Stone Mountain, Georgia, is 738 miles from the best known home of the Coney Island hot dog - Detroit. But for more than a year now, a Coney Island restaurant in suburban Atlanta has been backing up their motto, "A Taste of the D in the ATL."
Out of a strip mall location in the shadow of Stone Mountain, Motor City Coney Island has the Detroit flavor of the Coney dog made and served up by, of course, Detroiters.
A brother and sister team runs Motor City Coney Island, born from an idea of - what else - a craving for a Coney Island dog.
The Stone Mountain location brings in transplanted Michiganders and local hot dog lovers alike, says Bowden.
"We think we are poised for success now, because after we’ve been here for a year, we're constantly getting new people coming in too," he says.
Motor City Coney Island's specialty is the "Detroit-Style" Coney hot dog - the same kind of Coney you will find at any of the Detroit area Coney places, even legendary Lafayette Coney Island or American Coney Island restaurants in downtown Detroit.
The Detroit-style Coney dog is a specially selected hot dog that is grilled, put into a steamed bun, then covered by an all-meat beanless chili, two strips of yellow mustard and chopped sweet onions.
The dogs are shipped from Koegel's Meats in Flint, Michigan, as is the "Detroit-style" chili. The all-meat, no-bean chili is more sauce than chili, but it’s got a great kick and flavor in it from traditional Hungarian spices. Together, Coney lovers will agree, it's magic on a bun.
Michigan-made Better Made potato chips are available, as well as soda - or Vernors and Faygo brand "pops," as they say in parts of the Midwest.
"And don't forget the pop," says Terrnia Williams, a native Detroiter who now lives in Stone Mountain. "Now, that's pop - not 'soda' or 'soda pop' - but you have to have a pop. I have Faygo Rock & Rye here."
She's happy to find a taste of her hometown in her new home state.
"No, never thought I could get a Coney in Georgia," she says.
The dogs are also known as "snappers," for the snapping sound they make when you bite into one after fully grilled.
"The natural casing is a big part of it. But it’s the quality of the dog and the way its prepared," says Bowden. "A Coney dog has to be grilled. The natural casing is where the 'snap' comes in. The flavor stays in until you bite it. It doesn't dry out like some other dogs might."
Koegel's hot dogs are found at almost every Coney Island restaurant in the city of Flint and in other Coney Island restaurants in southeast Michigan.
The Coney-style hot dog originated in Jackson, Michigan, but the Michigan Restaurant Association believes Detroit, by far, has the most in the state.
“We have found over 100 different Coney Islands by name in the Detroit area alone. And that doesn’t even begin to count the many that have multiple locations,” says the association’s Territory Manager, Todd Ross.
The Atlanta area is among a few other cities with a Detroit-style Coney shop: In suburban Charlotte, a Coney restaurant opened last year, and actor-director Mike Binder, who grew up in the Detroit area, opened a 65-seat, 24-hour Coney restaurant in Los Angeles called Coney Dog.
Regardless, Stone Mountain’s “Coney” king says don’t expect him to change anything any time soon.
“We're not going to be something we're not. The Chicago dog? That is not going to happen,” says Bowden.
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