Skyline Chili Menu Items Ranked Worst To Best

Often touted as the best regional fast food chain, or at the very least, the best-known regional food item in Ohio, Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati-area chain of restaurants known for its unique take on chili. For most people, the thin, saucy, bean-free chili is something they either love or hate. An untold truth of Skyline Chili is that the chain may not have invented its style of chili. That claim to fame belongs to Empress Chili, a lesser-known restaurant chain that still has a few locations in the area (via Washington Post). While Skyline wasn't the first, the chain has perfected its recipe to become the most popular in a slew of local chili restaurant brands.

There's a reason people think Cincinnati chili isn't actually chili, though whatever line you fall on in this debate, the brand remains an area staple with a cult following. The chili is the most popular menu item, but they're serving it up in various ways. Let's take a closer look at the chain's menu items, ranked worst to best.

Alligator or Lizard

The worst item you can order from Skyline Chili isn't something you'll actually find on the menu. Instead, this questionable menu hack is one that you'll need to know about ahead of time — and perhaps one that you'll need to be dared to eat!

Sometimes called an "Alligator" or "Lizard," this quirky concoction begins as a classic Skyline Cheese Coney (via Food and Wine). In place of a hot dog, you'll get a pickle spear on a hot dog bun. It doesn't stop there; the pickle spear is topped with chili and shredded cheddar cheese. Like with a Cheese Coney, you'll even get to decide whether you want to add onions and/or mustard to the mix.

The result is a truly weird combination of salty, crunchy, sweet, cold, and hot ingredients that look almost as unappetizing as it tastes. We recommend you enjoy it at your own risk.

Green spaghetti

The pickle spear Cheese Coney is far from the only unappetizing-looking dish on this list. This next item is also one that you won't find on the menu, at least for most of the year. Instead, you'll have to wait for St. Patrick's Day to visit your local Skyline and order up a green 3-Way, 4-Way, 5-Way, or spaghetti and cheese.

Each year on St. Patrick's Day, many Skyline Chili locations celebrate the holiday by dying the regular spaghetti green using food coloring (via Because Skyline coats its spaghetti in a secret blend of spices, it already has a wet texture and a red tint (via News-Press). Add in the neon green food coloring, then smother it in runny brown chili and bright orange cheese, and you've got a dish that most people wouldn't dream of digging into.

The good news here is that, while the green spaghetti doesn't look appetizing, if you enjoy Skyline's signature chili or 3-Ways plate, you'll enjoy this dish. The food coloring doesn't alter the flavor of the food in the least. So, live dangerously and celebrate the season with this very un-Instagram-worthy creation.

Coney Bowl

This next dish contains ingredients that aren't unappetizing when served solo. Yet put them together, and you've got an odd creation that's certainly an acquired taste. The Coney Bowl starts out as a bowl of chili (via Skyline Chili). Add in some chopped-up hot dogs — three, to be exact — then top with some shredded cheese, and you've got the Coney Bowl.

Both the hot dogs and Skyline's chili are low carb, as is cheddar cheese (via Sure Keto). When you add in the bun, however, plus spaghetti noodles or tortillas, most dishes on the Skyline menu are high in carbs. Coney Bowls might be an appealing plate for you if you're looking for a low-carb dish. You can add some of Skyline's many topping options, too, like beans, onions, or mustard.

This dish could be worse; Skyline does use 100% beef hot dogs. However, if you agree with CSB Sports soccer analyst Grant Wahl and think that Skyline is the "worst food associated with a city," that fact may not do much to improve this soupy, chunky dish (via Yahoo! News).

Plain hot dogs

If you love hot dogs, then in most cases, there's nothing wrong with a classic, plain hot dog in a bun. You can spice it up with ketchup, relish, mustard, or your choice of toppings. If it's a great hot dog, its flavor of it will shine on its own.

This isn't the case at Skyline. The dogs aren't full of flavor because the chain's hot dogs are designed to be served smothered in the restaurant's famous, flavorful chili. Instead, these pale, thin hot dogs are bland and basic. Place them in a soft, steamed, equally plain bun, and you've got a dish that's best reserved for kids. If you fall into the category of people who can't stomach the restaurant's chili, add some cheese, and you've got a simple, classically American dish.

For a city that's been nicknamed "Porkopolis," a bland hot dog in one of the signature regional restaurants is a bit of a disappointment. Skyline reportedly once used Kahn's hot dogs, a local company (via Dogiman). After Kahn's was bought out by Tyson, the new owner discontinued production of Kahn's hot dogs in 2020, and it remains unclear who produces Skyline's lackluster dogs (via WCPO).

Spaghetti and cheese

Most of the items on the menu at Skyline Chili can be divided into two categories; those served on a steamed hot dog bun and those served on a pile of spaghetti. As we've already mentioned, the spaghetti noodles are covered in a blend of the restaurant's signature spices. These spices are as much of a mystery as Skyline's famous chili recipe.

