If I smell coneys, spring is coming

Sign in front of yellow hot dog stand says "Opens Feb.1."

Feb. 1 is the traditional start of the coney season at this place. Photo by Bobby Alcott for the book “Coney Detroit”

Despite Detroit’s snowiest January on record and temperatures that are stuck below freezing, sprint is coming.

How do we know? The robins?

No. Bill’s Drive-In in Ypsilanti customarily re-opens and starts serving coneys on Feb. 1.

That day, I will be joining a bunch of Michigan State alumni at an MSU basketball and coney party at Atwater in the Park in Grosse Pointe Park.

Go Green! Go Coneys!

Hollywood’s Coney Dog restaurant closes

The coney dog restaurant in Los Angeles has been sold and turned into a Lebanese restaurant, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Restaurant writer Sylvia Rector reports that the Coney Dog’s celebrity owners lost “a lot” of money with their Detroit-themed restaurant, which opened in 2011. Investor Mike Binder is quoted as saying that the restaurant was popular with Detroit ex-pats and generated buzz, but couldn’t generate enough money. It featured coney ingredients and a bun steamer from Detroit as well as Faygo, Stroh’s and Better Made chips.

Rector quoted Binder as saying, ““In fairness to them, you can only eat like that so much. … And the people in L.A. said, ‘It’s just a chili dog.’ … It quickly became obvious that there weren’t enough people who wanted that kind of food in Los Angeles.””

And this is why we live in Detroit.

CBC crosses the river for a bite of Coney Detroit

I had a great time talking coneys — and eating them — with Jonathon Pinto, Canadian journalist for CBC Radio.

One of our great disappointments in researching the book “Coney Detroit” was that although we included coney islands near and far, we couldn’t find any such restaurants in Windsor. Fortunately, Detroit has a couple great ones close to the tunnel — and others near the bridge.

Detroit Harmonie seeks new coney island hot dog recipes

Detroit chefs and foodies are turning the city’s signature food inside out in the $10,000 Top Chef Coney Detroit Challenge sponsored by Detroit Harmonie.

The group’s third International Experience challenged competitors to reimagine the coney dog with an international twist. The finals will be at 8 p.m. March 23 at the Carr Center, 311 E. Grand River Ave., and tickets are available online for $20.

To see the 20 semi-finalists at work, click on any photo you like. Use “next” and “previous” to flip through them, use your + or – keys to resize them. View their creations on a coney dog concoctions page.

All photos by Joe Grimm, co-author of “Coney Detroit,” who felt called to judge the semi-finalists and, on March 23, the finalists.

American Coney Island opens in Canton

Detroit’s iconic American Coney Island keeps growing.

Today, it opened a 50-seat coney island at 44532 Michigan Ave. in Canton. The grand opening featured a free coney for each of the first 50 diners.

The hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 7 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday.

American has been on a deliberate expansion track lately.

In 2012, American announced it would be part of The D, Las Vegas’ newest casino hotel, and it went into Ford Field.

In 2011, American collaborated in the launch of a 1,250-square-foot “café-style eatery” at the Detroit Zoo.

That’s four places to get your American coney islands, besides the original location on Lafayette Boulevard downtown You can also have them shipped to you.

Detroit’s best coney islands — a shocker

Local 4 television viewers have voted in a best-of-Detroit coney contest which has some astounding results.

One of the winning coneys is also featured in our “100 coneys in 100 days” series.

The usual suspects are not on this list — anywhere. Although we have been to or heard most of what we estimate to be about 500 coney islands in the Detroit in the course of writing and promoting “Coney Detroit,” several were new us.

So be shocked — and learn about some new coney islands — by checking out this unusual list of top-five coney islands in the Detroit area.

A new coney in town

Big Bite Coney & Grill coney island in Canton, MI

I stopped in last week at Big Bite Coney & Grill in Canton.

It is a big place just across Ford Road from Plato’s Coney Island.

Few people welcome rivals who move in right across the street, but coney competition has proven to be a recipe for success in plenty of places, starting with the neighboring coneys in downtown Detroit and Jackson.

Big Bite offers a big menu and a $1.99 coney island.

Big Bite Coney & Grill
42400 Ford Road
Canton, MI 48187

734-981-6877

www.bigbiteconey.com

National Coney Island serves up Greek fries

After a delightful evening talking about “Coney Detroit” at the Harper Woods Public Library on Oct. 3, Katherine Yung and I stopped off for — coneys. Talking about them always makes us hungry.

We went to the National Coney Island at Harper and Eight Mile Road and, with our coneys, checked out a new menu item, Greek fries.

They come with lemon juice, oregano and feta cheese.

Our waitress told us they have been on the menu since the summer’s Greek festival.

We support innovation. Another new item we have seen in recent months has been a Skyline Chili style spaghetti and chili dish at the Leo’s franchise in Royal Oak.

– Joe Grimm

Another Detroit-style coney opens outside Michigan

Detroit coney love continues to spread with the opening of Motor City Coney Island in Dallas.

Eater reports that the coney island opened in August with coneys, gyros, Philly cheese steaks, Reubens, burgers, coney island-style loose burgers and Greek salads.

Dallas’ Motor City Coney Island
is at 1300 Main Street.

It is in good company. It joins:
* Motor City Coney Island in Henderson, Nev. (profiled in “Coney Detroit)
* Coney Dog in Los Angeles
* Bobby’s Detroit Coney Island in La Quinta, Calif.
* Motor City Coney Island ATL in Stone Mountain, Ga.
* Detroit Coney Island, Kentucky

Are there more? Leave a comment.

The weiners and champion

DeShawn “Whip Dog” Whipple, the 2012 American Coney Island champion, with Grace Keros, former Detroit Piston Rick Mahorn, Danny Keros and “Coney Detroit” co-author Katherine Yung.

The winner in American Coney Island’s coney eating contest on Sept. 5 was a 32-year-old from Detroit.

The American Coney crew gets the dogs ready for the big chowdown.

He gobbled up a little more than 10 coneys in 10 minutes.

Whipple entered last year’s contest, but this was his first win.

He won a year’s worth of free coneys from American, dinner at the downtown restaurant Roast and a gift certificate at the Detroit Shoppes at the Somerset Collection.

Do you want fries with those?

His technique, he said he tried not to eat too fast and to pace himself.

“Coney Detroit” co-author Katherine Yung was a celebrity judge and helped make sure that everything was honest and fair.

The contest was a benefit for the Keros Family Scholarship Fund for culinary students at the Golightly Career and Technical Center in Detroit. Several students helped with the contest and some alums came out to show support.