Sunday, February 3, 2008

West Side Chili Parlor

West Side Chili Parlor
6520 Glenway Avenue
Green Township

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.
West Side Chili Parlor on Urbanspoon


toxickaty said...

I love Skyline Chili and some other Cincinnati chilis. I have a vegetarian friend who lives out of state that I send the flavor packets to! hehehehe That's so cool that they make a veggie version in the restaurant. Skyline should already be doing that...they aren't are they? I used to live in Westwood and I don't recall this restaurant. What's it nearby? We may have to trek back down there and try some! We go back down there for a few places like Nick & Tom's or Thai Taste.

Veggie Option said...

I haven't been to Skyline in awhile, but that's because the only vegetarian item I could find on their menu was the black bean burrito.

West Side Chili shares a parking lot with a furniture rental place - Aarons maybe? Bridgetown Pet Hospital is next door, but not in the same center.

Liberal Foodie said...

THANK YOU! It's about time someone shared the chili secrets. I've been wanting to try Cincinnati style chili, 3 ways and 5 ways but couldn't at Gold Start or Skyline because of beef/pork thing.

Veggie Option said...

If you go let me know what you think! :)

Trixi said...

As a non-chili eater, I will say Skyline has some vegetarian options to try out...never paid attention to whether the chili is (perusing their menu, it appears not).

They've had a great Greek Salad for years....yummy! And more recently, they added baked potatos to the menu. You can put chili on them, but they have a nice Cheddar potato, which is just the cheese and potato. They have a Veggie black bean burrito and a Veggie Black beans and rice dish listed. And some of the restaurants offer up fries (topped with chili and/or cheese).

Anonymous said...

Yep, you can make any 3 way veg at Skyline. It even has it written on the menu.

Veggie Option said...

Skyline's menu says "make any Way vegetarian by substituting black beans and rice for chili."

West Side Chili serves vegetarian chili, which is not the same as beans and rice.

Anonymous said...

My favorite way to do a vegetarian meal at Skyline is to substitute black beans WITHOUT the rice in a 3-way (spaghetti, black beans, cheese)... if you just ask for the vegetarian option on yours you may (or may not, depending on your server) end up with black beans AND rice on top of your spaghetti... and who needs all that starch at once?

The above has been my fail-free method of being able to go out with my meat-eating coworkers who grab Skyline for lunch no fewer than two days a week... but you're right, it tastes nothing like "real" Skyline chili does... and I'm not sure that there really is a way to REALLY get that unique Cincinnati flavor in a veggie-friendly form...

Veggie Option said...

You are SO right about all the starch!

It's been so long since I had meat-based chili that I no longer remember what it tastes like, but the vegetarian chili at West Side Chili tasted "real" enough for me. It certainly looked like meat-based chili too, but then stuff made with TVP usually does.

k said...

i am not a vegetarian, but every time i go to west side chili, i have the veggie chili. i think it's pretty darn good. and to those curious, it doesn't taste exactly like skyline (so don't expect it to), but it is definitely cincinnati-style chili. maybe a little lighter tasting than skyline. i recommend the 5-way salad - they sub lettuce for spaghetti. mmm.

Anonymous said...

I love westside chili. it offers more than skyline and the chili is better. they've got a new drive thru now too so spread the word

mayor mallory said...

it was at the west fest and I never knew about it. but its becoming the new talk of the westside. rumor has it that westside chili is going to turn into a chain restruaunt and have locations all over cincy.

WEBN dawn patrol said...

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Anonymous said...

Iluvwestsidechili4eva!!!!! I think that it is the best chili in all of Cincinnati. All of the players and I eat it before every home game. I guess you could say it's our pregame meal ;)