The Coney Divide

Every city is famous for it’s own particular cuisine.

Chicago is famous for it’s deep dish pizza, Philadelphia is famous for it’s cheesesteaks, New York is famous for it’s . . . well, New York Style Pizza, and then there is Detroit.

Over the centuries, this midwestern city has spawned a variety of regional delicacies, but none are as famous as the “Coney Island Hot Dog”. All one needs to do is wander down to the corner of Lafayette and Michigan Avenue in downtown Detroit, and you will see the birthplace of this Detroit original.

It all started in 1917, when Greek immigrant Constantine “Gust” Keros opened American Coney Island, the first of it’s kind. It was here that the “Coney” was invented. A hot dog, covered in chili, fresh chopped onions, and mustard.

Now, when you wander down to this corner in Detroit, you might notice that next door is Lafayette Coney Island. With the success of American Coney Island, Gust Keros enlisted the help of his brother William to help with the business. When the storefront next door opened up, William moved in and opened Lafayette Coney Island. This sibling rivalry has continued for over 70 years, with both sides claiming coney superiority.

The rivalry has also divided those who frequent these establishments. You will find those who will only go into American, and those who will only go into Lafayette. They swear by their dogs and dare not step foot into the other establishment, as if some punishment will be placed upon them for their treasonous activity.

So, next time you’re downtown, check out these Detroit legends – it’s easy to find, and the dogs alone are worth the trip (Vegetarians, they have some killer cheese fries if you don’t dig on the chili).

2 Comments so far

  1. Tom (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2006 @ 9:43 pm

    This is one of those canards that has become cemented in Detroit lore so much that it’s taken as fact again and again and again. No, the coney was not invented in Detroit. It was invented … get ready for this … on Coney Island, Brooklyn: hot dog, chili, onions and mustard. It only came to Detroit after being served in NYC for many moons. Sorry.

    I will say, however, that this cultural misunderstanding does not take away from the superiority of the Detroit coney, which is far above any regional dog, including the much-lauded Chicago variety. For the record, the Chicago dog is more of a salad (celery salt on a hotdog?) than a dog. Hooray for Detroit!

  2. Jeremy (unregistered) on January 29th, 2006 @ 7:04 pm

    That’s not quite right. In 1867 Charles Feltman, of Coney Island, began selling what he called a “Coney Island Red Hot”. It was a hotdog with mustard, onions and saurkraut. These became very popular and were soon common and, probably because of the large number of tourists visiting Coney Island, quite famous. The Detroit variation with chili, mustard and onions probably was invented in Detroit. I think it is likely that a greek immigrant to Detroit, knowing that Coney Island was famous for their hotdogs, but not knowing what the actual ingredients were, created what we know as a Coney dog and simply called it a “Coney Island Hotdog” for marketing reasons. Interestingly, the Detroit variation is what most people now think of as a Coney. There are places that still sell a “Coney Island Hotdog” with mustard, onions and saurkraut.

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