Coney Island hot dog
A Flint-style coney (with dry coney sauce) at Rio's Coney Island in Flint, Michigan.
|Place of origin||United States|
|Course served||Main course|
|Main ingredient(s)||Hot dog, or a beef or beef and pork European-style Vienna sausage with lamb or sheep casing, topped with a meat sauce made of seasoned ground beef or beef heart, topped with yellow mustard, white onion and sometimes cheese.|
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 the Macedonian region to the United States in the early 20th century.
- 1 Origin
- 2 Regional and local varieties
- 3 See also
- 4 Lists
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
"Virtually all":233 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."
There is constant debate about when and where the Coney Island hot dog was first served. The earliest known year is 1914, with both Ft. Wayne's Famous Coney Island Wiener Stand in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and Todoroff's Original Coney Island in Jackson, Michigan, opening that year. As specific opening dates for those two locations are not known, and it also being unclear if there are other earlier openings at other locations, the first instance of the Coney Island hot dog is yet unknown and no reliable claim can be made.
Regional and local varieties
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.:234 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.
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.":233
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, 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, Michigan (1915).
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. 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 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 through the Koegel Meat Company. 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 uses a topping of either ground beef or ground beef heart, onions and spices. 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.
Port Huron style
The following meatpackers provide Coney dogs and European-style Frankfurter Würstel (Vienna sausage) to restaurants and consumers in Michigan:
- Koegel Meat Company
- Dearborn Sausage/National Brand
- Winter's Sausage
Many Coney Island restaurants make their own sauces from scratch. However, the different styles of sauces are also available from the following meatpackers:
- Koegel Meat Company: Detroit (Koegel's Hot Dog Chili Sauce) & Flint styles (sourced from Abbott's Meat)
- Dearborn Sausage/National Brand: Detroit style (National Coney Island Hot Dog Chili Sauce)
- Todoroff's Foods: Jackson style
- Abbott's Meat: Flint style
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 ounces. 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. 
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[update] 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.:234
Coneys are on restaurant menus throughout Tulsa:235 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.":235 Oklahoma coneys are small hot dogs on steamed buns with a spicy-sweet dark brown chili sauce, onions, and optional cheese and hot sauce.:235
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.
- Michigan hot dog
- Coney Island, a type of diner
- Coney Island Amusement Park
- Coney Island, New York
- James Coney Island, a restaurant chain in Houston, TX
- New York System wiener, a similar dish also with Greek-immigrant roots
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