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Breaking down the history of the Coney dog

A Coney Island hot dog from one of the many American Coney Island restaurants.
Flickr user Eugene Kim
A Coney Island hot dog from one of the many American Coney Island restaurants.


A recent MLive poll asked readers: What’s Michigan’s state food? Climbing above competitors such as the pasty, the Boston cooler and Superman ice cream, the Coney Island hot dog emerged on top.

The Coney Island hot dog is an key part of Michigan’s food scene, especially in Detroit. But how did it become so popular? And how did it get its name?

Joe Grimmlooked to answer that question in a book he co-authored with fellow journalist Katherine Yung, Coney Detroit.

Many Coney Island restaurants were founded by Greek immigrants. The restaurants became a staple for the working class in and around the Detroit area.

Yet some aspects of the Coney Island hot dog’s history remain unknown. For example, no one knows where the first Coney Island was made. It’s possible it was made around the same time throughout the country, in places like Florida and New York.

Other aspects of the history remain controversial. The debate still rages on whether American Coney Island or Lafayette Coney Island was the first to open in Detroit.

Listen to full interview with Grimm to learn more about the Coney Island hot dog’s history.


GUEST Joe Grimm is the author of Coney Detroit and editor in residence at Michigan State University.

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