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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Detroit Coney Taste-Off: American vs Lafayette

A recent trip into Detroit left us wondering where to have lunch and we decided to do the coney taste off, as featured on the Travel Channel's "Food Wars" and soon to be featured on the pilot of the Food Network's "Food Feud."

There are two famous coney islands right smack dab next to eachother in downtown Detroit. Maybe we should back up.... not everyone has "coney islands" or "coney dogs" available locally! What is a coney dog? I guess I always thought it had something to do with New York's Coney Island and that everyone had them, but Wikipedia  has informed me that it is actually a Michigan / midwest food specialty. A classic coney dog is made with an all-beef natural casing hot dog on a soft white bun with an all-meat chili on top, with yellow mustard and chopped yellow onions. It's a tasty combination and Michigan has a plethora of "Coney Islands" (which are little diner-style greasy spoon restaurants) and they all serve coney dogs, among other things like breakfast all day and Hany pita sandwiches, chili cheese fries, and many greek specialties... many Coney Islands are owned by greek families.

There are two styles of a Michigan coney dog - Flint vs Detroit. Detroit's chili topping is more soupy while the Flint topping (made of beef tongue) is dry, more like ground meat. They are both delicious and I know my mom prefers the Flint style. I like them both. I love Koegel hotdogs, which are made in Flint.

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island both claim they invented the coney dog combination. American's website says it was founded in 1917. Lafayette doesn't have a website and I don't know much about its history but it has been in Detroit for a long time, too, right next door to American Coney on Lafayette Street. Lafayette Coney is much smaller and you sit at long old-school diner tables that you will possibly share with other patrons. American is the uniquely shaped restaurant on the corner and has a lot more, colorful dining space. I believe they are both open 24/7.

We went to Lafayette Coney first. We didn't order chili cheese fries but he dropped them off anyway and who are we to turn down fries. I scarfed down my hotdog faster than The Husband could say "geez, Wife" - needless to say, I was starving. This isn't exactly how I wanted to do my hotdog taste off - I had wanted to get take out from both places and then do a side by side comparison, but The Husband just doesn't understand so I just went along. I must say that while Lafayette went down fast, I could not really taste much in the chili topping - it had a nice consistency but I just wasn't getting any flavor from it.

Next, at American coney, we ordered another hotdog. The picture below is a little more sloppy than they are usually served, but that's the general look of a classic coney dog. We both agreed that the chili at American had more flavor and tasted like a classic coney dog that you would expect. It wasn't really that it was mind-shattering.. it tasted like what you'd get at National Coney Island or at the baseball game - and it was great. So, as Food Wars and Food Feud have both voted, we also voted for American Coney. I wanted it to be the little guy, Lafayette... but American coney had a lot more flavor in the chili and it was a tasty coney dog.


  1. Thanks for the info - I haven't been to either so good to know that American is the better option.

  2. I love this! I grew up in the metro-Detroit area and didn't know Coney Islands weren't on every corner until I moved away. The first time my husband went back to MI with me I made him try a coney dog...he was less than impressed. He just thought it was a chili dog! Sacrelig, I know! I also made him try White Castle because those aren't out here in the NorthWest. He wasn't impressed with those either. :) Thanks for this little trip down memory lane!

  3. I have only now discovered your blog. I had planned to pop in and simply say hello, but was lured by your prior posts into staying far longer than I had intended. I really like your blog and will be back as often as is possible. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  4. The two things I look forward to when I'm going back to Detroit is Lafayette Coney Island and Vernor's Ginger Ale. Even though you can get Vernor's in several different places in the midwest it just goes better with a Detroit style coney dog. I'll be in Detroit soon for a Red Wings game and I'm looking forward to coney's from Lafayette Coney Island.

  5. IJust did a taste test of my own.. lived in metro Detroit for all of my 30 years and had never been to either! Been a national Coney Guy myself! Since last night I will now be a Lafayette Guy. I found the compete opposite that you did! The only thing I found American t have better was mustard and fries. Mustard had more bite and fries were not as soggy. The coneys hands down better at the Lil Guy Lafayette! At least my friends and I think so, but this is what makes it such a long lasting feud! !! :-)