When Skyline Chili opened in Lakewood Ranch on Tuesday, it was hard to tell who was more excited, the owners or the patrons.
Among the first customers of the new 81-seat restaurant with a cult following was Bradenton resident Doug Dillon, who sat at the counter and had his regular, the Three Way, and a cheese Coney.
“I have been waiting on this for a year,” Dillon said of the restaurant opening in The Shops at Commerce Park, 4112 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.
“I won’t have to drive to Clearwater every other Monday to get my Skyline,” Dillon said.
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For the uninitiated, Skyline Chili’s signature spaghetti dish is called “Ways.” Dillon had the Three Way, which is spaghetti covered with chili, and topped with a mound of shredded cheddar cheese.
Also available are the Four Way, which is a Three-Way with onions or beans, and the Five Way, a three-way with onions and beans. Spaghetti is also available without the cheese.
A Coney is a hot dog on a steamed bun, covered in chili, diced onions and cheddar.
Sandwiches, salads, fries, burritos and dessert are also on the menu.
Joan Zai, Amy Groene and Susan Wiegele are the three partners who own the Lakewood Ranch Skyline.
“If you are sitting at the counter, you’re a regular. They like to watch their food being made,” Zai said. “It’s a following. It’s a unique restaurant. We are very excited to come to the Bradenton-Lakewood Ranch community. We appreciate the support and hope to be here a long time.”
Groene demonstrated to a customer how to tackle a three-way, which is served on an oblong-shaped dish.
“You want to eat this long ways. You want to cut through it like a piece of pie so that you get a bite of all three layers,” Groene said of the spaghetti, chili and cheddar.
Skyline was packed with happy, smiling customers Tuesday, appreciative of the tasty food and the friendly service.
“Hey, owners and staff, you did a great job,” one customer called out as he left the restaurant, leading the other patrons in a cheer.
Among Skyline’s first customers Monday was Scooter Gennett, a Cincinnati native and second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, who had his regular, a Three Way.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s about time. A lot of people are excited. They have been waiting for this moment, not having to go up to Clearwater or Orlando to get it,” said Gennett, a graduate of Sarasota High.
Quinn Newhall, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy who now serves as senior vice president of restaurant operations for Skyline Chili, was present for the opening.
“Every kid has his memories,” Newhall said of eating the Skyline Chili while growing up in Cincinnati. “When you stop eating it your body goes through withdrawals.”
To open, the partners recruited and trained a staff of 35, including several students from Braden River and Lakewood Ranch high schools.
“We have had great response from the community. It’s been a long time in the works, but we are ready for them now,” Groene said.
One customer showed up at least 90 minutes before the restaurant opened on Tuesday.
Skyline Chili is open from 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week. In addition to its indoor seating, the restaurant also has a drive-thru window.
The company is marking its 70th year. A Greek immigrant, Nicholas Lambrinides, opened his first restaurant on the Cincinnati skyline.
For more information, visit skylinechili.com.