Coney Dog | Detroit Historical Society (2024)

A Coney dog is a beef frankfurter in natural casing, nestled in a soft, steamed bun. Its topping of an all meat, beanless chili, diced white onions, and yellow mustard distinguishes it from the ordinary hot dog. It’s a misconception that the Coney dog, also called the Coney Island hot dog, originated at Coney Island, New York where Nathan’s popularized the basic frank in a bun. As one story goes, Greek immigrants passing through New York and its famed Coney Island, appropriated the Coney Island name for their Coney dog version.

While no one place can definitively claim to be the birthplace of the Coney dog, Michigan, by sheer volume and duration of its Coney restaurants, makes a strong bid. Detroit’s famous Coney dog restaurants, American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island, followed Todoroff’s Original Coney Island in Jackson, Michigan, which dates its beginning to 1914.

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In 1917, Gust Keros, a Greek immigrant, opened American Coney Island on West Lafayette Street in downtown Detroit. A few years later, in 1924, he brought his brother William to Detroit to help. Keros’s brother opened Lafayette Coney Island when space opened up next door. The businesses have operated continuously in the same locations ever since.

Both of these Detroit Coney Islands are incredibly popular to this day, where there is an on-going argument over which establishment serves the best Coney dog. A true Coney uses made-in-Michigan products such as Dearborn Sausage wieners. The chili recipes, key to the Coney dog, differ: American makes it own chili which is said to be spicier than the beefier chili of Lafayette, made from a family recipe. The dispute has been featured on several food television shows, including Food Wars and Man v. Food.

American Coney Island continues to be owned by the third-generation Keros family, but Lafayette is no longer family-held. There are hundreds of Coney Island restaurants in Michigan, some of the larger Detroit area chains are Leo’s and National. A Coney dog in Vermont and parts of New York is called a “Michigan.”

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FAQs

Where did the coney dog originate? ›

As one story goes, Greek immigrants passing through New York and its famed Coney Island, appropriated the Coney Island name for their Coney dog version. While no one place can definitively claim to be the birthplace of the Coney dog, Michigan, by sheer volume and duration of its Coney restaurants, makes a strong bid.

Are coney dogs a Michigan thing? ›

The variety is a fixture in Flint, Detroit, Jackson, Kalamazoo, and southeastern Michigan. The style originated in the early 20th century, with competing claims from American and Lafayette Coney Islands (1917) in Detroit, and Todoroff's Original Coney Island (1914) in Jackson.

What happened to the original Coney Island? ›

When the Coney Island first closed in 1994, there was a sign on the door that said something like “Closed for Today.” They always said they would reopen when their mother got well and that just never happened. In recent years, the Coney Island has been open for special events and private parties.

What's the difference between a coney dog and a chili dog? ›

They might seem like different names for the same style of hot dog, but Coney Island dogs are smothered with a meat sauce that's not exactly chili—plus onions and yellow mustard. Chili dogs can be topped with meat and bean chili as well as cheese or cheese sauce.

What is the history of the hot dog? ›

One report says a German immigrant sold them, along with milk rolls and sauerkraut, from a push cart in New York City's Bowery during the 1860's. In 1871, Charles Feltman, a German baker opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand selling 3,684 dachshund sausages in a milk roll during his first year in business.

What is the oldest Coney Island? ›

Coney Island In Detroit

The first Coney restaurant in Michigan, Todoroff's Original Coney Island in Jackson, Michigan, was founded in 1914. Detroit's American Coney Island opened just a few years later in 1917 on West Lafayette Street in downtown Detroit.

What was the old name for Coney Island? ›

It is unsure how Coney Island got its name. It may be because when the Dutch people arrived in New Netherland , this island had many rabbits, so they named it 'Konijn Island', which became 'Coney Island', using the archaic term for rabbit in English.

What is a flint style coney dog? ›

Both are prepared with Koegel's Viennas and buns, however, the Flint-style coney is then topped with loose beef, mustard and onions while the Detroit-style coney is more of a chili dog with mustard and onion.

What makes a coney dog a coney dog? ›

How is a coney dog prepared? Its construction is simple: A beef hot dog is plopped on a steamed bun and topped with chili sauce, chopped raw onion, and a squiggle of yellow mustard.

What is coney dog sauce made of? ›

Add 1 large onion (finely chopped), 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder,1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 cup tomato paste, and 2 ...

What is a sonic coney? ›

SONIC's Premium Beef Chili Cheese Coney is an All-Beef hot dog topped with warm chili and melty cheddar cheese served in a soft, warm bakery bun.

What is the difference between a Detroit coney dog and a Flint coney dog? ›

The Detroit-style Coney dog is defined by its natural casing hot dog that is topped with beef heart chili, yellow mustard, and diced onions. In contrast, the Flint-style Coney dog features a dry or loose beef topped hotdog with mustard and onion.

What is the origin of the chili dog? ›

The Texas wiener was created in Paterson, New Jersey, before 1920 and in Altoona, Pennsylvania, by Peter "George" Koufougeorgas in 1918 and originally called Texas Hot Wieners. The "Texas" reference is to the chili sauce used on the dogs.

What's the difference between a Coney dog and a Spanish dog? ›

Spanish Hot Dogs or Coney Dogs: The sauce for both is similar. It's a meat and tomato-based sauce, but with a Coney Dog, they usually top them with chopped onions and yellow mustard. Chili dogs are similar, too, but will have added beans in the sauce.

Who originally owned Coney Island? ›

During the time of European settlement, the Dutch owned the part of Brooklyn that consists of Coney Island, but they chose not to establish development there. Instead, they granted the land to English colonists, who established the town of Gravesend on the island.

What's the difference between a Flint Coney dog and a Detroit Coney dog? ›

The main difference between a Detroit-style coney and a Flint-style coney is the sauce or chili topping used on the hot dog. Detroit-style coney sauce: Has a soupy, loose texture almost like a thin chili. Contains beef heart along with ground beef, giving it a distinctive meaty flavor.

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