Chili Quest Vol. 3 - Dixie Chili
Dixie Chili, my third try (fourth if you include Skyline, who are now in the running) in the Chili Quest, has been my most ambiguous pilgrimage yet. Its' been there, on Monmouth St. in Newport, Kentucky since 1929. Depending on your belief of Dixie's storied past, founder Nicholas Sarakatsannis was a defector or a loyal subject to his boss at Empress Chili and moved his operation far enough across the Ohio River to be an individual, bringing the "sauce" for the first time to Kentucky and what still seems like "Sin City" (more on that later). As for this parlor, it was spotless and inviting, set-up exactly as a traditional parlor is, with large white trays (that I wanted to steal) that ran through a typical lunch line. Every order is made to order, with a scant amount of hot spice and oyster crackers at hand.
Dixie is likely, due to its location, an expatriate recipe, kept the same since '29 with little influence from the Yankees across the river. Though it had the consistency of your base (Skyline/Camp Wash) to a degree, it was minus the sweet, the tang. I grabbed for the Texas Pete for my second coney. The cheese, a neon tangerine mass, always is a constant. It wasn't a horrible experience, but I'll have to put it to a tie with Gold Star -- the lack of flavor, made up for with the freshly cooked beef, was to average to rank above Camp Washington (still the champ, for now).
But the visit was all the more worth it because of its location. I've always known Newport, KY for three things -- the Southgate House, cheap parking below the levee, and the occasional detour for cheap cigarettes and liquor. Never had I ventured down Monmouth St., the business district of this once bustlin' river town. Our casual walk down Monmouth was a bit of a revelation, a bit of a time-warp, and a bit of a sociological vacuum.
Not much has changed, as you can see in the turn of the turn of the century architecture that lines the streets -- old theaters left to rot, rehabilitated churches, scary but charming pubs, extinct business fronts turned to liquor stores. From what I've read, Newport used to have it all. It was a very active alternative to uptight Cincinnati, boasting gambling, bootlegging, prostitution, and the gangsters that ran it all. Those landmarks still dot the city today and it's as everything simply shut off once the sin was run out of town. Maybe that's why Dixie has remained intact? Not much at all has changed (as you can see below), and the state's first chili parlor has likely been adored since the days it was first opened.