If you don't like Skyline's chili, your options on the menu are drastically reduced. We've already mentioned the main chili-free option that comes on a bun (a plain hot dog). Well, what about a spaghetti-based, chili-free dish?

Spaghetti and cheese is a combination of Skyline's signature noodles and a pile of freshly shredded cheddar cheese. If you like both ingredients and don't want chili, this isn't the worst thing you can order. It's also a great choice for kids or picky eaters. The dish is classic, basic comfort food at its finest. But the massive pile of cheese, and the lack of butter or sauce, can make this dish pretty dry.

Chili Bowl

If the thought of hot dogs floating around in a bowl of chili doesn't sound like a good meal, this next menu item might be a good alternative. As the name suggests, this basic item features a plain bowl of chili, which can be dressed up with shredded cheese, onions, beans, and sour cream (via Skyline Chili). You can also add your own dose of Skyline's popular hot sauce at the table. If you love Skyline chili, you'll enjoy this dish.

Like many of Skyline's menu items, this dish isn't vegetarian-friendly. Fortunately, there's one big menu item that vegetarians will love. Skyline Chili's Rice & Beans is a mix of white rice, black beans, and spices inspired by the seasonings used in the regular chili. This dish can be ordered as a bowl of chili, with the same toppings options as the regular Chili Bowl. While the ingredients appear vegan, some claim that the dish still contains dairy even if you order it without cheese (via Cruelty Free Reviews). Skyline hasn't said publicly whether the dish is or isn't free of animal products. Either way, it's a nice middle-of-the-road option.


The bottom of the list of spaghetti-based dishes at Skyline is the 2-Way. This menu item features the chain's spaghetti, topped with a generous scoop of chili. Like all of Skyline's "Ways," this dish comes in three sizes; small, regular, and large. The 2-Way often isn't listed on the menu but is a good option for those looking to go dairy-free or wanting to make the dish a little lighter (via Skyline Chili).

However, if you do have a dairy allergy, it's important to keep in mind that Skyline Chili's dishes are prepared on a long steam line, so cross-contamination, especially from the piles of shredded cheddar cheese, is always a possibility.

If this is your first time trying Skyline Chili, don't expect this to be an overly savory dish. While the chain keeps its secret recipe spice blend a top secret, it's no secret that the chili does have a slightly sweet, spicy flavor. Some argue that the sweet flavor comes from cinnamon, while others swear that it's chocolate, though cocoa has been officially ruled out because it would pose issues for those with allergies (via News-Press). Whatever the truth about Skyline Chili's secret ingredient is, know that this is a unique-tasting chili.


Perhaps the heartiest dish you can order up at Skyline is the 5-Way. This oversized menu item is formed from a bed of spaghetti — a small, regular size, or large pile, depending on which size Way you order. Next up is a scoop of kidney beans. Then comes a generous ladle full of Skyline chili, followed by a sprinkle of finely chopped onions. Finally, a mountain of shredded cheddar cheese tops this filling dish.

Thanks to the kidney beans, strong onion flavor, and size, the 5-Way is a bit of an acquired taste. Once you get used to it, it's the sort of thing you can develop a weird craving for. Even a small size of this dish can be a filling meal, packing almost 500 calories (via Skyline Chili). The large size is one of the most calorie-packed dishes on the menu, with a whopping 1,270 calories. Skyline Chili's menu does offer a lite idea for its dishes; ask for half the regular amount of cheese on a regular size 3-Way, and it'll have 20% fewer calories.

4-Way with beans or onions

Love beans and hate onions? Does your mouth water over intense onions, yet your stomach can't stand hefty beans? Not a fan of the two served together? You'll want to order a 4-Way instead. The 4-Way is the same recipe as a 5-Way, only with more choice. Instead of being topped with both onions and kidney beans, it's topped with one or the other.

There's a lot that makes Cincinnati chili unique. If you fall into the camp of loving Skyline Chili because it doesn't have beans like many other chili recipes do, you might love a 4-Way with onions. But, the chopped white onions at the Cincinnati chain restaurant are famously strong, so don't order this dish if you don't want a powerful kick of pungent flavor. Can't get enough of hearty kidney beans? A 4-Way with starchy, filling beans may be the better choice. Like the other courses, you can choose a small, regular, or large 4-Way. Ordering your Skyline Chili to-go? The chain offers combos for carry-out or through the drive-thru that come with your choice of Way with a Cheese Coney and a drink.

French fries

Looking for a salty side to go along with all that sweet and spicy chili? Order up some fresh, hot fries. Skyline Chili French fries used to be available at only some restaurants. Now, most locations have a deep fryer and offer up this popular side. These fries aren't made fresh in the store, though they tend to be crispy — at least when ordered plain.

Cheese fries and chili cheese-topped fries are also available on the menu. The former features an order of fries big enough for two or three people to share, with a generous topping of shredded cheddar cheese. The latter features a serving of fries topped with a scoop of chili ... and also a mound of shredded cheddar cheese. Although these fries are pretty basic, you'll have the perfect base for trying any of Skyline's regional delicacies.

