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20 years of chili at Cincy’s Downtown

by Brian Clarey

They’ve been serving chili in Cincinnati since the 1920s – wait, let me clarify: They’ve been serving Cincinnati chili in Cincinnati since 1922, when a couple Greek immigrants brought a Mediterranean flair to the traditional American recipe, adding cloves and cinnamon for heat and serving the whole mess with beans, onions and cheese over spaghetti.

The dish made its way to Greensboro 20 years ago with the opening of Cincy’s down on February One Plaza, in the heart of the city’s business district. The celebration went down this weekend, with owners Bonnie Kays, Linda Manspile and Cindi Lang dishing out free samples of the restaurant’s signature product along with small tastes of their newest line of lattes and cappuccinos.

After 20 years they’re shaking up the menu a bit, adding pretzel sandwiches – a staple in Philadelphia wherein a soft pretzel is used as a bun – wraps and other specials. They’re changing their hours as well, adding a dinner seating on weekends from 5 to 9 p.m. that should lure in some of their regulars during the evening hours.

“We’re still vegetarian friendly,” Lang says. “Our veggie chili dogs, we’ve got a cult following for those.”

What won’t be changing is the chili recipe the women inherited when they bought the restaurant from Linda Schwoeppe and prepared daily by Minnie Crowder in the back kitchen.

A lot has changed downtown in the last 20 years, and now that there are more people on the streets at night than during the day, the potential for business is there.

Lang gestures to the cooler in the front of the house.

“Maybe we’ll fill this cooler with chilis to go on weekends,” she says.

Which would create a whole new slew of Cincinnati chili fans in the Gate City.

To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at editor@yesweekly.com.

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