People in Ohio are obsessed with this chain that serves chilli-topped hot dogs and spaghetti — here's what it’s like to eat there

James R. Martin/ShutterstockSkyline Chilli has a special place in Ohio’s culinary tradition.
  • Skyline Chilli is an Ohio-based restaurant chain that serves hot dogs and spaghetti topped with chilli and cheddar cheese.
  • Although some outsiders may object to its signature dish, Skyline Chilli remains a cult favourite in parts of the Midwest.
  • I ate at a Skyline Chilli and learned exactly why it’s become a regional favourite.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Since 1949, Skyline Chilli has been slopping chilli onto hot dogs and spaghetti.

Founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, Skyline Chilli has become a must-try for locals and visitors to the city alike. The beloved restaurant chain has expanded to over 130 locations in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Florida.

While the combination of chilli and spaghetti might sound unusual, the unique dish has its place in the Ohio culinary tradition. Cincinnati chilli, as it’s known, has been served up for nearly 100 years, and the dish is one of the most iconic – and polarising – examples of American regional food.

Since I started attending the University of Cincinnati, I’ve discovered that Skyline Chilli is a cult favourite throughout the city. You can see the restaurant’s logo on T-shirts, socks, stickers, and more – people here definitely identify with the brand.

I recently went down to a local Skyline Chilli to see how exactly the chain has won over so much of the Midwest.

Here’s what it’s like inside the iconic restaurant.


Upon parking, I was greeted by a Skyline Chilli “Hero Bearcat” — one of many life-sized statues of the University of Cincinnati’s mascot that can be found across the city. Each is dressed as a different occupation, from astronauts and farmers to Skyline Chilli waiters. They were put up in celebration of the university’s bicentennial this past year.

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Source:

University of Cincinnati


The brick exterior and retro sign provide for a nostalgic experience that feels uniquely Midwestern. The surrounding area was just as quaint — filled with small restaurants, shops, bookstores, a movie theatre, and a florist.

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Around midday, Skyline was bustling with locals stopping in for a quick bite and friends catching up. The atmosphere was loud, social, and laid-back.

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Upon entering, I was greeted by a slew of employees making their signature dishes right behind the counter. Hot dogs, cheese, and chilli are certainly not in short supply.

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Like the outside of the restaurant, the interior décor suggested a certain modest Midwestern charm.

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University of Cincinnati custom jerseys hung on the walls inside the restaurant, in a show of school spirit that matches the rest of the city.

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After seating ourselves, our waitress brought my friend and me some oyster crackers to snack on.

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The menu offered a wide variety of options. However, Skyline Chilli is best known for its coneys — hot dogs topped with chilli, mustard, onions, and cheddar cheese — as well as its “three-way” spaghetti with chilli and cheese.

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Why stop at hot dogs and spaghetti? Skyline doesn’t discriminate when it comes to where chilli and cheese can go. You can order chilli cheese fries or a three-way potato as well.

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In true local fashion, my friend and I ordered a cheese coney, a regular three-way, spaghetti, and fries.

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A three-way is spaghetti covered in Skyline’s original chilli and shredded cheddar cheese. You can make it a four-way or a five-way by adding diced onions or beans.

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It’s thick. It’s heavy. It’s Midwestern comfort food. The three-way combination oddly works and is quite satisfying. It’s the perfect quick meal for the college student who’s just left a party.

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Swap out the spaghetti for a hot dog, and you’ve got a cheese coney. Yes, there is a hot dog in the midst of all that chilli and cheese. For those who would like to do without the cheese, a regular coney is available.

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It’s messy, but delicious. Mixed within the cheddar cheese is mustard, Skyline’s secret-recipe chilli, and diced onions.

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For my friend who doesn’t eat dairy, a regular plate of spaghetti was a nice, lighter option. Vegetarians can also get a rice-and-bean burrito or get the same ingredients on top of their spaghetti.

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The fries were a welcomed addition on the side — not too crunchy and not too salty.

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For dessert, we got our hands dirty with a plate of funnel fries. After a full meal at Skyline, these fries can feel like a bit of a chore.

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In under 30 minutes, we were plenty full and had gotten our calories for the day. Although the meal might sound revolting for outsiders, for Midwesterners like me, Skyline Chilli is a quick and delicious guilty pleasure.

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