Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

June 7, 2011

Setting the Gold Star standard with chili

RUSSELL — Some would say there is a correct way to eat Cincinnati-style chili.

“You have to turn the plate lengthwise, cut it into bite size pieces and eat it from front to back,” said company spokesman Charlie Howard shortly after the lunch hour Monday during the first day of business at the new Gold Star Chili restaurant in Russell.

Howard explained the technique allows the layered chili to be enjoyed with each of the tastes intact, unlike the traditional method of twirling the pasta around a fork.

“Our first customer, Jim Bailey, ordered a 4-Way. He was obviously familiar with Cincinnati-style chili,” he added.

Gold Star CEO Mike Rohrkemper was on hand for the opening of  the company’s latest Kentucky location, and liked what he saw during their first hours of operation in the Ashland area.

“We had a lot of local people here this morning,” he said, noting his appreciation for elected officials and members of the Ashland Alliance, as well as representatives of King’s Daughters Medical Center and Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, who welcomed them to the local business scene.

Rohrkemper said Gold Star also presented a $1,000 check to the Our Lady of Bellefonte Foundation, and has signed up as a sponsor for next weekend’s Railroad Days celebration.

The chief executive of Gold Star said the new restaurant is an “outer market” location for their brand, and offers a menu with more variety than customers would find at stores in the Cincinnati area because “It is not just chili eaters here.”

Rohrkemper said local diners will find their flagship items such as “3, 4 and 5-Way chili” and coneys, along with Tex-Mex style foods including burritos and nachos, as well as their new line of Double Decker sandwiches. While recognized and known for their benchmark product — Cincinnati-style chili — he said Gold Star Chili also has a vegetarian version in addition to a Tex-Mex chili “which is what most people recognize as a traditional chili,” with any of the styles available on any of their dishes.

The Gold Star CEO said Cincinnati-style chili is different than the type of chili served in other areas for a number of reasons other than the fact it is served over a bed of spaghetti.

“I have heard people describe it as more Mediterranean,” he said, explaining the reference typically refers to the spice profile of their signature style. “It has a smoother consistency and a different taste profile. Our product is not chunky.”

Drawing from the favorites of Cincinnati’s more-than 250 chili parlors, Rohrkemper said Gold Star recently added a line of Double Deckers to their menu, along with what they consider to be “the best milkshake you can get” from any quick-service restaurant. The Chili Cheese Dip on the Gold Star menu was actually developed by customers and adopted by the restaurant after it proved to be a favorite at events, including tailgate parties, Howard added.

Howard said he believes the Ashland/Russell restaurant will be a “destination” restaurant for many customers and Rohrkemper added their chili “becomes a craving kind of food,” as people become more familiar with the flavors.

Rohrkemper said he and other Gold Star  employees were traveling through the area when they noticed the former Skyline Chili location in Russell.

“We were shooting down 23 out here and saw it out of the corner of my eye,” he said, explaining he pulled in and quickly observed it was a vacant building. “We just called the Realtor then and asked them to show it to us.”

The restaurant chairman said the new location could ultimately lead to an expansion of Gold Star’s territory.

“This could be an important location for us. This could almost be strategic development of a new market,” Rohrkemper said, adding they are looking at additional locations in Ohio and West Virginia while actively seeking a few qualified franchisees.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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