"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: detroit

Taster's Cherce

This comes from Bags:

I grew up in Detroit. Used to go to old Tiger Stadium with my Dad. He once finagled seats right behind home plate for a game with the Yankees. The thing I remember most vividly was Dave Winfield. The man was huge. Just huge. Wait. Not huge. More like a giant. And he had this regal air about him. We were both speechless. I actually think that was the seed of my Yankee fandom, right there. I wasn’t as amazed by Dave Winfield as I was by the idea of New York City.

Tiger Stadium was near the epicenter of one of the great quirks of Detroit. There is a food phenomenon in Detroit known as the Coney Island Hot Dog. (It has nothing whatsoever to do with the place near Brighton Beach.) It is a natural casing dog that is fried on a flat griddle. Ever so slightly spicy. Then it goes on a soft bun. And is topped with a meat chili. And a lot of finely diced onions. And old school yellow mustard.

There are Coney Island restaurants all over Detroit. Coney Island is a food genre. Sort of like Famous Rays here. Anyone can open a Coney Island. But the ones in Detroit are “sub-branded” as they say in advertising. So there is a Layette Coney Island, and an American Coney Island, and a National Coney Island, and all kinds of other Coney Islands, scattered all over the city and the suburbs.

But here is the part I love. The two original Coney Islands are in downtown Detroit, on Lafayette Street. A short walk from old Tiger Stadium. And they are dead next door to each other. The food at one is indistinguishable from the other. But they compete. American versus Lafayette. Lafayette versus American.

They’ve been at it for 40 years. I vaguely recall going there as a very little kid with my Dad and having to walk past the gauntlet of guys out front representing the two places trying to get you to go into theirs and not the other one. Just a classic bit of Detroit weirdness that goes back to when Detroit was this vibrant place full of life and comfortable people and great (now vanished) places like the Lindell AC and the London Chop House.

Anyway. Long way around the bend, here is the story to go with the photo:

I found myself about two hours from Detroit a year or so ago. Had a noon flight back to NY. It was a Sunday. I got up at 5:00 am and drove to downtown Detroit and had myself 4 Coney Dogs with everything. For breakfast. At 6:52 am. Just me and the counter guy and the cook and some belligerent drunk. Beautiful.

Then I drove to the airport and had one more at the Coney franchise in the new terminal there.

For dessert, as Kris Kristoferson would say.

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver