We often enjoyed Graeter’s French Pot style ice cream back in Philadelphia, and it’s easily our favorite American ice cream brand. If you think that all ice cream is the same, then you need to try Graeter’s Ice Cream right away!

Graeter’s has been owned and managed by the Graeter clan for over a hundred years, and the quality of the ice cream is a true testament to the family and its loyal customers who are willing to pay a little bit more for a better ice cream product.

Mindi at Graeter's Factory in Cincinnati

Mindi is all smiles during a special tour of the Graeter’s Ice Cream factory.

What makes Graeter’s Ice Cream so special?

Maybe it’s the special French Pot method that involves a labor-intensive small batch process. Maybe it’s the quality of ingredients like the real chocolate they use in every batch. Maybe it’s the wide variety of flavors and big chunks of chocolate. Or maybe it’s the extra touches like how they pack each pint by hand.

We saw all of this and more during the special factory tour. The owners and employees at Graeter’s couldn’t have been more gracious and even participated in our very first YouTube video.

Although Graeter’s Ice Cream is available in 47 states, we recommend that you try it in Cincinnati. The factory isn’t open to the public, but Graeter’s has over 50 stores where customers can order popular flavors like Black Cherry Chocolate Chip and Butter Pecan as well as limited edition and summer bonus flavors like Key Lime Pie and Watermelon Sorbet.

Pro Tip: If you can’t get to Cincinnati, you can visit a Graeter’s shop in select Midwest cities like Chicago, Indianapolis and Columbus.

Skyline Chili

Skyline Chili in Cincinnati Ohio - Cincinnati Food Favorites

We were hooked on Skyline Chili after just one bite.

What do you get when you combine spaghetti, chili and shredded cheddar cheese on one plate?

If the concoction includes flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate, then you get the Cincinnati food favorite known as 3-Way Chili. Totally different from Texas chili, Cincinnati chili is more of pasta dish where the chili serves as the gravy.

Don’t ask us for the Skyline Chili recipe – that’s apparently a well-guarded secret.

This unique chili dish was invented in the early 20th century by Greek immigrants, which explains the exotic flavors. You could almost say that Cincinnati Chili is a close relative to moussaka, a Greek food staple, both in flavor and concept.

Nicholas Lambrinides opened the original Skyline Chili in Cincinnati and named the restaurant after the restaurant’s view of the city’s skyline. Fast forward to today, and there are now over 150 Skyline Chili locations in four states.

Pro Tip: Be sure to get a York Peppermint Patty when you pay your bill at Skyline Chili. This popular candy provides a sweet counterpoint to the restaurant’s spicy chili.

So what did we think about Cincinnati’s iconic chili dish? We liked it so much that we ate it again at Camp Washington Chili, a popular Cincinnati chili parlor. The 24-hour (except Sundays) restaurant serves a range of food to eat beyond the ever-popular Cincinnati chili.

3-Way Chili at Camp Washington in Cincinnati Ohio - Cincinnati Food Favorites

We liked Cincinnati’s 3-Way Chili so much that we ate it again at Camp Washington Chili.

Pro Tip: Don’t feel like you have to order three-way chili like us. You can ramp your order up to four-way with onions or five-way with onions and beans.

Where to Eat in Cincinnati

Holtman's Donut Shop - Cincinnati Food Favorites

At Holtman’s Donut Shop, two donuts are better than one. Pictured here are a maple bacon donut and a fruity pebbles donut.

Why stop at Graeter’s Ice Cream and Skyline Chili when you visit Cincinnati? The city has more great food that warrants attention. Beyond the most famous food in Cincinnati, we recommend checking out the following local Cincinnati food establishments during your visit:

  • BLOC Coffee Company – Friendly shop that focuses on coffee, community and change.
  • Findlay Market – City’s oldest open-air public market with a selection of local products like produce, pastries and meat.
  • Holtman’s Donut Shop – Family owned donut shop that serves freshly made donuts every day.
Daryl Eats a Holtman's Donut in Cincinnati Ohio - Cincinnati Food Favorites

Cincinnati tastes good!

