A taste of Cincinatti is as close as Tacoma

When I moved here from Ohio in the last century, Cincinnati-style chili was not a “thing.” And now there is a Tacoma restaurant that serves this regional favorite locally.

The Chili Parlor serves chili over spaghetti noodles, topped with shredded cheddar cheese. Cincinnati style!

Wayne Whalen opened the cozy restaurant on South Tacoma Way about a year ago and now caters to a wide variety of tastes, as well as the people who come for the house specialty. We liked the vintage feel of the restaurant which resembled a diner, and found the staff welcoming.

We ordered Cincinnati Chili Three Way, small at $7.95, which is spaghetti noodles with a ladle of chili made with spices used in Mediterranean-style cooking such as cumin, cinnamon and cocoa powder, and topped with cheddar cheese. According to some diners, this is not standard Cincinnati chili because there were no beans, and I think it might be an acquired taste with noodles cooked in unsalted water, and sweet aromatic chili. But it was a generous serving.

We also ordered a chicken-fried steak sandwich at $8.95, which turned out to be a big, delicious breaded chopped steak in a crispy fried spicy coating with lettuce, tomato, fresh onions and mayo on a big, soft bun. It came with ribbon fries, salad or onion rings. I ordered the ribbon fries, which turned out to be a potato which had been “spiralized” with a special cutter that makes super thin ribbons out of any vegetable.  I thought it was dry, and like unsalted potato chips.

We also ordered a Chili Burrito at $6.95, a flour tortilla with lots of Mediterranean chili and cheese, a Cheese Coney which at $4.50 was a bun-length dog with chili and cheese, and onion rings at $4.50. The coney was very tasty, with the chili being a nice flavor blend with the hot dog.

The restaurant serves breakfast, daily specials including meatloaf, fish fries and barbecue, and I’d like to go back to try some of these, based on the great sandwich I had.

Plenty of seating at counter and booths. Bathroom is being remodeled but is not accessible to the disabled.


The Chili Parlor

5640 S. Tacoma Way in Tacoma (on the west side of South Tacoma Way, south of South 56th Street. There is on-street parking in front of the narrow storefront flanked with beach flags.)


Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday


Carolyn Augustine, who writes the Senior Eats column for Senior Scene, is a freelance restaurant writer.

The Chili Parlor’s Cincinnati Chili Three Way – multi-spiced chili served with spaghetti noodles and cheese – is a four-way with the addition of onions.