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Coney Detroit

Katherine Yung and Joe Grimm

Publication Year: 2012

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. Not a book to be read on an empty stomach, Coney Detroit deserves a place in every Detroiter or Detroiter-at-heart’s collection.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Painted Turtle

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

Detroit is the heart of the Coney Nation, as you are about to see. Nowhere else in the world will you find as many coney island restaurants, as many ways to eat coneys, or as many people who love them...

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pp. 1-3

Michigan is the coney capital of the world. Whether prepared Detroit-style with a beanless chili sauce or a meat topping like they do in Flint and Jackson, coney dogs have ingrained themselves in the...

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Lafayette and American Coney Islands

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pp. 4-11

Metro Detroiters can thank these two side-byside coney islands for sparking the region’s love affair with coney dogs. Many of the operators of today’s popular coney islands got their training...

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Duly’s Place

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pp. 12-13

Its customers still sit on small red stools at a long counter, with a dark brown and tin wall behind them and a tin block ceiling overhead. Duly’s is still open twenty-four hours, seven days a week, at the...

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Coney Hot Dogs

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pp. 14-19

Their beef and pork hot dogs are not filled with potato starches, mechanically separated turkey, and corn syrup. But what really sets them apart is their natural casing skin, which gives coney dogs that...

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Detroit’s Coney Chains

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pp. 20-23

In Detroit’s suburbs, Leo’s Coney Island, Kerby’s Koney Island, and National Coney Island are everywhere—in stand-alone locations, tucked inside malls and strip centers, and at the airport and...

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Leo’s Coney Island

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pp. 24-25

Pete said, ‘Leo’s sounds better than Pete’s Coney Island,’” Leo Stassinopoulos says. “Nobody knew the company was going to be like this.” Pete doesn’t seem to mind. The Greek brothers own...

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National Coney Island

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pp. 26-27

In 1965, the Greek immigrant launched his first coney island at the Macomb Mall in Roseville, Michigan. Today National Coney Island operates more than twenty-three restaurants, including three at...

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Kerby’s Koney Island

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pp. 28-29

One branch of the family owns Kerby’s Koney Island, one of metro Detroit’s three major coney chains. Four Keros brothers—Tim, Bill, Van, and the late Gus—learned the business at their...

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Coney Buns

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pp. 30-33

Not just any buns will do. They must be made the old-fashioned way, using the sponge dough method for a better taste and smell. And they must be served fresh and warm....

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The Coney Mall Pioneer

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pp. 34-35

The late Anthony “Tony” Keros, the oldest son of the founder of Lafayette Coney Island, is largely responsible for why coney islands exist at many Detroit-area malls today....

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Athens Coney Island

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pp. 36-39

This Royal Oak favorite has been attracting coney lovers since it opened its doors in September 1964. Back then, Athens could seat only a dozen customers. Its dining area consisted of five stools and...

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Counter Culture

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pp. 40-43

It matters not whether the person next to you is a millionaire or a pauper; you might sit next to either at a coney counter. But as you eat, bank account and station do not matter. You are cut from...

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Pontiac’s Historic Coney Islands

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pp. 44-49

Back then, thousands of coney fans flocked to the corner of Saginaw and Jackson streets to indulge their passion at Pete’s Coney Island, Walt’s Original Coney Island, and Angel’s Coney...

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Flint-Style Coney Dogs

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pp. 50-57

Many Detroiters on their way up north are surprised when they stop for a coney dog in Flint. These coneys are served with a loose meat topping, not the beanless chili that’s...

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Jackson Coneys

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pp. 58-63

Today Jackson is one of the few places that can boast about having two historic coney islands on the same downtown block. Generations of Jackson residents grew up eating...

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Lower-Fat Coneys

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pp. 64-67

We’ll spare you the details, but it’s not as horrible as you might think. “They’re better than Big Macs,” says Terry Keros of Kerby’s Koney Island. Of course...

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Bill’s Drive-In

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pp. 68-71

And the hot dogs are made by Dearborn Sausage using a special recipe from the former Salay Meats in Flint. The taste draws hordes of Michiganders to Bill’s...

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George’s Senate Coney Islands

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pp. 72-75

The restaurant is located at the Bushwood Golf Club and looks out on the nine-hole course. Every summer it hosts a few small weddings on its patio. George’s refers to owner George Dimopoulos. Like...

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The Coney Artist

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pp. 76-79

Joe Gohl has created more than seven paintings of scenes from Lafayette Coney Island, American Coney Island, National Coney Island, Zeff’s Coney Island, and others...

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Coney Island Lunch

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pp. 80-83

The restaurant is one of the state’s oldest coney islands. According to owner Bill Adams, Greek immigrant Gus Marinos opened Coney Island Lunch in 1915. He sold it in 1933 to another...

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Mama Vicki’s Coney Islands

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pp. 84-87

This “over the top” chili may sound like coney heresy, but that’s the way it’s been done for decades at Coney Island Lunch, now called Mama Vicki’s Coney Island. It’s one of the oldest...

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House of Doggs

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pp. 88-91

To add some excitement during these slow winter months, the hot dog haven keeps a scorecard of sales of the “Motowns,” the Detroit coneys, and its Flint coneys, which it calls...

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Beyond the Coney Dog

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pp. 92-95

Some coney islands have even created their own twists on the coney dog by making them with kielbasas or spicy hot dogs or sausages. And in Dearborn, many coney islands sell halal coney dogs...

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Outside Michigan

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pp. 96-103

But don’t dismiss these out-of-state coney dogs. Some of them are a treat, even if they aren’t made with Michigan hot dogs. So the next time you’re traveling, try to find a coney island. You might...

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Detroit Motor City Coney Island

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pp. 104-107

In downtown Henderson, Nevada, a short drive southeast of the Las Vegas strip, Emanuel “Manny” Sanchez operates Detroit Motor City Coney Island. Don’t let the palm trees outside this small...

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Neon, Neon in the Night

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pp. 108-111

When other restaurants around them are cold and closed, coney islands are warm, steamy places where you can get a quick bite and people won’t hassle you to hurry back out into the...

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The Last Bite

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pp. 112-113

But nowhere in the world can match Detroit and Michigan when it comes to coney dogs. With each new decade, demand for these tasty concoctions has grown stronger, as evidenced by the...

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You’re Never Far from a Coney

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pp. 114-116

How many coney island restaurants are there in the Detroit area? Who knows? Some of the best don’t even have “coney island” in their names. And many, many restaurants that serve coneys cannot properly...


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pp. 117-121


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pp. 123-126

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814337189
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814335185

Page Count: 136
Illustrations: 160
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: Painted Turtle