Housed in the old Sartre space in the Rhinegeist Brewery building, OTR Chili Company is a retro diner-style spot offering self-proclaimed "authentic Cincinnati chili" in addition to burgers, salads and shakes. The operation is overseen by managing partner Jim Cornwell, chef Francisco Alfaro, sous-chef Zach Leetch, bar manager Sam Shelton and dining room manager Samantha De Nijs.
"We wanted to create a restaurant that would allow us to narrow our focus to a main item, that being beef, and that would let us shrink our product sourcing to as close to home as possible over time," says Cornwell via email. "So, like most Cincinnatians, we love our chili and once we put all of our wants on paper, it was pretty obvious that it would check all the boxes. We also feel like the diner/parlor vibe allows us some creative latitude on the menu as we grow."
The chili menu features all the classics: a 3, 4 or 5-Way made with 100-percent beef and secret spice blend, plus a vegetarian way (made with soybean-based protein, vegetable stock and their same 3-Way spices); a cheese coney; chili cheese sandwich; chili cheese fries; and hefty party-sized options like a pint of chili or 12 coneys. Hot dogs are sourced from a manufacturer in Kentucky; the cheese comes from Wisconsin.
For veg-heads they also offer an Impossible burger on their menu. And for booze fans, you can add a shot of bourbon to your malted chocolate or vanilla shake — made with Ohio's Swallow Hill Jersey Dairy milk — for $4. All desserts are made in-house daily. (See the full menu at otrchilico.com.)
While OTR Chili Co. has been open for limited carry-out and delivery this month, they are opening their dining room on Thursday, May 21 in compliance with state and local COVID-19 safety restrictions.
Dine-in service will start at 3 p.m. Thursday, May 21 and ongoing hours will be 3-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Sunday.
In an email, the team outlined their COVID-19 policies and procedures. Currently, they have eliminated walk-up bar service and will only be serving patrons at their tables or the limited number of bar seats. Tables and bar seats will be six feet apart and sat on a first-come, first-served basis. The restaurant will have a waitlist available but patrons cannot wait inside. OTR Chili will be accepting credit and debit card payments (cash is frowned upon), which will be sanitized before they are returned to the customer.
Staff will also be wearing face coverings and increasing the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing all high-traffic, high-touch and seating areas.
OTR Chili is located at 1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine.
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