Monday, July 7, 2014

Coney Island Hot Dogs, Just Like They Make in Detroit

The story of how the Coney Island hog dog got to the Midwest is pretty straightforward, but no one really knows exactly how the wiener first came to be topped with what is basically a hot meat relish. 

We don’t call it that for obvious reasons, but it does add an entirely new dimension to the old frank. There are many stories, but regardless of how, it only takes one bite to know why.

Like every other ancient American recipe we post, I have no idea how authentic this is, and have never been to Detroit, or even Flint. I have had Nathan’s version, which I enjoyed, but the word on the street is that it’s not nearly as good as the relatives it spawned.

By the way, I’m assuming that if you’ve had the real thing, you’ll let me know if this is even close. Like I said in the video, it’s a long summer of hot dog eating, and I think this coney “don’t call me a chili dog” is a great way to shake things up. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for enough Coney Sauce for 8-10 hot dogs:
(all spices are to taste!)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (lean)
2 tbsp butter
2 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp chili powder or to taste
1 tsp cumin
pinch cayenne
2-3 cups water
1/3 cup ketchup
- Simmer about 1 hour or until desired texture is reached


Unknown said...

Chef John:

As a native Detroiter, I was happy to see you take a crack at this recipe on the blog today!

Also, as someone who has grown up on the real thing, I can tell you that your version, while not authentic, is a very good approximation and is similar to something I've cooked up when I didn't want to leave my house. You've got the right idea with the fine texture for the meat and the spices you used are authentic (though the specifics and proportions can vary from establishment to establishment).

A couple key differences, though:

1) You should really try this with a Michigan natural casing hot dog, such as Koegel's or Kowalski, which unlike their smokey all-beef New York bretheren are much milder, a little sweeter, and made with a mixture of beef and pork. The natural casing also gives them a pleasant "snap" of a bite. Don't quote me on this, but I believe Michigan also has unusually high standards for hot dogs when it comes to fillers/water content/etc. (which wouldn't surprise me because Michigan hot dogs are delicious and you should really try one when you get the chance).

2) Believe it or not, there is no tomato product in the sauce. The unique flavor comes from using a mixture of chuck and beef heart (the proportions vary and some establishments use pure ground beef heart!), as well as sometimes other organ-type stuff like beef suet.

So perhaps what you've made isn't completely authentic, but it's a good cheat (and the mustard/onions/steamed bun are spot on). If you had the Michigan dogs you'd be 90% there :)

Love the blog and have been using it over the past year or so to teach myself how to properly cook. Thanks for the Detroit Coney shout out with this post!


Steve said...

Born, raised and live in Detroit - looks pretty good, need to try it. You can nuke the bun for a steamed effect and the hot dog need a bit of a "snap" - I like Koegel vienna's. The real test is if its too messy eat with your hands and requires a fork and knife - then you have an honest to goodness Detroit coney dog.

Jenn said...

We have a recipe for Flint coney sauce and one of the ingredients is ground hot dogs -- I think 4 hot dogs -- and a pound of beef. The recipe actually says "cheap hot dogs," but we use Koegel Viennas to keep it authentic!

BenBarefoot said...

I'm from Toledo OH, which is on the border of Michigan and Ohio. (Go Bucks!) I will tell you the best hot dog you will ever have "Coney Style" comes from here... Not Detroit! The hot dog you are searching for is The Tony Paco hot dog. Tony Paco's is a Toledo restaurant that distributes their hot dogs to supermarkets. Although, I don't know if they have national or regional distribution. Far better than any hot dog I've ever had, and they have the best coney sauce too... which they call Paco's Sauce. Oh, and I forgot to mention the best pickles. I won't buy any other hot dogs, coney sauce, or pickles. It has to be Paco's. Paco's came from the side of T-town that was mostly Hungarian immigrants at the turn of the century. That might help shed light on the history of the Coney Dog.

That being said... Ours are better!

Ohio and Michigan have battled many times. There was once even an Ohio Michigan War... over Toledo! Guess who won? And just like our 19 century militia, our football team, and our drivers being better, so are our hot dogs, hot dog sauce, and pickles!!!

Birder said...

