One of America’s Favorites – Coney Island Hot Dog

January 21, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Coney Dog

A Coney Island Hot Dog (or Coney Dog or Coney) is a hot dog in a bun topped with a savory meat sauce and sometimes other toppings. It is often offered as part of a menu of dishes of Greek origin and classic American ‘diner’ dishes and often at Coney Island restaurants. It is largely a phenomenon related to immigration from Greece and Macedonia to the United States in the early 20th century.

“Virtually all” Coney Island variations were developed, apparently independently, by Greek or Macedonian immigrants in the early 1900s, many fleeing the Balkan Wars, who entered the US through Ellis Island in New York City. Family stories of the development of the dishes often included anecdotes about visits to Coney Island.

In 1913 the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce in New York had banned the use of the term “hot dog” on restaurant signs on Coney Island, an action prompted by concerns about visitors taking the term literally and assuming there was dog meat in the sausage. Because of this action by the Chamber of Commerce, immigrants passing through the area didn’t know the sausage in a bun by the American moniker “hot dog.” Instead, the handheld food would have been known to immigrants as a “coney island.”

The name coney can be traced back over a hundred years as a 48 acre peninsula in County Down, Northern Ireland inhabited by small rabbits called conies. The hamlet was later called Coney Island albeit was not really an island. It eventually became a park and offered many amenities for entertainment and food. As Irish immigrants moved to the United States some entrepreneurs wanted to copy the same type of park. As the original Coney Island started in New York other unrelated Coney Islands opened in Michigan and Ohio.

As the legend goes, one particular vender of Vienna sausage sandwiches, later called Weiners then hot dogs decided to dress up the hand held sandwiches with chili, onions and several other items. They came to be know as coney islands. While chili dogs are known throughout the country, it seems the original name has stuck in the Cincinnati, Ohio area as several hundred chili parlors sells what is simply called a coney today.

 

Regional and local varieties
Indiana

Coney Islands at Ft. Wayne’s Famous Coney Island Wiener Stand
Ft. Wayne’s Famous Coney Island Wiener Stand was opened in 1914 by three now-unknown Macedonian immigrants. Vasil Eschoff, another Macedonian immigrant, purchased an interest from one of the original owners in 1916. Eschoff’s descendants have operated the restaurant since. The Coney Island in Fort Wayne is described as a small, fatty pink hot dog with a “peppery-sweet” coney sauce on a soft bun. However, the ground beef-based coney sauce at Ft. Wayne’s Famous Coney Island Wiener Stand has the flavor and consistency of a mild peppered savory pork sausage, reflecting its Macedonian heritage. The small hot dog is grilled on a flattop, placed in a steamed bun, yellow mustard applied, then a few teaspoonfuls of the savory chili sauce are added which is then topped with chopped yellow onion.

A Flint-style coney (with dry coney sauce) at Rio’s Coney Island in Flint

Michigan
Jane and Michael Stern, writing in 500 Things to Eat Before it’s Too Late, note that “there’s only one place to start [to pinpoint the top Coney Islands], and that is Detroit. Nowhere is the passion for them more intense.”: James Schmidt, in a debate at the 2018 National Fair Food Summit, noted that “Detroit is synonymous with the Coney Dog: you simply cannot have one without the other.”

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. 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. The longest continuously operated Coney Island (in the same location) is in Kalamazoo (1915).

Detroit style

Competing neighboring Coney restaurants in Detroit
In Detroit historically many Greek and Macedonian immigrants operated Coney islands, or restaurants serving Detroit Coney dogs. By 2012 many Albanians began operating them as well. The Greeks established Onassis Coney Island, which has closed. Greek immigrants established the Coney chains Kerby’s Koney Island, Leo’s Coney Island, and National Coney Island during the 1960s and early 1970s. All three chains sell some Greek food items with Coney dogs. Detroit style sauce is a bean-less chili sauce, differing from the chili dogs they offer only in the lack of beans. National has most of its restaurants on the east side of the city, and Kerby’s and Leo’s have the bulk of their restaurants on the west side of the Detroit area.