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There’s more to do in Cincinnati than Graeter’s Ice Cream and Skyline Chili. Click here to find an awesome Cincinnati tour or try one of these tours:

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About the Author

Saveur Magazine's BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.


  1. I got me at the ice cream.! Mt favourite food ever! Did you take a tour at the factory, is this something easy to arrange?

    1. Author

      As we mentioned in the article, our factory tour was by special invitation. However, anybody can go to the Graeter’s Ice Cream shops in Cincinnati and eat all of the different flavors. If you love ice cream, then you need to get to Cincinnati!

  2. I have only made a brief trip to Cleveland in Ohio, I did not even know about these two iconic Cincinnati foods. I love ice cream so jealous of the tour you got 🙂 And what? spaghetti, chili and shredded cheddar cheese together in one plate…just weird but looks really good!

  3. You guys are travellers after my own heart, I’ll also go somewhere just for a famous food and then happily find out what else there is to enjoy. Would not have thought about Cincinnati!

    1. Author

      It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. That’s exactly what happened with us in Cincinnati.

        1. Author

          Thanks for the recommendation. We’ll check out Gold Star during our next visit to Cincinnati.

  4. Hi Daryl and Mindi,

    That chili concoction seems like something I’d put together. Shredded cheese makes everything taste better. I am on a mini shredded cheddar kick now; mini, to keep my waist in check LOL. Loving these dishes.


  5. All good options, but as a Cincinnatian, I’d also recommend these:

    1. ICE CREAM: Aglamesis Brothers. Go to the old, iconic, original location in Oakley Square. Eat inside for the full experience.
    2. MEXICAN: La Mexicana, just over the river in Newport, KY on Monmouth. Runner up: Taqueria Mercado or Mazunte
    3. CINCINNATI CHILI: Pleasant Ridge Chili, located on Montgomery Rd. in Pleasant Ridge. A simple, long-running diner, with good chili and breakfast. Muhammad Ali ate there.
    4. BURGERS: Quatman’s Cafe or Gas Light Cafe, both are often ranked in the top 5 for the city’s best burger. Runner up: Terry’s Turf Club, as seen on Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives.
    5. VIETNAMESE: Le’s Pho and Sandwiches (downtown) or Pho Lang Thang (Findlay Market)

    1. Author

      Great recommendations! We would love to take you up on them the next time we’re through Cincinnati. We’ve been on the other side of the world for awhile and would love a midwestern burger and chili right now.

  6. Great article! Have always been intrigued by Cincinnati and would love to check it out some day soon. We make Cincinnati chili at home occasionally. Would love to try the real deal though!

    1. Author

      Great to hear about Cincinnati Chili. That and Graeter’s Ice Cream are two reasons we loved it there.

    1. Author

      Wow. Sounds like Scrapple in Pennsylvania. We’ll have to check that stuff out the next time we visit.

  7. Definitely seems like you had a tasty trip to my hometown. Holtmans, Jungle Jim’s and Skyline are definite visits no matter how short my trip is back home. Great suggestions above by other commenters, also like Zip’s for burgers. I would certainly say Goetta is a definite try, always grab a roll of it while I’m in town. Also Montgomery Inn (there are several good midwest BBQ spots) and a chocolate malt or strawberry shake from United Dairy Farmers. Might as well grab a bag of Grippos BBQ chips and an iced busken cookie while you are at UDF 😉

    1. Author

      Love these tips! You have given us several reasons to return to Cincinnati.

  8. One place you need to try is Larosa’s pizza. Located west side of Cincinnati. Est in 1954. Over 40 locations. Buddy Larosa is an icon in Cincinnati. Best pizza bar none.

  9. Name a better combination than ice-cream and chili! Cincinnati’s chili is really different from Southwestern chili which makes it more intriguing.

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