Written by: J. Vigotsky
Each year, thousands of spectators flock to Brooklyn on July 4th to witness the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest. But despite the contest’s location in the heart of Coney Island, none of the eaters will be consuming actual Coney Dogs. If you’re now asking yourself, “What is a Coney Dog,” then keep reading. This post will answer just that.
Coney Dog Ingredients
The foundation for a Coney Dog is made with a hot dog or sausage that's been grilled or boiled. But aside from that, there is no one recipe. Some Coney Dogs are topped with chili or ground beef. Others feature mustard and onions. And some have all three! Sauces are also often used to give the dish a little extra kick. Since different regions of the country have their own preferences, the ingredients used in each Coney Dog largely depend on where you’re located.
Coney Dog Origin
The term “hot dog” was often misinterpreted in the early 1900s. To many immigrants who spoke little English, a dog was a furry friend with four legs. So when a piece of meat was advertised as “dog,” people raised a few eyebrows. As a result, the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce outlawed the term “hot dog.” Vendors adjusted, and the food item soon became known as a “Coney Island.” The modern day Coney Dog is a variation of that. Greeks and Macedonians who passed through Coney Island upon immigrating are credited with taking the classic “Coney Island Hot Dog” and making it the “Coney Dog” people know and love.
Where are Coney Dogs Most Popular?
Today, Coney Dogs are most popular in the South and Midwest United States. States like Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas all put their own unique spin on the dish. Ingredients used even vary by each city within a given state.
Take Michigan for example. Ground zero for Coney Dog lovers, the state generally uses Vienna-style sausages rather than hot dogs. Despite that, there is still plenty of variation in how Coney Dogs are prepared and served.
- Detroit – The biggest metropolitan area in the state is known for serving bean-less chili sauce atop its Coney Dogs.
- Flint – Coney Dogs in Flint are topped with finely-ground beef heart. Trimmed from the muscles of the heart wall, beef heart is considered a muscle but still has blood vessels in it. So if that’s not your thing, you might want to opt for another city’s Coney Dog.
- Kalamazoo – These Coney Dogs are made with a topping derived from a local product called Koegel’s Skinless Frankfurter.
- Jackson – Despite Michigan’s reputation for using Vienna sausages, Jackson’s Coney Dogs are made with traditional hot dogs. Along with onions, spices, and mustard, these Coney Dogs are also topped with ground beef or ground beef heart sauce that’s especially hearty.
If you’re ready to take the leap and try a Coney Dog, be sure to do some research first. Since different restaurants have their own way of making the dish, you’ll want to scout them out beforehand. See which Coney Dog is best for your specific taste and then have at it.