When Chris Serena first ate Cincinnati Chili, he wasn’t a fan. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Cincinnati-style chili was everywhere, covered in spaghetti everywhere from diners to restaurants, but he never really fell for the finely spiced meat sauce until he moves to Oregon. “When I was a kid, I really wasn’t into it — I tasted really bland,” Serena says. “I tried doing this in my kitchen (as an adult) and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s awesome. “”
For those unfamiliar, Cincinnati chili is a far cry from the chili spotted in restaurants and homes across Texas and the Southwest. Developed by Macedonian immigrants in the 1920s, the sauce combines beef with hot spices like cinnamon and cloves, often ladled over pasta with a heap of grated cheese. Very few spots in the Portland area achieve this, outside of places like Slow Fox in Vancouver. Serena has started making her own version of the dish, which mixes allspice, cinnamon and cloves with spices spotted in more well-known chili recipes, like chili powder and cayenne pepper. Soon, diners will be able to try Serena’s version in a new food cart: Cascade Chili Co. will open in Milwaukie on June 15, with beef and vegan versions of the quintessential Midwestern dish.
Cascade Chili’s menu is simple: diners can choose between meatless or beef chili over spaghetti, with a number of potential additions: shredded cheese, onions, beans and, a particular Serena favourite: chopped fresh garlic, a nod to Dixie Chili’s “six-way” preparation in Kentucky. Those put off by the chili and spaghetti premise will have a choice of things like all-beef Coney Dogs, topped with the traditional chili, mustard, onions and cheese. Rounding out the menu are sides like Greek salad, chili fries, and tots.
The cart will open at Milwaukie Station Food Carts, located at 11301 SE 21st Avenue in Milwaukie.
Update: This story has been updated to reflect the new cart open date.
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