What about an immersion blender instead of the potato masher? Or would that maybe be too over-the-top?

Unknown said...

This looks absolutely amazing!! I am going to have to make it. What a lovely recipe.

Josh said...

I can't authenticate your sauce there but, I grew up in the south and we'd call that a chili dog. Now, that you're talking about dogs and all, might I suggest brats? For me, there's only one way to do a brats. Yes, it involves a beer hot tub.

Anonymous said...

That looks like a mighty tasty dog, Chef! Boiled burger! I never knew how they did that. I love them coney dogs. I'm gonna try it two ways. this recipe and maybe try it with a little Mediterranean spice like that old Greek guy in Cincinnati!

Jesse from Detroit said...

Nice. Almost as ugly as the city. Congrats on the 1080p upgrade! You continue to inspire...

Michael James Hill said...

Detroit schmoit. I was really hoping that you would post Flint, MI Angelos coney dog. The dog is a Kogels, as others have noted. And the coney sauce is not a sauce, it is completely dry and granular. There is rumor of beef suet. Definitely there is paprika. The original owners of Angelos were Greeks. And when you "plate it up" we are talking a bed of white onion.You need to research this. When the 1970 crash came and auto workers left Flint, stands appeared in the Southwest advertising "Flint's Original Coney" for all the immigrants. Angelos is gone and the sad rumor is that this fine culinary masterpiece is no longer available. Even the net fails us. Over to you Chef John.

RubberDuck1111 said...

I can't wait to try this version. As a Flint native I dearly miss a good coney. All we have here are chili dogs which are a poor poor substitute. Jenn and Patrick are both correct. The older recipies call for beef heart and sometimes kidney however, newer recipies use "cheap" hotdogs (read non-koegel) that are ground up and added to the beef. Hearts and kidneys can be hard to find and are used as an ingredient in hotdogs, which are easier to come by. You don't want anything fany for the ground hotdogs. You want the regular, skinless, mystery meat varity.

Dave said...

Patrick Moore is absolutely correct. I have a Flint Coney Resource site at with the "What Is It?" page showing packages of Abbott's original sauce. That sauce has beef heart as its first ingredient. The site is constantly being improved and updated, and suggestions are welcome.

Unknown said...

"Wiener Routiner" Lol…. I have used this technique several times now with different ingredients. Classic meat sauce, italian, etc.. Last night it was mexican style food. I prefer the texture when its cooked this way. Thanks Chef.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post C.J. this looks good. I have enjoyed Coneys and Chili Dogs all over this great country, but I am a Cincinnati native and have to say nothing can compare to the Cincinnati-style Coney. The chili recipie is similar to yours but with the addition of cocoa, maybe some cinnemon. The dog is assembled as you have shown but finishing with a huge pile of finely grated mild cheddar. Fabulous!

Unknown said...

Growing up in Detroit (now living in Austin) I CRAVE the real deal Detroit coney. It's truly a remarkable thing. I second all the comments made prior and would like to add that even the onions are a critical component - Vidalia onions chopped, not sliced. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I hope I don't come across as nasty but your photographs bear no resemblance to Detroit chili, which is very soupy. In addition, in the 20 years I lived in Detroit, I never once detected the presence of tomato in any chili I was served, either on a dog or as a "soulful bowl full." It's also my understanding that beef heart should comprise at least some of the meat.

Kristina said...

I love how this became so territorial! Guys, he didn't say one was better than the other yeesh. With that said, as a native Detroiter now living on the west coast, I had to try this recipe out. I was pleasantly surprised! The only difference I could tell between this recipe and coney island chili was the grease. Coney dogs at times can be too greasy hence the soupiness. But if that's what you're looking for you can always do three cups of water. I found two cups to be enough. There's also a mention of the chili not having a tomato base which is also true. However I only used three tablespoons and it wasn't overpowering at all. It helped loosen the base so that the meat wouldn't be as chunky with water alone. I tried initially without a little ketchup just to see the difference. Great recipe John! Now I don't have to worry about coney island being my first stop back home when I can make this at home anytime.

John said...

Hardly anything remotely coming close to Detroit sauce.

