We are off to Cincinnati… Yes, we mean Cincinnati, Ohio! After all our trips to the UK and Canada it may seem like a strange location to film an episode of Two Moms and a Car. However, Cincinnati is going to surprise you with some very interesting places and unique food!
Our drive was about 8 hours of beautiful mountains and rolling green hills. Driving out of the Kentucky hills there are several signs that warn of a “steep grade.” Our first response to this was to laugh. A steep grade… bring it on!! After some of the roads we have traveled in the UK with 20% grades we were not concerned. The threat of a steep grade was totally worth the first view of the Cincinnati skyline. Much of the older part of the city is full of European architecture, German looking churches, and of course the various sports stadiums right on the Ohio River.
On this trip we are visiting Heather’s Aunt Gail who has lived in Cincinnati for many years. Sometimes getaways can be simply a trip to visit a relative in a new part of your own country. Aunt Gail lives in a lovely little city just north of Cincy called Hamilton. It was named after Alexander Hamilton. Our first stop after greeting our hostess was to head to her favorite local chili parlor. Yes…. Chili in Cincinnati. But this is not your normal Tex-Mex type chili, this is Cincinnati style chili. This chili has a little flair. Right around the corner from her house is a Gold Star Chili parlor. Gail’s friend Naji Salem is a second generation Chili-ologist. His father started showing him the family business at a young age and his love for all things Gold Star chili is contagious.
Naji and his friendly staff welcomed us and showed us great hospitality. Naji explained the history of the Gold Star chili chain, which started as Hamburger Heaven in 1965 by the Daoud brothers. He told us about the Middle-Eastern roots of the Cincinnati chili recipe – Gold Star’s recipe remains a family secret. Everything in the restaurant is house-made. After a brief tour and showing us how it is made, we were seated, and Naji started bringing out samples of the most popular menu items. Plate after plate arrived, and we feasted!! We started with mini coneys, and then 3-way chili. The chili is served over spaghetti noodles 5 ways. 1 way is chili and noodles. 2 way is the same with cheese. 4 way adds onions. 5 way adds beans! But Naji did not stop with the 3-way….he kept it coming with a bowl of vegetarian chili, then chili cheese fires, and nachos!!! We ate til we were about to pop.
After dinner, we chatted with Naji for a while about his family, our families, and our love of foods! He told us where to get the best Philly cheesesteak right here in Cincinnati at Penn Station. He also encouraged us to check out the competition – Skyline chili. He is confident his chili is the best and that after a sample of theirs, we will agree fully! He invited us to his church’s festival Saturday night – the Saint James Orthodox church in Loveland- here we would be able to sample true Middle Eastern specialties. How could we say no to shawarma and baklava?? So an awesome, unplanned addition to our itinerary…and experiencing another culture. What a wonderful time we had… great food and a new friend!
We headed out, and Gail took us over to Jungle Jim’s in nearby Fairfield, which is a foodie heaven. Technically it is a grocery store, but it is more like a several-acre international and specialty food mega-store! In the words of Gail, “It really defies description.” It must be experienced. Even though we are having a tour with “Jungle” and his family in a couple days, we decided to go scope it out and do our own shopping ahead of time so we can better enjoy the tour. We purchased some of our favorite British items, including HP sauce, crumpets, and Haggis potato chips, as well as some “normal” grocery items for breakfast. Stay tuned for more on the amazing Jungle Jim’s…..
No trip to this area would be complete without a trip to UDF (United Dairy Farmers) for ice cream! As we pulled up, the look on Courtney’s face was priceless as she slowly said, “ Thiiiiis looks like a convenience store.” Yes, yes, it is! “So, a convenience store…that has ice cream… ice cream that is good??” Her skepticism was soon dismissed as we looked over the ice cream flavors and tasted our treats. Great stuff!
Tomorrow we start off early at the historic Findlay Market and Over the Rhine district, ready to experience the history and culture of this city of hidden gems!
Enjoying the journey,
Courtney and Heather