Last Chance: Get on the Coney Bus Tour! Hear From 'Coney Detroit' Authors
'Coney Detroit' authors Joe Grimm and Katherine Yung are leading a bus tour of Metro Detroit coneys this weekend and answer a few questions about why they love coneys. UPDATE: Tickets are still on sale! Get 'em now!
This weekend, Coney Detroit authors Joe Grimm of Bloomfield Township and Katherine Yung of Brighton will lead a bus tour of metro Detroit.
The tour will visit some coney local treasures on May 12 – including a stop at Dearborn restaurant Joe's Top Dog Coney Island – home of the Jim Padilla Special, named for the former Ford Motor Co. president. Also included is a stop at a Greek coney classic: Athens Coney Island in Royal Oak.
On the tour, you'll hear the stories behind the restaurants that have made Metro Detroit the coney island capital. The authors will take you into the past and behind the scenes with anecdotes and photos that will help you see coney islands in a whole new light. The dogs, the sauce, the families, the different styles of coneys and how people across the country are copying the Detroit experience — it's all in there. Of course, you'll get to taste some wonderful coney dogs.
For more information and ticket info click here.
Patch: What makes coney island hot dogs so near and dear to our collective Detroit hearts?
Katherine Yung: Coney dogs are Detroit and Michigan's signature food. These hot dog delights are a quick, tasty and inexpensive meal, which appeals to the working-class culture of the region and the state.
Joe Grimm: Coney dogs are comfort food for working people. They are served hot, they are filling, they come fast and they are always affordable. We enjoy the places where we eat them because you can find people from every age and walk of life in a coney island. A coney island is no place for snobbishness or pretension. They are great equalizers.
Patch: Did you pack on the pounds doing all that research?
Yung: Thankfully not! But I attribute that to my high metabolism level. I tried not to go overboard and eat coney dogs every day. But let's just say that Joe and I have eaten a lot of coney dogs over the last three years. And we're still eating!
Grimm: We always have diet drinks.
Patch: What about the variety of coney island restaurants in the area surprised or delighted you?
Yung: We are truly blessed to have a wide variety of coney islands in metro Detroit. People use different kinds of beanless chili and spices, so therefore one coney dog is usually not like another. This variety is what makes eating coney dogs in Detroit so much fun. There's a lot to choose from.
Grimm: Oh, there are so many things. Greeks, Albanians, Arabs and others now run coneys, which used to be pretty much a Greek phenomenon. These are often run by families and you might find family members making your coney or running the till. They take pride in their work. We love the names and characters and some of the artwork that coney islands have. There is room for improvisation in the sauce and the recipes are all top-secret. (But, still, no beans!) Detroit coney islands experiment with coney tacos and even coney pizzas and coney omelets.
Patch: What was the most fascinating thing you learned about hotdogs? (We don't want to know how they were made.)
Yung: The quality of hot dogs in a coney dog really matters. I was delighted to learn that Michigan has a number of local hot dog companies that produce really high-quality hot dogs, such as Dearborn Sausage and Koegel Meats. This is one of the reasons why our coney dogs taste so good.
Grimm: For the book Coney Detroit, from Wayne State University Press, we did visit the supplier industry – the hot dog, bun and chili makers. These tend to be run by the same families for many years. Some are older than the coney islands themselves, which is saying a lot. Hot dogs come in almost as many varieties as the chili and have been formulated for grills. While most coney hot dogs are beef and pork with a natural casing, you can find halal hot dogs, kosher dogs, skinless dogs and, although we don't really favor them, meatless not dogs.
Patch: Flint style or Detroit style? With or without beans? What are your feelings on cheese, onions and mustard?
Grimm: First, we want to mention that all royalties from the writers and the 12 photographers are being donated to the Gleaners Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan. They estimate that each book will buy three meals for hungry people.
Flint or Detroit? We love both the Detroit-style chili sauce and Flint's drier meat topping. When we can, we get one of each. Beans? Never. Cheese, well, that's not really standard on a Michigan coney. You can do it, but we wouldn't call it a true coney. The same goes for ketchup. Onions: Most places use Spanish onions or the sweeter Vidallia onions, now in season. Dice or chop them. Mustard should be the standard yellow kind. Nothing pretentious or fancy.
Yung: Personally I love both types of coney dogs. Beans are not a part of coney dogs. Mustard and onions are, but not cheese. I am a traditionalist when it comes to coney dogs. No ketchup ever!
For more information on the Coney Bus Tour, organized by Grimm, Yung and D:Hive Detroit, click here.