feasting with friends

Michigan Monday: The Detroit Coney Dog

Detroit Coney Island Hot DogIf you’re from Detroit (or southeastern Michigan…or Michigan for that matter) you are probably well aware of Coneys. For the uninitiated…a Coney dog is a beef hot dog (in the natural casing), in a steamed bun, topped with an all meat, (no bean) chili, diced white onions, and yellow mustard. A true Coney dog uses made-in-Michigan products.

Detroit Coney Island Hot DogContrary to popular belief, Coney Dogs do not originate from Coney Island, New York. They are, in fact, from Michigan. I’ve always been told they are a Detroit original. It was through my research (Yes…I do research on occasion, wink, wink) for this post that I discovered a bit of controversy. It’s not really known where the first coney was served.

Detroit Coney Island Hot DogIt is known, however, the first coney was served at one of three restaurants. American Coney Island in Detroit, Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit or Todoroff’s Original Coney Island in Jackson. Hmmm…controversial indeed!

Photo via Wikipedia

A bit of the Detroit coney history…in 1917, Gust Keros opened American Coney Island in Detroit. A few years later, Keros’s brother opened Lafayette Coney Island right 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. I’ll plead the “5th” in this matter… ;))

The love of these dogs in our house put me on a mission to duplicate the coney chili (sauce) in my own kitchen. Through much trial and error and tasting and adjusting, I hit the jackpot of Detroit coney flavor!

Detroit Coney Island Hot DogMy sauce has a slightly redder hue than the variety found at the Detroit restaurants…but the flavor is there… reminiscent of the taste indeed!

Detroit Coney Island Hot Dog

Detroit Coney Island Hot Dog Sauce

  • Servings: Lots! - enough for at least 2 dozen hot dogs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Detroit Coney Island Hot Dog
1½ cups fine diced onion (plus additional ½ cup or so for serving)
1/2 Tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds ground beef
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
12 ounces water
12 ounce bottle of Chili Sauce
3 cups beef broth or stock
2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used “Frank’s”)


In a large, deep skillet or dutch oven heat the oil over medium. Sweat the onions until they are soft and slightly translucent, about 10 minutes. (Don’t allow them to brown or caramelize.)

Add the ground beef and the dry seasonings (chili powder, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper and garlic powder) and continue cooking over medium heat until the meat is browned through.

Drain the meat drippings and discard.

Add the tomato paste, water, chili paste, beef stock/broth, mustard, vinegar and hot sauce. Stir occasionally as it heats through. Once the sauce obtains a soft boil, reduce burner heat to low, cover and simmer for at least 2 hours.

To Serve:

Cook hot dogs (remember, you MUST use hot dogs in the natural casing for the true coney experience). Our preferred home preparation is boiling, though they may be cooked on a flat grill.

Steam the buns. I steam them on a flat mesh strainer over the pot of hot dogs.

Place cooked hot dog in steamed bun; top with coney sauce, diced onion and yellow mustard. (NO ketchup allowed!)






  1. This post brought back nice memories of my father. When I was young, he often took us to get these dogs…alas not in Michigan but Texas. I must make some soon. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • What goes on top of the dog definitely “makes” the dog. 🙂 Making the sauce from scratch was a new endeavor for me. I had always purchased the pre-made variety in the past. Thank you, Judi!

    • Thanks so much, Ronit! I think most people associate the coney with NY – it simply makes more sense! All I know is I’m happy the Greek immigrants brought their recipes to Detroit. 🙂

  2. Hmmm, good information there on the Detroit Coney Island hot dog, Nancy…. I’ll bet you had some happy campers in your home when you served these :)They look extra yummy!

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