The distinctive chilli-topped Coney Island hot dog is considered Detroit’s signature snack food, with no other city or state celebrating it with quite so much spirit. Perhaps it’s Detroit’s claim to the Coney Island dog’s creation that gives the city such pride, or perhaps it’s due to the quality and taste of these unusual hot dogs. Either way, it’s a tradition worth celebrating. Here’s where to sample the best Coney Island hot dogs in Detroit.
While it’s logical to assume that Coney Island hot dogs originate from New York State’s Coney Island, it was actually a recipe born in Michigan, with three local hot dog joints laying claim to the culinary invention. American Coney Island and Lafayette in Detroit, and Todoroff’s in Jackson all tout themselves as the creator of these beef sausage dogs, served in a bun and topped with a meat-chilli sauce, yellow mustard and diced onions.
However, the real root of its creation can be attributed to the immigration of Greeks and Macedonians to the United States in the early 1900s. Coney Island is said to have been the first sight of New York that the immigrants had when they arrived, and a place they would have subsequently visited for its amusement park. The term “hot dog” had previously been banned across the island, in case anyone thought they had actually been made from dog meat. This meant that immigrants who visited simply knew this signature street food as ‘the Coney Island’, and when they created the Michigan variation, they adopted the Coney Island name.
Detroit’s iconic hot dog restaurant American Coney Island, was opened in 1917 by Constantine (Gust) Keros, who was subsequently joined by his brother, William. In 1936, after a falling out between the brothers, William (Bill) opened up a rival restaurant, Lafayette Coney Island, right next door. To this day, competition has been fierce between the two, attracting widespread attention, including globally broadcast television shows.
Todoroff’s in Jackson opened even earlier than this (it dates to 1914), but it’s in Detroit that Coney Island hot dogs are celebrated with the most fervour, with some people even naming the Coney Island dog Detroit’s signature cuisine.
The first stop for many hungry visitors in search of the best Coney Island hot dogs in Detriot is
American Coney Island, which serves up Dearborn sausage hot dogs in a warm steamed bun, with the Keros family’s recipe for chilli sauce, mustard and diced sweet onions.
Lafayette Coney Island is still continually in competition with its neighbour, and each has its own diehard fans. The only way to really set them apart, though, is to try a Coney Island hot dog in each one.
Another of the city’s real originals is Duly’s Place, which opened in 1921. The restaurant shot into the limelight recently when Anthony Bourdain featured it in an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, lauding it as one of the best places to try Coney Island hot dogs in Detroit, and enjoying it so much that he ordered a second.
Venturing away from the downtown core, Detroit One Coney Island is also worth a visit for its hot dog offering. This is one of the city’s most popular hot dog joints, largely due to being open 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Find a space on a counter stool or in one of the booths for your Coney Island hot dog and Greek salad.
Of the chains that have sprung up across the city and further afield, National Coney Island is one that stands out. First opened in the ‘60s by James Giftos, National Coney Island has grown from one small restaurant in Roseville, Michigan, to 20 across the state. It’s at times like this that a restaurant’s popularity really does speak for itself.
Virgin Atlantic operates daily flights from London to Detroit, making it easy to plan your journey.
Have you tried Coney Island hot dogs in Detroit? Where did you go for this signature fare? Let us know in the comments section below.