The rivalry between American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island has been going on in Detroit for decades. This “best Coney Island in Detroit” story was recently highlighted on the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food. However the shows host, Adam Richman, didn’t man-up and actually answer the question, “Who has the better Coney Island?"
I will answer that question. But first, the backstory.
For those of you not from the area, a Coney Island is a hot dog topped with chili, raw onions, and mustard. It’s what other people would call a chilidog. (Interesting fact: in Canada and upstate New York they call our Coney dogs “Michigans.”
Gust Keros immigrated to Detroit (via Coney Island, NY) from Greece in 1903 and founded American Coney Island in 1917. His nickel Coney Island hot dogs were a success and he brought his brother William over from Greece to help. William opened Lafayette Coney Island right next door.
Now it must be said that my husband, with all his British-ness, hasn’t been able to muster up the gusto to try a Coney dog. He likes hot dogs and he likes chili but he didn't want any part of the happy marriage of the two. We’d go to a Coney Island or I’d stop and bring some home and he would order a hot dog. I mean, who does that? It was embarrassing.
But he saw the Man v. Food episode and when we were walking past the neighboring Coney Islands on our way to Roast a few weeks ago he sprung it on me. He wanted to do a taste test.
Yay! He was finally going to try a Coney!
We went to American Coney Island first. It was spacious and cheery with its red vinyl chairs and black and white tiled floor.
The order was the same at both establishments: two Coney dogs with everything and a side of fries. The Coney dogs were good at American but my husband kept saying something tasted bitter. I’m not sure what that was about. The fries seemed fine and the service was great.
Then we stepped next door to Lafayette Coney Island, which was quite dingy and cramped in comparison, and I immediately noticed a funky smell. I told my husband that I liked American better.
But then the food came! The chili had more substance and a slight kick. The hot dogs were perfect and slightly grilled on the ends. And the fries, oh the fries! They were cut thinner than American and perfectly golden brown.
At Lafayette Coney Island, with the Formica counters and tables, you felt like you had just travelled back to the 1950’s. The Coney dogs and fries were far superior to American Coney Island. The service was just as great at American but at Lafayette they actually talked to us and made us laugh.
I was quite amazed at the difference; I always thought a Coney was a Coney was a Coney. That is not the case. Lafayette Coney Island is the hands down winner in our little “Best Coney Island in Detroit” taste test.
The most fabulous part of our little Coney experiment? My husband is now a Coney-convert, he’s been craving them ever since!
Who serves your favorite Coney dog?
If you enjoyed this check out Detroit Coney Islands: Wars & Feuds.