An American tale
While wiener fans everywhere cheered Joey Chestnut’s sixth “mustard-colored belt” at Nathan’s Famous earlier today on New York’s Coney Island, I drove into downtown Detroit to embark on the first of what I hope to be many posts along my path of doggone delicious self-discovery.
I could think of no better place to start this blog, on the Fourth of July no less, than at American Coney Island. Adorning the pie-wedged corner of Michigan Ave. and West Lafayette Blvd., American has been serving up Detroit’s take on Coney Island-style hot dogs for 95 years. Detroiters long have celebrated American and its hotly-contested rivalry with neighboring Lafayette Coney Island. American and its loyal following are well-documented, so I won’t go into much detail other than to say that fellow native Clevelander, famous chef and restauranteer Michael Symon may have called it right when in 2010 he declared American the “number-one coney on the planet.”
It was American, in fact, where I ate my very first coney dog after a baseball game at the old Tiger Stadium, back when I moved to Michigan in 1997. I’ve had plenty of coneys since then, at American and many of Metro Detroit’s better diners. And while I don’t dine at American as often as I’d like, it sure is a treat when I do.
American’s social media manager was kind enough to arrange for a quick tour, though provided the time of day isn’t terribly busy (American is open 24/7/365) the genuinely friendly staff will always answer questions about the legacy and local color. Tommy, my cheerful waiter (pictured below), suggested I start with cheese fries, which comes with grated shreds of yellow cheddar versus the standard gloppy ooze. An ice-cold Vernor’s, practically champagne in Motor City, accompanied the meat of my mission: American’s coney dog.
I imagine the coney sauce is some closely-guarded (Keros) family secret, or at least I hope it is. This magical slather is far too inspired and savory for the palate of the general public to appreciate, myself included. The plain frank is a private blend specially made for American by nearby Dearborn Sausage Company, while the buns are baked another burb over by Metropolitan Baking Company in Hamtramck. Topped with freshly cut onion chunks and a healthy squirt of gold, I tuned out the world and rekindled my love for my fellow American.
I squared away with Tommy and went out into the day’s record heat. Heading back up The Lodge, I would rejoin my family poolside to celebrate Independence Day. Rumor had it we’re grilling hot dogs, and that’s fine by me. I could sport my spiffy new hat.
Thank you to the staff at American Coney Island. You helped make this new blog possible!
Until next dog,
Jerry Abu El Hawa, the server that was kind enough to pose with me, died less than a year after this post. He had been a server at American Coney Island for more than 40 years. I tried making a go of “Hotdoggist” for another few posts, but ultimately decided that being a hot-dog blogger wasn’t my path. For a few short months, however, it was a foot-long of fun.