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Here's one way to celebrate 100 years of Cincinnati chili

First Empress Chili parlor 9th & Vine streets downtown Cincinnati.jpg
Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library
The first Empress Chili parlor was at 9th & Vine streets in Downtown Cincinnati where the public library now stands.

Cincinnati chili turns 100 this year. The Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library is marking the occasion by bringing current chili parlor owners together.

Why the library? As they say in real estate — location, location, location.

"It's not probably a fact that a lot of folks know: Empress Chili had their first location on our South Plaza," explains Paula Brehm-Heeger, Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Director of the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library.

RELATED: Cincinnati chili: A history

That first chili parlor at 9th and Vine opened Oct. 24, 1922. The site is currently under construction, but Brehm-Heeger says it's been a lot of things.

"It was Abolitionist Congressional Church, and then it was Empress Chili and the Empress Theatre. So we're honoring that because it was actually right there next to our 1950s South Building."

Brothers Tom and John Kiradjieff were Macedonian immigrants and the first to introduce what would come to be called Cincinnati-style chili. They named the parlor Empress after the Empress Theatre.

"They had a hotdog stand and then they moved into the storefront there next to the theater, so they used that name so that people would have sort of a marker and know what it was — Empress Chili was easier to remember than some other names perhaps," says Brehm-Heeger.

Skyline Chili came along a few years later in 1949. Brehm-Heeger chuckles as she points out the first Skyline was in Price Hill because "we have a library in Price Hill so everywhere there is a chili parlor, there's probably a library not too far away."

To commemorate 100 years, the library is inviting owners of today's chili parlors to gather Monday for a picture to celebrate Cincinnati chili. The event starts at 11:55 a.m.

Corrected: October 24, 2022 at 1:31 PM EDT
This story has been corrected to say Vine Street, not Walnut Street.
Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.