Why do hacks who couldn't boil water foist their myopic nonsense on the web? Seriously.

Unknown said...

the part people are missing is that the folks who designed this sauce were Greek immigrants and they added Mediterranean spices in small amounts...namely cinnamon and cloves. All the ingredients posted in most recipes are just regular ol' chili...chili powder and cumin...that's NOT Greek chili dog sauce even though it may taste good. Add a half tsp of cinnamon an 1/8 tsp cloves and you'll get that back-end flavor to the sauce.

JDUBYA said...

Here is the history behind the Coney Dog, For all that attempt to make a suitable effort to replicate give yourself a pat on the back. I thank you for you input. I have one question American or Lafayette? Ohio I think you invented a mess.

Coney Dog

Many people think that the Coney dog, also called the Coney Island hot dog, got its start on Coney Island, NY where the hot dog was created. In actuality, this popular food got its start in Michigan, although the exact location is still disputed. Three locations in Michigan all claim to be the birthplace of Coney dogs: American Coney Island in Detroit, Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit and Todoroff’s Original Coney Island in Jackson.

"In 1917, Gust Keros opened American Coney Island. A few years later Keros’s brother opened Lafayette Coney Island next door. Both of these Detroit Coney Islands are incredibly popular to this day, where there is an on-going argument over which establishment serves the best Coney dog. The dispute has been featured on several food television shows, including Food Wars and Man v. Food.

A Coney dog is a beef hotdog, topped with an all meat, beanless chili, diced white onions, and yellow mustard. A true Coney dog uses made-in-Michigan products." Written by Caitlin Brennecke

Martin said...

This is a great recipe (don't, please , buy canned crap) --- hint, you have to keep an eye/ stirring this, or the fat layer prevents a reduction. When an hour has gone by, you have Coney Gold for your dogs.

Unknown said...

Detroit Coney's are pretty much just a chili dog. I grew up in Flint, and have found a recipe that is simple and cheap to make a Flint style coney. one thing you forgot to mention in your video is the key ingredient of Kogle Vienna hot dogs. If not available you can settle for a natural casing Vienna style hot dog - boars head in New York makes them - Here id the Recipe - please try it, it tastes the same as Angelo's or the night Owl that used to be on Dort Hwy across from AC Spark plug. Natives will know what i am speaking to.

Flint's Original Coney Island
1 lb hamburger ( not lean)
1/2 lb beef hot dog, ground up ( the cheap hot dogs work best)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons mild paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 cups water
1. Mix all ingredients in a heavy pan and cook over med to low heat until mixture cooks and becomes dry and crumbly.
2. If it seems too wet or greasy, add a few crumbled saltine crackers.
3. Best if made a day ahead and reheated in a frying pan.
4. Freezes well.

The Galls said...

Hi Chef John,
I've enjoyed your videos for many years and just now stumbled upon your Detroit style coney dog blog. I'm from the Detroit area and agree with the other comments that traditionally there is no tomato products in the sauce and it includes beef heart, suet and more greek spices but substitutes will work for the heart and suet.

I think the biggest difference in your version and true Detroit style coney island hot dogs is the consistency of the sauce. It should be more like a gravy with the bits of beef suspended. To accomplish this, traditionally saltine or soda crackers are used like flour in a roux to absorb the fat and thicken the sauce. It should be loose and run onto the dog with a spoon; but thick enough that is does not run off or immediately get absorbed in the bun. It should just sit there until you dig in and then it get's messy requiring a knife and fork.

I encourage you to try a 2.0 version and show the world what a real Detroit style coney is like.

Unknown said...

While everything is spot on my family prefers a grilled split top bun not the steamed side cut bun. A restaurant in Alpena Michigan called "Luds" used this style bun and we got hooked.

Unknown said...

I've made this several times. It's very good. Thanks Chef John for cracking the codeđź’—

Crann777 said...

Sorry BenBareFoot, but the best coney dog in Toledo is Rudy's. Don't get me wrong, I like Packo's as much as the next guy, but they put too much spice in their sauce and all that you can taste is cayenne. Plus, they're up to what, $3 a piece for a hot dog? Nah, go to Rudy's, get the three dog special and enjoy life.