West Side Chili Parlor
6520 Glenway Avenue
As a vegetarian, I have always felt a little “left out” of the whole Cincinnati chili phenomenon. I’ve always wanted to understand what all the fuss was about, but figured that the chances were slim to none.
So imagine my surprise when I read The 3-Way Highway a few months ago in Cincinnati Magazine, in which writer Jack Heffron traveled the 6.2 mile stretch of Glenway Avenue, visiting each chili parlor along the way. It was an entertaining and informative article, and I was suitably intrigued to learn that West Side Chili offers a vegetarian chili option. I knew I had to give it a try.
This weekend I finally made the trek to the little chili parlor, located in a small strip center near Bridgetown Road, and now I understand Cincinnati’s fascination with the various chili ways - West Side Chili’s vegetarian chili was delicious. Made with textured vegetable protein (TVP), it has a “meaty” consistency that looks just like “real” chili, and was very tasty indeed.
Having never experienced the multitude of chili “ways,” I felt a little out of my depth when trying to figure out what to order. 3-way, 4-way, and 5-way may be old hat to most folks, but I had only the vaguest of ideas what those ways were. I decided to just go for broke and get the 5-way to cover all the bases, since the young girl who waited on us didn’t seem to have a clue how to describe the various choices to an outsider.
Cincinnati-style chili is layered; you start with a thick spaghetti (or a thin macaroni like perciatelli) and top it with chili, then layer with onions and black beans, and finally smother with finely shaved cheddar cheese. At West Side Chili they even offer it a sixth way - dubbed the Glenn Way - with diced hot dogs. As the dogs aren’t vegetarian I didn’t try it, but my husband did and thought it was a logical addition. I opted for the spicy version of the chili, which in a nutshell was chili that had been hit with a couple of healthy squirts of hot sauce. It lit me up enough to make my eyes water. Oh yes, I was a very happy girl.
The restaurant lists an assortment of starters featuring their vegetarian chili, including chili cheese fries, West Side deluxe nachos, and quesadillas. They also offer two different veggie-chili burritos as well as a low-carb 5-way salad that substitutes a bed of crisp lettuce in place of pasta, and if you really don’t want to go the chili route you can opt for a veggie burger.
As we sat at the small lunch counter perusing the menu we noticed how good the fries looked, and ended up ordering a basket of them as well. Hand cut and golden, they were fantastic. I can hardly wait to return and give the vegetarian chili-cheese fries a try. Next time I think I will also try to save room for a root beer float. Yum!
West Side Chili is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. weeknights and until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, perfect for those late night cravings.