The Difference in Dixie

26 Feb 2013, Posted by admin in Packages,Stories,Two Bank, No Comments. Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Difference in Dixie


With only three locations, how has Dixie Chili remained competitive with the many other chili parlors in the Tri-State? Quality foods, a distinctive menu and a secret recipe.

Story, photos and graphic by Alex Schroff

In an area home to countless chili lords, Dixie Chili & Deli stands out — not because it has many locations (it only has three), but because it has something for everyone.

Owner and proprietor Spiro Sarakatsannis upholds family traditions while constantly adding fresh and healthy choices to the menu.

“I have people come from all over the city because I have the specialty items,” Spiro said of his restaurants, which have operated in the Tri-State since 1929. “Also, I’d like to think (they come) because of the quality of the chili. I use real high quality meats.”

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Spiro slices meat for gyros which feature a special sauce he created.

You won’t just find coney dogs and three-ways at this chili parlor. Customers can order gyros featuring a tzatiki sauce created by Spiro himself. Or vegetarian chili, Greek fries and deli sandwiches. Some items, such as Mediterranean vegetable soup, are made from recipes dating back to the family’s roots in Europe.

Spiro’s father, Nicholas, fled Greece for the United States nearly a century ago to avoid death at the hands of guerilla fighters. Fortune was on his side. While fleeing, he and his brothers were denied access to a village they were attempting to reach because of a flooded river. They later learned the village was assaulted by Turkish guerrillas. No one survived.

Nicholas opened the first Dixie Chili in Newport, Ky. That was more than 75 years ago.

Spiro worked at Dixie Chili throughout high school and college, then found a more permanent role at the restaurant after he returned from the Navy in 1971.

A couple decades later and Spiro, the youngest of six brothers, became sole owner of Dixie Chili when he bought the remainder of the company from his siblings.

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The Newport, Ky., location of Dixie Chili is at 733 Monmouth St.

The restaurant now has three locations, all in Kentucky – in Newport, Covington and Erlanger. That number may seem small compared with Skyline and its more than 130 locations and Gold Star with more than 90, but over the years Dixie Chili has been able to keep locals returning.

Jennifer Williams of Newport has been eating at Dixie Chili as long as she can remember.

“My favorite memory was when they used to have the turn-style seats and as a child we would always love to sit at the windows and eat our cheese coney’s,” she said.

Some of the success of Dixie Chili may be due to a secret recipe, one so secret that most of the spices in it are only known to Spiro. He makes the chili spice twice a week. The spices, quality meats and fresh vegetables keep customers hooked, Spiro said.

“I have a customer who is over 100 (years old), and a lot of customers that are in their 90s,” Spiro said. “You ask them why they come here, and they say because it agrees with them.”

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A glass brick wall separates the dining room from the kitchen.

Having something for everyone is important to keep the business afloat, and it isn’t a bad way to set yourself apart from the competition.

“I have vegetarian chili,” Spiro said. “It has the Dixie chili spices in it. So those who are used to eating meat or who still crave a three-way can still get vegetarian chili.”

Spiro said he doesn’t let chili competitors affect how he operates his restaurants.

“I don’t really think about the other chili parlors very much,” he said. “I’m not studying what they do; I’m not copying what they do. I just keep focused on what we do, which is to keep this place clean and keep the quality of the food up. That takes the majority of my time.”

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