Many Detroiters consider themselves coney connoisseurs...Between Kerby's, Leo's, National and hundreds of other great family-owned joints -- Detroit-area Coney Island restaurants all are so similar and amazingly cheap. I like to jokingly blame my Greek roots for my weekend cravings, but I really think it's just me feeling incestuous about my love for Michigan-made products.
The typical Detroit-area Coney Island provides the perfect menu for all to nosh on: classic coney islands, Greek salads, spinach pie, Gyros, baklava and my personal fave non-traditional classic - chicken hanis. Besides the variety of menu choices, I'd have to say my favorite part of my coney visits is that although you may go to different places, the food always gets to you super fast and it generally tastes the same. It's a beautiful thing.
The history of the coney in Detroit is quite fascinating... American Coney Island came first -- established by immigrant Gust Keros in 1917. The restaurant was first started by Keros and his brother, who got into an argument soon after and split their restaurant into two parts -- the present day American and Lafayette Coney Islands which are next door to each other, and who to this day jokingly argue about which is the "original."
So, I guess you could say once again my Greek roots pushed me to experiment -- which one really is better? A few colleagues and I decided to take a rainy Friday to challenge ourselves to determine which takes the prize for being the top Coney Island in the city.
We started at American. After being beckoned inside by an older waiter with a thick Greek accent, we were seated and quickly received exactly what we all wanted -- an original coney with all the fixing's. We were impressed. A snappy Dearborn Sausage dog with chili with a slight kick tasted pretty good going down.The owner, who called himself "Dan-Dan the hot dog man," told us a bit about the history of the two restaurants and claimed American was the best because it was the Detroit original. Before leaving, we got a pic with him (of course, he's the guy with the American flag-inspired hat!).
As mentioned above, most Coney Islands generally have the same fare with the same taste. But, we unanimously decided that American's dog was our favorite. The snappy casing on the hot dog, the passionate owner and the good old fashioned Americana theme was what sold us.
Go out and take the coney challenge yourself. And be sure to frequent your local coney joint. It's a Detroit classic not to be missed!