Coney Islands are a unique type of Greek American restaurant. There are dozens of brands and variations throughout the nation today, always centering around the hot dog as the main item on the menu. And it all began in Motown– Detroit, Michigan, by Greek immigrants in the early 1900s.
*For non-Michigan readers: A coney dog is a hot dog with onions, yellow mustard and a meaty coney sauce. For less than $2, one up (a dog with everything) is a cheap meal served in the hundreds of coney island restaurants in metro Detroit, as well as other locations across the state.
Two of the most well-known Coney Island restaurants are the Lafayette Coney Island and the American Coney Island, which are located right next to each other on Lafayette St. in downtown Detroit. They have a common root, with the original restaurant having been established by Greek immigrant brothers Bill and Gus Keros in 1914. According to often-disputed local legend, the brothers got into an epic business dispute soon thereafter, and in 1917 split their restaurant into the two establishments that exist today.
The Michigan food tradition that has spread throughout the nation finally got the memorial that it deserved when Katherine Yung and Joe Grimm published Coney Detroit, a mouth-watering coffee table book published by Wayne State University Press. The Lafayette vs. American feud is one of the main stories in the book and explains how it plays a central role in Detroit folklore.
If you are a Greek American foodie, love Greek American history or a fan of the hot dog, this book is for you. More about the book Coney Detroit:
Detroit is the world capital of the coney island hot dog-a natural-casing hot dog topped with an all-meat beanless chili, chopped white onions, and yellow mustard. In Coney Detroit, authors Katherine Yung and Joe Grimm investigate all aspects of the beloved regional delicacy, which was created by Greek immigrants in the early 1900s. Coney Detroit traces the history of the coney island restaurant, which existed in many cities but thrived nowhere as it did in Detroit, and surveys many of the hundreds of independent and chain restaurants in business today. In more than 150 mouth-watering photographs and informative, playful text, readers will learn about the traditions, rivalries, and differences between the restaurants, some even located right next door to each other.
Coney Detroit showcases such Metro Detroit favorites as American Coney Island, Lafayette Coney Island, Duly’s Coney Island, Kerby’s Coney Island, National Coney Island, and Leo’s Coney Island. As Yung and Grimm uncover the secret ingredients of an authentic Detroit coney, they introduce readers to the suppliers who produce the hot dogs, chili sauce, and buns, and also reveal the many variations of the coney-including coney tacos, coney pizzas, and coney omelets. While the coney legend is centered in Detroit, Yung and Grimm explore coney traditions in other Michigan cities, including Flint, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Port Huron, Pontiac, and Traverse City, and even venture to some notable coney islands outside of Michigan, from the east coast to the west. Most importantly, the book introduces and celebrates the families and individuals that created and continue to proudly serve Detroit’s favorite food. Get the book here.