A Cincinnati 5-way is not nearly as dirty as it sounds.

As Jenn mentioned, after a week in Lexington, we drove the hour and half or so up to Cincinnati to visit with her friend Nicole. Nicole and her crew were awesome and showed us a fun time, thanks y’all! (2 weeks in Kentucky and I’m already using words like “y’all.”) The city itself is vibrant and diverse, filled with interesting areas, great old buildings, nice houses and little neighborhood squares. There’s a Cincinnati set on flickr.

We got in late on Friday night, enough time to meet Nicole and have drink on the hot and humid back deck of a neighborhood Irish pub. The next morning brought breakfast at a nice place called the Echo restaurant and a surprise food lesson. I had my first taste of goetta, a hash brown-like patty containing pork and steel cut oats. It wasn’t until a little bit later that I learned about Cincinnati’s strong German heritage. I found out that goetta is a German dish, and the word “goetta” is actually German for “goetta”. Who knew?

The goetta is at bottom right of the pic above. I liked it.

Findlay market was our next stop and it did not disappoint. It was one of the larger farmer’s markets I’ve seen, a nice mix of the what you’d expect at a market, local organic produce, jams and jellies, seafood counter, crepes and waffles, etc., but Findlay’s trademark was that it has a bit more of a German flair. Pretzels, German deli meats, pickles and the like were thrown in the mix. It’s not as big as Pike Place Market in Seattle, but it does span a couple blocks in size and has permanent buildings and structures to house the shops and shelter the vendors.




In keeping with my curiosity about local heart attack food, I learned about Cincinnati chili and their version of the Coney dog.

I’d venture that Cincinnati’s chili shares roots with Detroit’s Coney Sauce and both can probably be traced back to Coney Island, New York. I’m sure that there’s far more to the history than that, but in all cases, the chili itself is thin and doesn’t have beans in it. But that’s just the starting point, because Cincinnati chili takes off from there and becomes something unique.

For starters, as a dish, the chili is served on spaghetti, and those two ingredients form what is known as 2-way. Each additional ingredient of beans, cheese, onions increases that number by 1.

  • two-way: spaghetti and chili
  • three-way: spaghetti, chili, and shredded cheese
  • four-way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheese, and either diced onions or beans
  • five-way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheese, diced onions, and beans

For all you set theorists out there: {n-way | 2 <= n >= 5}

While we technically were not in Cincinnati at the time, Gold Star Chili is a chain that Jenn said did a good job of capturing the Cincinnati chili experience, so we stopped there on the way back down to Lexington.

Cincinnati 5-way chili and cheese Coneys
Cincinnati 5-way chili and cheese Coneys

I can now say I participated in a Cincinnati 5-way. Jenn said she wanted to take me to Cleveland next to sample what the locals there call a “steamer”. I’m not sure what that is, exactly, but I hope it tastes as good as Cincinnati chili.

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