Tasting Las Vegas

Foods you can’t get in Las Vegas, vol 1

February 6, 2010 · 6 Comments

Today I want to talk about Elusive Foods–those tasty Holy Grails for which no specialty market, no Whole Foods offer proof.   My beloved scrapple for instance, or Taylor Pork Roll.

Or authentic Cincinnati style chili, as perfected by Skyline Chili. Not quite a national chain, it hasn’t really caught on much beyond its Ohio/Kentucky environs.  Cincinnati chili really doesn’t resemble tex-mex chili at all, it’s more a finely-minced meat stew that reflects Greek roots (cocoa, clove and cinnamon are part of the earthy-sweet flavor profile, and I suspect its derived from a lamb stew).

In the Americanized version, this chili is served over spaghetti (maybe there is some pastitsio in the dish’s DNA…), with the optional garnishes of kidney beans, chopped onions, and a toupee of shredded cheddar that visually recalls extruded play-doh fuzzy pumper ‘hair.’

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I found “Cincy Chili” on the menu of my local Eggworks. I stopped in for lunch to try it:

Visually a bit dispiriting, and the mealy cheese really lacking in the aforementioned extruded play-doh texture.  It looked more liked bag taco cheese from Food4Less.

Well taste is everything, so I got past the bland visual and dug in.  My first bite presented a rather generic, too tomato-y chili which bore no resemblance to Cincinnati chili.   Since Eggworks offers a regular chili as well,  I asked my wait person if this was indeed the Cincy chili, and she confirmed it was.  Sadness: aside from the finer mince of the meat, this was a generic tomato chili on spaghetti with bagged cheese on top.  So as much as I hoped otherwise,  true Cincinnati chili remains on the “not in Vegas” list, unless I make it myself.

I should say Eggworks offers a very decent breakfast in large portions.  Breakfast is my favorite meal to cook so it takes a lot to impress me (though I am dying to try the Bouchon breakfast, which is only served at ungodly early hours).  But the service is unfailingly cheery, welcoming and fast.  So go for the eggs, and dream about the day that Skyline opens a Las Vegas outpost.

–Michael Manley

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