Cincinnati chili parlors seem to be best known for their power to soak up massive amounts of alcohol in college students. With my own fond memories of a cheese coney and Maker's Mark midnight snack, I decided to check out what PLEASANT RIDGE CHILI AND RESTAURANT (6032 Montgomery Road, 513-531-2365) had to offer outside of the witching hour.
With 10 booths, a few tables and a 1960s-era lunch counter with swivel stools, things are a little tight, so be prepared to inhale some smoke with your hot sauce. The menu has over 100 items, including Cincinnati-style chili served all five ways ($1.20-$3.70), double-decker sandwiches ($2.80-$6), single sandwiches ($1.70-$4), breakfast, which is served up all day ($1.90-$4.50), dinners ($6-$7.50), salads ($1.80-$8) and soups ($1.70). Given the 30 or so food options under $3, it's easy to see why the joint is so heavily populated during a Saturday lunch hour.
My favorite menu category is the double-deckers. Choices include ham and ham, beef and beef and, if that isn't enough meat for you, ham and bacon. There's also the ham and egg, beef and egg or turkey and egg, but, to my surprise, no egg and egg.
I threw caution to the wind and ordered the crinkle-cut gravy fries ($2.20) with my double-decker ham and cheese ($3.70). I asked the server what kind of cheese it came with since the other ham sandwich option specified Swiss. She looked at me in disgust and answered "American." Deciding I was chili parlor-challenged, our relationship only went downhill from there.
My sandwich would have been better with a little onion, but my fries were awful and good at the same time. Swimming in the brown, salty sauce, they were the epitome of comfort food. The gut-busting chili and cheese fries ($5.70) my friend ordered were also mighty tasty. She insisted her chili- and cheese-laden "tube steaks" ($1.30), however, were pretty much the same as anywhere in town.
Salads are what you'd expect from a restaurant than serves a pork sausage sandwich. Forgoing the cheese, my husband's all-turkey chef salad ($8) was a mound of shaved lunchmeat and sliced onions atop a bed of iceberg lettuce with tomato and hard boiled egg slices. It was large, but rather anemic.
The desserts aren't homemade, but the idea of pie after such a meal just felt right, so I conned my husband into ordering slices of sweet potato, lemon and cherry ($2.10). The sweet potato was the best, spiced similar to a pumpkin pie and a little sweet. The vibrant color of the lemon was a bit jarring after our meal of brown, but the tartness of it and the cherry were a nice finish. (Cash only; 9 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday.)