Cheesy fries are delicious, and the salt of the fries does go well with a topping of chili. However, both dishes tend to end with soggy French fries, especially if you let either dish sit on your table or in a take-out box for too long. Plan to eat your fries first if you want to try them with a topping!

Chili Cheese Sandwich

We've already covered some of Skyline Chili's spaghetti-based dishes. Still, the brand is perhaps best known for its bun-topped menu items. Rounding out the bottom of the list of chili and bun-centric dishes is the Chili Cheese Sandwich. This dish begins with a freshly steamed bun. Then, a small amount of cheese is stuffed in where the hot dog would typically go, followed by a scoop of chili. Next, you can add chopped onion or a squeeze of mustard, followed by another pile of cheese.

This hot-dog-free sandwich is a tasty way to enjoy the signature chili, especially alongside a 3-Way or 4-Way. While it isn't the brand's signature Cheese Coney (more on that soon), it is a good option if you don't like hot dogs. However, Skyline Chili's buns do tend to get soggy quickly. Don't expect to be able to eat this dish by hand; if you wait more than a few minutes to eat it (or if the location is generous with its chili), you'll definitely need to dig in with a fork or risk spilling runny chili on your clothes.

Of course, if you dine in, Skyline Chili always has plastic bibs on hand for kids and adults alike!

Vegetarian 3-Way

We've already mentioned Skyline Chili's popular vegetarian chili. While this chili does have beans, it's similar to the chain's regular chili in that it's thin and more similar to a sauce than what you'd expect of traditional chili. With both white rice and black beans in the recipe, this chili is great on its own, with some sour cream, chopped onions, and a sprinkle of cheese on top. However, if you really want to experience the dishes Skyline is known for, you can also get it on a bun or plate full of spaghetti.

Skyline's Vegetarian 3-Way is an odd mix of ingredients that somehow work. It is based on a pile of spaghetti, with the brand's signature blend of spices. Next comes a scoop of the vegetarian black beans and rice chili, followed by a sizable mound of shredded cheddar cheese. The dish is filling, delicious, and a little more nutritious than the brand's regular chili.

Oyster Bombs

This next item isn't one that you'll find on the menu at Skyline Chili. Ask any local Skyline enthusiast, and they'll tell you this is a must-try while you wait for your meal. Ahead of every meal at Skyline, you'll get a bowl of oyster crackers. Since the start of COVID-19, these have been served in individual packets, which you can pour into the chain's tiny plastic bowls on your own. You'll also find a bottle of the restaurant's signature hot sauce on your table.

Search through your crackers for one with a crack, and fill it up with hot sauce. The salty, spicy snack, sometimes called an Oyster Bomb, is a great prelude to an overflowing chili dish and is a right of passage for anyone's first visit to a Skyline Chili (via Cincy Region). Grabbing take-out? Ask for a few bags of crackers and hot sauce with your meal, free of charge, to enjoy at home.


If you want to Eat Cincinnati Chili like a local, order your Skyline Chili as a 3-Way. You can't go wrong. It's second only to the classic Cheese Coney as the restaurant's most popular dish. The 3-Way begins with a plate of spice-tossed spaghetti, a scoop of steaming hot chili, and a mound of freshly shredded cheese.

This simple menu item is what the brand's thin, spicy-sweet chili was truly designed for. The thin consistency of the dressing, which is more similar to a meat sauce than most other types of chili, is a perfect, hearty topping for the spaghetti. The thinly shredded cheese melts right away, making for a delicious and filling dish that's perfect for a cold winter day — though you'll find locals ordering it all year long! If the chili's lightly spicy flavor isn't enough for you, you can add a dash of hot sauce while seated at the table. Or, ask for yours topped with habanero cheese! While not all locations have this, most do offer this extra spicy cheese alternative.

Cheese Coney

Without a doubt, Skyline Chili's most iconic dish is the Cheese Coney. Besides being on the menu at every Skyline location, you'll also find this at baseball games, festivals, and all kinds of other events around the city and throughout the region. The classic Cheese Coney is a steamed bun filled with a hot dog. Next comes a generous slathering of the restaurant's signature chili. Your server will ask if you want to add a dash of mustard and/or a splatter of finely chopped onions. And lastly comes the pile of bright orange, finely shredded cheddar cheese. Don't make the mistake of ordering this as a "Coney," because you'll likely get served one without the delicious cheese (via Food & Wine)!

The dish is enough to inspire nostalgia for childhood within most local Cincinnatians. You can order a few Cheese Coneys as a meal, or enjoy a Coney on the side with a 3-Way, 4-Way, or 5-Way. With the addition of the hot dog, the Cheese Coney is easier to eat than a Chili Cheese Sandwich. Yet it can still get messy, especially if you let it sit. So, tie on a bib and dig in like a local!