Flint style

A Flint-style coney (with dry coney sauce) at Rio’s Coney Island in Flint
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. Some assert that in order to be an “authentic” Flint coney, the hot dog must be a Koegel coney and the sauce by Angelo’s, which opened in 1949. However, the sauce was originally developed by a Macedonian in 1924, Simion P. (Sam) Brayan, for his Flint’s Original Coney Island restaurant. Brayan was the one who contracted with Koegel Meat Company to make the coney they still make today, also contracting with Abbott’s Meat to provide the fine-grind beef heart sauce base. Abbott’s still makes Brayan’s 1924 sauce base available to restaurants and the public through the Koegel Meat Company and Abbott’s Meats. Restaurants then add chopped onions sautéed in beef tallow, along with their own spice mix and other ingredients, to Abbott’s sauce base to make their sauce.

Popular folklore perpetuates a myth that a Flint coney sauce recipe containing ground beef and ground hot dogs is the “original” Flint Coney sauce recipe. Variations on this story include either that a relative of the storyteller knew or worked with the former owner of Flint’s Original and received the recipe from them, or that the wife of the owner of Flint’s Original allowed the publication of the recipe in the Flint Journal after his death. Ron Krueger, longtime food writer of the Flint Journal, included it in a collection of recipes from the newspaper but without a cited source, unlike the rest of the recipes in the collection. When asked about this Mr. Krueger replied, “That recipe appeared in The Journal several times over the years. [I don’t] think I ever saw it in the context of a story or ever saw any attribution. It always included the word ‘original’ in the title, but anybody who knows anything knows otherwise.” As to the second myth of Brayan’s wife later allowing the publication of the recipe, Velicia Brayan died in 1976, while Simion Brayan lived until the age of 100 and died in 1990. The actual source of this recipe appears to be an earlier Flint Journal Food Editor, Joy Gallagher, who included the recipe in her column of May 23, 1978. In that column she stated she had included the recipe in an even earlier column. Her apparent source was “a woman who said she was the wife of a chef at the original Coney Island, and that she copied the recipe from his personal recipe book.” Gallagher stated “I believe her”. However, Gallagher also wrote, “I’m not making any claims”. In the same column she also included a second recipe that used beef heart, which she wrote “came to me recently from a reader who swears it is the sauce served at Angelo’s.” The folklore has mixed the supposed sources of the two recipes in this column from Gallagher, with people claiming the ground hot dog recipe is reportedly from Angelo’s. In his column published in the Flint Journal on April 18, 1995, Food Editor Ron Krueger reported taking Gallagher’s ground hot dog recipe directly to Angelo’s co-owner Tom V. Branoff, who refuted the recipe line-by-line. Gallagher’s pre-1978 column is still being researched.

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 hotdog in a steamed bun and then topped with diced or chopped onions and a stripe of mustard. The Todoroffs’ restaurants were some of the earlier locations for Jackson coneys beginning in 1914. However, those locations are now closed. The company currently manufactures and distribute their coney sauce for retail purchase at supermarkets or other restaurants. There are several other coney restaurants in the area, most notably Jackson Coney Island and Virginia Coney Island, both of which are located on East Michigan Avenue in front of the train station near where the original Todoroff’s restaurant was located. These restaurants all use a blend of onion and spices similar to Todoroff’s but use ground beef heart instead of ground beef for the coney sauce. The Jackson style was late to the usage of beef heart in the sauce, using ground beef prior to converting to ground beef heart in the early 1940s. Jackson takes their coneys very seriously. Each year Jackson Magazine or the Jackson Citizen Patriot have a best coney contest voted on by residents for all the restaurants in the area.

Kalamazoo style

Hot dogs from the Original Coney Island Restaurant and Bar in St. Paul, Minnesota

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. Koegel’s wasn’t founded until 1916, and it’s unknown which hot dog Coney Island Kalamazoo used prior to the Skinless Frankfurter’s development.

