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Iconic Cincinnati Food Favorites That You Will Love

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 is a classic Midwest 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?

Camp Washington Chili in Cincinnati
Cincinnati has a long food history.

We were intrigued to visit Cincinnati since it’s the home of both Graeter’s Ice Cream and Cincinnati 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 some of the country’s best donuts.

We quickly learned that the Cincinnati cuisine is for real. In our opinion, Cincinnati is one of the best food cities in America.

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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 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!

We’ve since eaten amazing ice cream in Italian cities including Bologna, Venice and Verona. Graeter’s stands along with the ice cream in these European cities.

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.

Read more about our Graeter’s Ice Cream factory tour.

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.

Cincinnati 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.

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This unique chili dish was invented in the early 20th century by Macedonian 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.

After you eat Cincinnati Chili, explore 29 more iconic American food favorites you need to eat at least once in your life.

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

Pro Tip
Be sure to get a York Peppermint Patty when you pay your bill at Skyline Chili. This popular American 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.

We later recreated the Cincinnati recipe at home in Lisbon. While it’s not a dish to eat every day, it was just as almost as great as eating it at the source.

Make our easy Cincinnati Chili recipe at home.

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. 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!

Useful Cincinnati Facts

  • Cincinnati is the 3rd largest city in Ohio and the 65th largest city in the USA.
  • The USA is in North America.
  • The USA’s currency is the US Dollar.
  • English is the USA’s official language.
  • Tips are expected and comprise a large component of a server’s compensation. The standard is 15-20%.

Planning Checklist

Hungry for More American Food?

Check out our food guides for Buffalo, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Philadelphia.

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Pinterest image: image of Cincinnati with caption reading 'Cincinnati Food Favorites'
About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

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

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Important Update
Some businesses may revise their hours and menus due to COVID-19. Others may close, either temporarily or permanently, without notice. Be sure to check websites for updated information and make advance reservations where possible.

Nathaniel Roth

Sunday 14th of November 2021

There is one golden gem of Cincinnati cuisine, and it's little known outside the region: Goetta.

Forget the chili, forget the ice cream. Travel to Cincinnati, step in to any greasy spoon, and order a breakfast of goetta, eggs, and toast.

Similar to scrapple, it's made with oats instead of corn, but it's infinitely better.

CincinnatiClothingCompany

Saturday 6th of November 2021

3rd biggest city, but 1st biggest metropolitan area in Ohio. Every major USA highway connects in Cincinnati making it a HUB. It's a great place to visit and all of the suburbs around it have so much to offer. Great article.

Mike

Saturday 21st of December 2019

From a Greater Cincinnati guy I prefer Dixie Chili which is served only across the river in Northern Kentucky. Try it.

Danial

Monday 15th of April 2019

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

Jennie Luken

Saturday 12th of January 2019

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.