Jade Springart

Weekdays 10:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

There are a lot of things that make Detroit Rock City unique. From the cars and music to Detroit style pizza, Vernors, Faygo and of course, the Coney Dog. That’s why whenever I meet someone from out of town, I tell them to go straight downtown and eat at Lafayette and/or American Coney Island. Personally, I’m a Lafayette girl, but given the history of both, I like to let people make their own decision on which is better.

We all know you can get a Coney at nearly every diner in town, and we all have our favorite spots, but these two places are special to everyone who calls Detroit “home.” That’s why when my girl Ariana came to town for the first time I sent her to the heart of our beautiful city to eat a Coney and chili cheese fries right before getting on a flight back to New York.

Ariana got in her car, drove down to Griswold & Michigan Ave., went to Lafayette and ordered like a pro! She took my advice and got mmy personal favorite order, Coney Dog with everything and chili cheese fries. Here are 5 takeaways from Ariana’s first time eating a Coney in Detroit:

  1. Wow! Lafayette and American actually are right next door!

  2. Ordering for the first time is VERY intimidating. (Good thing I walked in knowing what to order!)

  3. Can’t imagine ordering this without onions.

  4. I love the way the chili melts the cheese underneath on the fries.

  5. This is REALLY good… But I wish the chili had more kick.

So there you have it. Ariana was definitely a fan of her first Lafayette experience. I personally love the Coney sauce as it is although, now that she’s mentioned it, a little hot sauce might do it justice. I also always put cheese on my Coney dog, too. Some people have told me that’s “unacceptable” but I think everyone should be allowed to eat their Coney however they want!

Whether you’re a fan of Lafayette or American, nothing beats a Coney Dog right in the heart of Detroit!

The Mysterious Origin of Michigan's Coney Dog

The actual origin of the Coney dog is as mysterious as it is delicious. As explained by smithsonianmag.com, many claim to be the first to slather chili on top of a hot dog. Many restaurants, both in Michigan and Indiana claim founding dates in the mid-1910s. Perhaps the central point in Michigan would be in downtown Detroit at the corner of West Lafayette Boulevard and Michigan Avenue in Detroit. At this location you have the Lafayette Coney and American Coney, both claiming to have been the first to open. Both of these locations have had a sibling rivalry for over 80 years!

Brothers William “Bill” Keros and Constantine “Gust” Keros, founded the two restaurants to serve autoworkers. Each restaurant claimed they opened first. American Coney says 1917 and Lafayette say 1914. However, city directories do paint a different picture of these dates. The authors of Coney Detroit, say the brothers opened Lafayette Coney together in 1923, and Gust Keros opened American Coney in 1936 after a falling-out with his brother.

Outside of Metro Detroit, Coney dogs vary. In cities like Kalamazoo, Flint and Jackson, their topping is not chilli but a ground beef sauce. The Coney dog has gone beyond Michigan and you can find them in places like St. Petersburg, Florida and Worcester, Massachusetts. In Cincinnatti, their Coney dog chili can stand on its own or even be served with spaghetti!

Where and whenever the Coney dog originated is not as important as how much we all enjoy our Coney dogs and the incredible restaurants we eat them at.

Check out some of the different variations of Coneys:

  • Michigan (in general)

    The Coney Island developed in Michigan is a natural-casing beef or beef and pork European-style Wiener Würstchen (Vienna sausage) of German origin, topped with a beef heart-based sauce, one or two stripes of yellow mustard and diced or chopped onions.

  • Detroit Style

    Detroit style sauce is a bean-less chili sauce, differing from the chili dogs they offer only in the lack of beans. 

  • Flint Style

    Flint style is characterized by a dry hot dog topping made with a base of ground beef heart, which is ground to a consistency of fine-ground beef.

  • Jackson style

    Jackson style uses a topping of either ground beef or ground beef heart, onions and spices. The sauce is traditionally a thick hearty one whether ground beef or ground beef heart is used. This meat sauce is applied on a quality hot dog in a steamed bun and then topped with diced or chopped onions and a stripe of mustard. 

  • Kalamazoo style

    Coney Island Kalamazoo was founded in 1915 and is the longest continuously operated Coney Island in the state. Their Coney Island is made up of a topping made from their own recipe served on a Koegel’s Skinless Frankfurter.

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