The Unvegan

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‘Coney Dog’

Feeling at Home at Detroit Coney Grill

Lit.

My wise wife once said, “You can take the man out of Detroit, but you can’t take the Detroit out of the man.” When I was living in LA, one of the most exciting things to happen was the opening of Coney Dog, a Detroit-style chili dog spot. Due to probably a number of circumstances, that business failed. In Phoenix, however, a spot called Detroit Coney Grill seems to have made all the right decisions because it now has THREE locations in the area. And for some reason the Tempe location closes at 7:00, so I made my way out to Mesa to try it out for myself.

A True Detroit Experience at Coney Dog (CLOSED)

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At home on the Sunset Strip.

We Detroiters (or metro-Detroiters in my case) are adamantly defensive and passionate about our Detroit roots. Ask one of the thousands of Detroit expats what they miss most about their homeland and they will give you answers ranging from the lakes to the sports to awesome summers. But there is one thing just about all of us can agree upon: we miss coney. In LA, we are about as far from Detroit as possible in the lower 48 and absence truly makes the heart grow fonder. Just about every conversation I’ve had with a former Detroiter in the 3-plus years I’ve lived in LA has led to a “wouldn’t it be awesome if we opened a coney restaurant out here?” moment. Yet, while all these conversations were taking place, a few people were making it happen.

A Taste of Home at Upper Deck (REBRANDED)

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If you hail from the great state of Michigan, you know why I took a picture of this.

EDIT: Apparently this place is now called Blitz, but still reps the state of Michigan.

A couple weeks ago I headed to Phoenix with the girlfriend for a wedding. But this wasn’t just any weekend, it happened to be the weekend of the Michigan-Michigan State game. It’s usually a pretty big game, but with both teams undefeated (at the time), it was a game I couldn’t miss. Fortunately, said girlfriend found an interesting bar for me to watch it at in Old Town Scottsdale. It was called Upper Deck Sports Grille and was dedicated to Michigan and Michigan State fans. You would think Phoenix would be big enough to host ex-Michiganders at more than one bar, but you would be wrong.

The Original Coney Dog at American Coney Island

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The Original?

Just before my last visit to my Detroit homeland, I happened to watch a TV show called Food Wars. This show goes all around the country and pits local restaurants against one another. In this particular episode, Detroit’s Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island faced off. The two Coneys were founded in the early 1900s by brothers from Greece and both claim to be the originator of the Coney Dog, a Detroit staple. On the show, American (powered by their sweet Vidalia onions) edged out Lafayette by a vote of 3-2. But how would they fare with the Unvegan? Fortunately an impromptu tour of Detroit with a last-minute visitor brought me to the corner of Lafayette and Michigan Avenue. Wondering which Coney Dog was the unvegan king, I stepped into American Coney Island.

The Original Coney Dog at Lafayette Coney Island

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The Original?

Just before my last visit to my Detroit homeland, I happened to watch a TV show called Food Wars. This show goes all around the country and pits local restaurants against one another. In this particular episode, Detroit’s Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island faced off. The two Coneys were founded in the early 1900s by brothers from Greece and both claim to be the originator of the Coney Dog, a Detroit staple. On the show, American (powered by their sweet Vidalia onions) edged out Lafayette by a vote of 3-2. But how would they fare with the Unvegan? Fortunately an impromptu tour of Detroit with a last-minute visitor brought me to the corner of Lafayette and Michigan Avenue. Wondering which Coney Dog was the unvegan king, I stepped into Lafayette Coney Island.

Getting Chili on Top at Lulu’s Coney Island

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Now that’s loose.

With nearly every visit back to Michigan (time permitting), there is a requisite stop at a Coney Island. You can’t drive more than a few miles in the metro Detroit area without hitting a Coney, and I’m pretty sure they are all awesome. My go-to Coney growing up was Leo’s, but sometimes convenience outweighs loyalty. So last time I was back in the homeland, we went to Lulu’s Coney Island in Walled Lake.

Getting Loose at Leo’s Coney Island (RELOCATED)

Looks are deceiving.
Looks are deceiving.

The phenomenon of the Coney Island is one of the greatest aspects of eating out in the Detroit area in Michigan. Completely unrelated to the actual Coney Island in New York, these restaurants are a result of the mixing of Greek and American foods, with the addition of the famous Coney Dog. Everyone has their favorite Coney Island, and sometimes the favorite one is just around the corner. I grew up with Farmington Coney Island half a mile away and would go at least once a week.