While everyone continues to break down the matchup between the Reds and the Phillies on the field, it’s time we really get down to business with the comparison between Cincinnati and Philadelphia.  By which I mean: which city has the better food?  Which is more mouth watering, a Philly Cheesesteak, smothered with onions and peppers?  Or a chili cheese coney, covered in Cincinnati chili and piled high with cheese?  Let’s go to the tale of the tape!

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History
About the cheesesteak from wikipedia:

The cheesesteak was developed in the early 20th century “by combining frizzled beef, onions, and cheese in a small loaf of bread,” according to a 1987 exhibition catalog published by the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on hoagie rolls in the early 1930s.

About Cincinnati chili from wikipedia:

Cincinnati chili seems to have originated with one or more immigrant restaurateurs from Macedonia who were trying to broaden their customer base by moving beyond narrowly ethnic styles of cuisine. Tom and John Kiradjieff began serving the chili in 1922 at their hot dog stand, next to a burlesque theater called the Empress. Tom Kiradjieff invented the style by modifying a traditional stew and serving it over hot dogs and spaghetti. The style has since been copied and modified by many other restaurant proprietors.

Cincinnati chili was created earlier and was created to broaden a customer base.  Thus, advantage Chili.

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Popularity
On the surface, this one looks like a slam dunk.  The reason it looks that way on the surface is because Philly wins this one in a landslide.  Go to any sub shop, sandwich shop, or food restaurant that has sandwiches and ask for a Philly Steak and Cheese. You can almost guarantee you will get what you ordered.

Now, go into a restaurant outside of the Cincinnati area and ask for a hot dog or spaghetti with Cincinnati chili and count the numbered of puzzled looks you’ll get from your wait staff.  Advantage Cheesesteak

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Variations
When ordering a cheesesteak sandwich, you have countless numbers of ingredients to put on your sandwich.  Choose your taste: tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, multiple types of cheeses, peppers, onions, even chicken (though that would probably make the sandwich a chicken cheese steak).

On the chili side, you have the two-way (spaghetti and chile), three-way (add cheese), four-way (add onions or beans), five-way (add both onions and beans), cheese coney (oh yeah!), and chili cheese fries.  Let me put it this way: anything you can add chili sauce to, Cincinnati chili makes it better.  Advantage: this one is a push.  You have a wider variety of options with the cheese steak, but who doesn’t want to have a three-way?

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Popular Opinion
I have definitely devoted more time today researching these two foods than I ever thought I would.  While researching opinions on cheese steaks, I have found that it is not appropriate to refer to a cheesesteak sandwich as a steak and cheese.  And if the establishment refers to it as a steak and cheese sandwich, then you should go elsewhere.  I have only been to Philly once in my life, and was not old enough to really go out and search for the ultimate cheesesteak sandwich.  In fact, I didn’t even eat a cheesesteak sandwich while there.  Now that I think about it, I’m not really a very big cheese steak fan, so perhaps I am not the best person to review the delicious details of the cheese steak sandwich.  I have eaten a few in my day, but not an official Philly cheesesteak, and the ones I’ve had were just okay.  In fact, if I were to go to Philly, I am not sure I would go out of my way to get a sandwich.

As for the Cincinnati chili, I believe this comment I found on a Cubs blog summarizes most people’s opinions:

Our opinions of the Skyline Cheese Coneys could not have been more different!  I loved it, while my wife said it was absolutely “foul” and just plain “wrong”.  Our son Joshua just loved eating the cheese off of it.  I loved it so much that when Tina asked me if I wanted anything else, I asked for two more.  The chili has a very sweet taste.  I believe it’s spiced with cinnamon.  After we left Cincinnati, I was sad because I did not think we would find Skyline Chili in Illinois.

I think with the Cincinnati chili, you either love it, or you hate it.  My wife and I, we both love it.  In fact, we usually partake in at least 2 cheese coneys per game we attend.  We even make it a point to eat at a Skyline for one of our meals a day.  I live in Virginia, so I only get a few chances per year to eat the chili, and take advantage of every opportunity I get.  A few seasons back, I took a high school baseball team I coached up to Cincinnati for a ballgame.  For many of the kids, it was the first professional game they had ever attended.  I told them that if they wanted to try anything, try the Skyline coneys.  Did I mention love/hate?  I had a few guys dislike the coney, while I had other players eat at least 6 each.

In the end, I give the advantage on public opinion to the chili!  The deciding factor for me here, other than the fact that I’m completely biased in my decision, is that a few of my coworkers also shared their love for the chili, and more specifically, the Skyline coney.  Just for the record, these two coworkers are Braves fans who attended a few games in Cincinnati.  Both make it a must to eat a few coneys while they are in Cincinnati.

So, that concludes the most important topic installment of the Redleg Nation NLDS Preview:  Cheesesteak versus Chili.  In the end, Cincinnati wins it 2-1-1!

2 Responses

  1. bho52

    I just can’t wait to make my triumphant return to Skyline on Sunday. It’s been too long.

    As for the cheeseteak, I agree with Swaff. Way too many variables. I also was encouraged to try the “Schmitter” on the lone trip to Citizens Bank Park, which is like a more unhealthy version of the cheesesteak with extra cheese and salami. I found it vastly overrated.

  2. RC

    Skyline for me, definitely… BUT…

    I was in Philly for the first time this spring for my wife’s family reunion. When I mentioned Pat’s and Geno’s, the locals made that “pffft” sound, and took me to Jim’s Steaks. I was dubious about the Cheese Whiz, but they highly recommended it, so I went with it. The result was a near-religious experience – the beef was cooked barely brown (not cooked dry like most around here), so the juices mixed with the Whiz into this wonderful cheese sauce. Oh, man…