The Cincinnati-based restaurant chain is beloved in the Midwest
It’s a chili so loved by its fans that it’s inspired Halloween costumes.
Someone penned a haiku about it on National Poetry Day.
One blogger is even on a journey to visit every Skyline Chili location in the country.
And soon, he’ll have to make a stop in Lakewood Ranch.
The Cincinnati-based company known for its broth-like chili spiced with cinnamon, cloves and vinegar is planned for a shopping center being built at 4112 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., about a mile south of State Road 64.
Skyline Chili was founded in 1949 by Greek chef Nicholas Lambrinides and today has grown to more than 150 restaurants scattered through Ohio, Florida, West Virginia and Kentucky.
The shopping center's construction is expected to be completed in August, which means that Skyline Chili’s fans could have a local source for their chili fix this year.
The Midwest staple is served on a bed of spaghetti and smothered with fresh cheddar cheese (some people like the addition of chopped onions), and its fan base is almost as impressive as the mound of food the company puts in front of its customers. Skyline Chili has a cult-like following comparable to what we’ve seen from Trader Joe’s and Wawa’s arrivals in the Southwest Florida retail market.
It's the second brand like that to announce a move here in recent weeks. Northeastern fan favorite Shake Shack has signed a lease in the University Town Center area and is likely to open next year.
Like Shake Shack, there are probably quite a few folks in Southwest Florida eager for Skyline Chili’s arrival.
Cincinnati is Sarasota’s 15th-largest market for tourists, according to Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. We don’t actually have figures that show precisely where our snowbirds come from but, typically, they tend to mimic the patterns of our tourists.
Sarasota also has deep-rooted ties with the city, she told me, from the decade the Cincinnati Reds spent their spring training seasons here in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
If this chili is as powerful as everyone says it is, no wonder the Reds left. That’s a long time to go without a chili fix.
Meeting that need today means a drive to the company’s closest locations in Clearwater or Fort Myers, finding a copycat recipe or tracking down a Publix that carries the chain’s frozen line.
And for Skyline Chili fans, this isn't just a food. It’s a culture.
Like Wawa and Trader Joe’s, it's the kind of thing that people dream about when they can’t have it and turn out in force to welcome once it's here.
It’s why people are writing haiku poems about it on Instagram and dressing up their children as Skyline Chili Coneys for Halloween.
And while I doubt it’ll do something as powerful as bring the Reds back, at very least it should bring out that cult-like crowd.
Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @MaggieMenderski.