Minnesota

Hot dogs from the Original Coney Island Restaurant and Bar in St. Paul, Minnesota
Greek immigrant Gus Saites opened his Original Coney Island in Duluth in 1921. The hot dog used is the Vienna Beef from Chicago, which is topped with the restaurant’s own coney sauce, with options of mustard, onion, and for a small fee, cheese. The Superior Street location also offers sport peppers as a topping. The decor includes a copy of their 1959 menu showing coney islands were 25 cents each.

The Original Coney Island Restaurant and Bar, operated by the Arvanitis Family since 1923 in a former Civil War armory, is the oldest remaining business in St. Paul, though now open only on special occasions.

North Dakota
In Grand Forks, North Dakota the three location Red Pepper taco chain (including one in Fargo, North Dakota) offer their Coney Dogg (spelled with two ‘g’s). The hot dog is relatively large at 4.0 ounces (110 g). It’s topped with a ground beef-based topping known as a “mexi meat” which, unlike most coney island toppings, is a thick and mildly sweet Mexican chili. It’s then finished with a pile of finely-shredded Colby cheese.

Ohio

Cheese coneys Cincinnati

In Cincinnati, a “coney” is a hot dog topped with Cincinnati chili, usually with mustard and chopped onions. A “cheese coney” adds a final topping of shredded cheddar cheese. The dish was developed by Macedonian immigrants Tom and John Kardjieff, founders of Empress Chili, in 1922. The coney topping is also used as a topping for spaghetti, a dish called a “two-way” or chili spaghetti. As of 2013 there were over 250 “chili parlors” in Cincinnati serving coneys. The two largest chains today are Skyline Chili and Gold Star Chili. Arguably the most famous is Camp Washington Chili, which is called out by Jane and Michael Stern as their top pick in Cincinnati.

Tony Packo’s Cafe in Toledo, OH serves their own style of coney dog, the “Hungarian dog.” This was made famous on the television show MASH. It is actually not made with a hot dog, but half of a Hungarian sausage.

Oklahoma
Coneys are on restaurant menus throughout Tulsa and were originally created there by Greek immigrants. Jane and Michael Stern write that “Oklahoma is especially rich in classic coneys” and call out the Coney I-Lander, writing they “perfectly deliver the cheap-eats ecstasy that is the Coney’s soul.”Oklahoma coneys are small hot dogs on steamed buns with a spicy-sweet dark brown chili sauce, onions, and optional cheese and hot sauce.

Texas
James Coney Island operates a number of locations in the area of Houston, Texas. The company was founded in 1923 by two Greek immigrant brothers, James and Tom Papadakis; the former being the company’s namesake. The town of Grand Prairie in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex also has a Michigan-style Coney Island restaurant, D-Town Coney Island, which serves both the Detroit and Flint-style coneys.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

Honey Homestead

My quest to grow 3 beehives into financial independence & the homestead that followed

SurreyKitchen

Living Life and Food

Eat the Vegan Rainbow

tips & tricks for plant-based home cooks

Shanice eats

Food, Music & Lifestyle journal

Tony's Fun Kitchen

Food Recipes, Good Times, Fun Conversation

Zest4Food

Savour the seasons with me on a virtual culinary journey and discover international cooking and baking recipes

vickidelbrouck

how to shop the sales and plan menus your kids will love

Green Kitchen Stories

Healthy Vegetarian Recipes.

joypassiondesire

No matter what you have been through, you can feel good again

The Wooden Skillet

- Wholesome + Healing + Real Food -

oliviagonzalez

Chef, Blogger and Food Photographer

The Literary Feast

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” - Virginia Woolf

Home Cooking Heaven

Delicious, hearty, homecooked recipes

More Time at the Table

Cooking with Alyce Morgan

The Painted Apron

This WordPress.com site is about inspiration, creativity, painting & food!

%d bloggers like this: