Skyline Chili

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Skyline Chili
IndustryCasual dining
FoundedOctober 8, 1949; 73 years ago (October 8, 1949)[1] in Cincinnati, Ohio
FounderNicholas Lambrinides
Number of locations
160 (August 2021)[2]
Area served
Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida
Key people
Kevin McDonnell, CEO
ProductsCincinnati chili

Skyline Chili is a chain of Cincinnati-style chili restaurants based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Founded in 1949 by Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides,[3] Skyline Chili is named for the view of Cincinnati's skyline that Lambrinides could see from the first restaurant (which has since been demolished),[4] opened in the section of town now known as Price Hill.[4] It is also the "official chili" of many local professional sports teams and venues, including the Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Cyclones, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Kings Island theme park,[5] and also sponsors the Crosstown Shootout, an annual men's college basketball rivalry game between the city's two NCAA Division I teams, Cincinnati and Xavier.


In 1912, Nicholas Lambrinides emigrated to Cincinnati from Kastoria, Greece, and brought his favorite family recipes with him.[6] To save up the money to bring his wife to America as well, he first worked as a cook for a railroad crew and in a hotel kitchen, then opened a short-order diner. After nearly a decade, his wife was able to join him in Cincinnati and they raised five sons.

By World War II, Lambrinides was working as a chef for the original Empress Chili restaurant, where he continued to tinker with a recipe which he had been developing for years.[citation needed] In 1949, he and three of his sons opened their own place. That diner was located at 3822 Glenway Avenue, at the intersection of what is now Quebec and Glenway Avenue.[7] While local lore says the name is from the view of the Cincinnati skyline seen in the original restaurant, the family claims it was inspired by a skylight and the view from a second floor storage unit over the restaurant.[4] After some local resistance in the predominantly German Catholic neighborhood that observed meatless Fridays,[4] Skyline developed a large and devoted following.

The family opened a second restaurant in 1953 and the growth of the business accelerated in the 1960s; by the end of the century, there were 110 Skyline restaurants, mostly in Ohio, but with additional establishments in other states including Kentucky, Indiana, and Florida. Lambrinides died in 1962 at the age of 82, but his sons continued to operate and expand the company. They have kept Nicholas's original recipe unchanged since then. According to William Lambrinides, "Dad always said, 'Don't change a thing with the recipe—don't add anything, don't take out anything, it's perfect the way it is'." As a result, Skyline's version has become nearly synonymous with Cincinnati chili.[citation needed] In 1998, the company was sold to Fleet Equity Partners, a New England investment firm, which promised not to change the recipe (which they reportedly keep locked in a safe).

In 2007, the company's board of directors purchased a majority of the Skyline stock previously owned by Chicago-based Prudential Capital Group.[8]


A 4-way with onions and oyster crackers
Cheese coneys with mustard and french fries

Skyline Chili is unique in that it is not chili con carne, the meat dish that originated in (and is the state dish of) Texas. Instead, Cincinnati chili is a sauce usually used over spaghetti or hot dogs,[9] containing a unique spice blend that gives it a very distinct, sweet-and-savory taste. Officially, the recipe for Skyline Chili is a well-kept family secret among Lambrinides' surviving children, and the recipe is kept in a bank vault.[10]

Skyline's menu includes their signature dishes: cheese coneys (a hot dog topped with Skyline Chili, mustard, onions, and cheese), and 3-ways (spaghetti topped with Skyline Chili and cheese); 4-ways (choice of beans or onions added), and 5-ways (beans and onions both added). Additional menu items are also purveyed. Skyline's chili, canned chili sauce and frozen microwave meals are also provided in supermarkets, notably at fellow Cincinnati-based Kroger.


As of August 2021, Skyline Chili operates 160 restaurants in Ohio (primarily serving Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus), Indiana, Kentucky (primarily Lexington, Louisville and the Northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati), and Florida.[2] Skyline coneys are also served inside Goodyear Ballpark, the Arizona spring training home of the Reds and Guardians.[11] The restaurants may be considered fast casual. Diners may sit at a booth or table and be served by a waiter, or at many locations, sit at a counter near employees preparing the food. At all restaurants, dishes are assembled at a centrally located service island so diners may watch their food as it is made. Food prepping takes only a few minutes so one often gets their food quickly. Carry-out and drive-through service are also available at most locations.

Previously, Skyline had a location in Pittsburgh briefly in the 1980s. While unsuccessful, Skyline did consider a more aggressive return to the market in the late 1990s. However, Skyline never returned to Western Pennsylvania and has since backed off any expansion plans of any kind for the time being.[12] The chain continues to operate two locations in Greater Cleveland, but is largely absent north of Mansfield.

In popular culture[edit]

Skyline, along with Cincinnati chili in general, was considered one of the signature dishes for Cincinnati, by the website Only In Your State.[13]

Skyline has been referenced in the YouTube series Pittsburgh Dad in multiple episodes (albeit negatively), with the character of Pittsburgh Dad poking fun at Cincinnatians fascination with the chain and even trying it on a road trip to Cincinnati, passing it in favor of plain spaghetti noodles with french fries, in reference to Pittsburgh-based Primanti Bros.[14]

Skyline was referenced by country music duo Big & Rich in the song "Comin' To Your City" in 2005.[citation needed]

The Clifton location of Skyline Chili was featured in a 2020 episode of The Simpsons titled "The Road to Cincinnati".[15]

The September 8, 2021 episode of AEW Dynamite, which took place in Cincinnati at Fifth Third Arena, saw MJF diss Skyline Chili to the fans as a form of cheap heat before being interrupted by Cincinnati native Brian Pillman Jr.[16] (Veteran professional wrestling personality Jim Cornette, a native of Louisville where Skyline has locations, agreed with MJF on his weekly podcast.)[17] However, Pillman and fellow Cincinnati native Jon Moxley sang Skyline's jingle for the live crowd after All Elite Wrestling finished taping Dynamite and AEW Rampage.[16] AEW broadcaster Jim Ross is also a fan of Skyline Chili and has mentioned them in connection to Cincinnati numerous times on AEW programming.

In 1989 NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati did a story on native Cincinnatians visiting a Skyline Chili location in Fort Lauderdale, Florida while they were in town to root for the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, which was being played in the area at Joe Robbie Stadium. WLWT later uploaded the archived clip on their YouTube page in 2022 when the Bengals advanced to Super Bowl LVI.[18]


  1. ^ "Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati icon, turns 72". WLWT. October 1, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Skyline Chili Locations". Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  3. ^ Holthaus, David (April 20, 2012). "Skyline Chili co-founder dead at 88". Cincinnati Enquirer. Archived from the original on April 23, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Woellert, Dann (2013). The authentic history of Cincinnati chili. Charleston, SC. pp. 123–140. ISBN 978-1-60949-992-1. OCLC 827261381.
  5. ^ "Skyline Nation". Skyline Chili. Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  6. ^ "Our Story". Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  7. ^ Mersch, Christine (October 8, 2008). Price Hill. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738561707 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "Skyline Chili Back in Local Hands". WKRC. December 17, 2007. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012.
  9. ^ "Skyline Chili building Lexington restaurant". WKYT. January 18, 2018. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  10. ^ Bonem, Max (June 15, 2017). "Skyline Chili, Explained by a Cincinnatian". Food & Wine. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  11. ^ "Ballpark Food - Goodyear Ballpark". Goodyear Ballpark. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  12. ^ Coleman, Murray (January 25, 1999). "Skyline Chili sees growth market here". Pittsburgh Business Times. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  13. ^ Dray, April (20 March 2016). "Here Are the 10 Dishes You Have to Eat in Ohio Before You die". OnlyInYourState.
  14. ^ "Dad Watches Steelers vs Bengals (Week 6)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12.
  15. ^ "So fun for our Clifton location to be featured on @TheSimpsons tonight! It's always Skyline Time". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  16. ^ a b[dead link]
  17. ^[dead link]
  18. ^[dead link]

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