Almost without fail, any time out-of-towners are asked which food they think of when Cincinnati is mentioned, the answer is the city’s unique chili.
On Saturday, foodies will invade the area from 11 states outside of the Tri-State to sample five independent chili restaurants in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
That group, which organized on the forums of the Web site Roadfood.com , is expected to bring members from California, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, North Carolina and Missouri.
Road food was the subject of a 1977 book written by Michael and Jane Stern, who also founded the site. It champions local, independent restaurants that serve quality food at reasonable prices.
Gregg Pill, 59, from Chicago, goes by ChiTownDiner on the site, which he joined in 2006. He is one of the organizers of the event that has been coined the Cincinnati Style Chili and Coney Crawl.
“With the growth of social media and the Internet, communities have sprung up with folks who share common interests,” Pill said. “Additionally, as our country homogenizes, the spectrum of food items constantly changes and evolves, and Roadfood.com has been at the forefront for many years with Michael and Jane Stern having published their first of over 40 books some 40 years ago.”
The group will start with Pleasant Ridge Chili and tackle Dixie Chili, Chili Time, Camp Washington Chili and Blue Ash Chili, all in one day. Addition food stops include Graeter’s Ice Cream and Aglamesis Brothers Ice Cream.
So how does a group pace itself with such a food-filled itinerary?
“The beauty of the group is sharing,” Pill said. “Knives are a popular item for quartering portions so you can sample many different foods.”
Also, the group will have some down time between food stops with visits to Jungle Jim’s in Eastgate and the American Sign Museum.
This is actually the second Tri-State coney crawl for the group. The first was held several years ago, and several people who were unable to make the inaugural crawl inquired about organizing another, and planning by Pill and others began last year.
Pill found out about the site while reading an article in the Chicago Tribune, and he began exploring the Sterns’ book and their Web site.
“After a few organized meet-n-greets, I was hooked and started organizing a few on my own,” Pill said.
Pill said he does about three to five city tours per year and has built a network of foodies that spans the country.
“I've been to three weddings, get calls and texts at all hours of the day and night for recommendations in towns all over America,” Pill said. “If I don't know it, someone in the group has been there and tried it!”
Pill was one of several Roadfood members to arrive in Cincinnati a couple of days before the Crawl to explore bakeries, a dairy, a donut shot and a railroad museum, and the group also went to the famous Pine Club in Dayton for a late dinner.
Pill was expecting a maximum of 10 people to attend when he began organizing this Crawl. But the interest far exceeded expectations, with 29 people slated to participate in at least some of the chili tour.
To read more about road food and the Crawl, visit the forums of Roadfood.com .