This is Cincinnati Chili Birthday Week – starting October 22, when in 1922, Macedonian immigrant brothers Ivan (John) and Athanas (Tom) Kiradjieff opened their small chili parlor inside the Empress Burlesque theatre on Vine Street.
At nearly 100 years old, it’s finally happened. The spaghetti has migrated from the threeway to the coney. It’s happening at the last remaining Empress Chili Parlor, in Alexandria Kentucky.
There are a lot of different varieties of the cheese coney at the many independent chili parlors. There are of course phoney coneys and chili buns, which are the dogless varieties. Should it really be called a coney without a dog?
But Alexandria, Kentucky, Empress location has offered what they call a Spagoney for several years now. It’s a dogless coney with spaghetti. – so its comprised of spaghetti, chili mustard, onions, and cheese – basically a four way on a bun. I’m not sure who the target audience is for this variety. Maybe someone on-the-go who wants a fourway, but doesn’t have the time to sit down and eat like a human. But it still sounds like it could be messy. Call it the Walking Fourway. I was not able to find a photo of the elusive coney species online.
If you think that’s weird, a few years ago the same Empress location offered a Taco Coney, which was a cheese coney with lettuce, chips, sour cream and jalapenos. I’m ok with the sour cream and jalapenos, but was really do the lettuce and chips add to a coney?
Ok that might be weird, but its not as weird as what Dixie Chili tried two years ago at Lent. During the forty days and forty nights of Lent, they offered a Tuna coney –with Tuna Salad, and cheese. To my knowledge this was the first and last seafood coney offering at a Cincinnati Chili parlor. Believe me, Cincinnati Catholics will break the Lenten fast to have a real cheese coney.
Dixie Chili also has the gator – a coney with a pickle spear nestled inside the bun for a sour, dilly punch.
Skyline recently brought a bit of Louisiana into their coney with the addition of the andoule coney, which used Queen City’s delicious spicy andoule sausage for the dog.
Gold Star did the German fusion thing with their Oktoberfest coney for a few years. That included a brat, sauerkraut, spicy Dusseldorf mustard, chili and cheese. No chili parlor has yet offered a Braunschweiger Cheese Coney.
While we have German fusion coneys in Cincinnati – James Coney island in Houston has fused Tex-Mex with Greek in their Tamale cheese coney – a tamale wrapped hot dog smothered in chili, cheese and onions wrapped in a corn husk.
Then there’s the Gliers goetta link cheese coney that you’ll see at Goettafest and maybe Oktoberfest downtown.
What’s next in the evolution of our beloved Cincinnati cheese coney – maybe a Vietnamese bahn mi coney with pate instead of a dog, and pickled veg covered in cheese? I wouldn’t be against a fusion of the Chicago dog and the cheese coney – maybe putting a layer of spicy giardinera underneath the cheese. Actually that sounds pretty delicious.
What about a Halloween cheese coney using a mini blood sausage like our local Johnny-in-the bag sausage? Who knows. The only barrier is the imagination of our chili-slingers.