84. Mike’s Coney Island, Detroit

2719 Russell St.
Detroit, MI 48207

313-259-8151

My coney has a first name …

I like a place like Mike’s where, when you walk in the door, the actual Mike is hard at work at the grill

Mike Chaalan runs this place up Russell Street from Zeff’s Coney Island in Eastern Market and seems not to be the least bit concerned that he is not on the busier end of the strip. Few coney island owners act like the competition bothers them. That’s because every coney island owner you ask tells you that their coneys are the best.

Chaalan says that his 10 stools and four tables fill up with white collars from downtown and blue collars from around the market district.

The look, once you find the place, will make you smile. It has a bright, sunshine-yellow exterior and what some have described as a robin’s egg blue interior. The décor is diner.

In December, 2011, Chaalan, who is Lebanese, said he had owned the place for 13 years, changing its name from Joseph’s Coney Island to his own name.

Several of the entrees are named after Mike or Big Mike and he has an unusual dish in the “Mike’s chili fries special, which is fries topped with chili and cheese – that’s normal – but then he adds two chopped hot dogs.

It is nice to visit a place where, if you have a complaint or a compliment, you can deliver it right across the counter to the CEO.

70. Dodge Park Coney Island, Sterling Heights

35252 Dodge Park Road
Sterling Heights, MI 48312

586-795-2895

I just had to pull into Dodge Park Coney Island, named as it is after the road it is on.

It has 10 booths with mirrors over them, five tables and a counter that wraps around the cash register.

The place’s burger and sandwiches – there are more than 20 – are referred to as Park items.

Coneys are 99 cents on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

69: American Coney Island, Detroit

Photo copyright Rob Terwilliger for "Coney Detroit"

American means coney island to many people.

Danny and Grace Keros, from the first family of Detroit coney islands, run this place and work hard to maintain its standards and reputation.

When food networks come to Detroit to tell the story or to pit one coney against another, American is always on the docket.

MLive declares winner of Michigan’s best coney

We’ve seen coney contests before. They typically pit one place against another. Often, they are right next door to each other. But John “Gonzo” Gonzalez escalated the coney wars when he went out in search of the best coney island in all of Michigan, capital of the Coney Nation.

With readers providing guidance and Coney Detroit along as coach and to prevent injuries, the MLive Michigan Coney Dog Project has a winner.

After three days, 10 Michigan cities, 700 miles and about 30 coneys consumed, Gonzo answers the question none dared ask before: Who serves Michigan’s best coney dog?

The challenge was tough — Gonzo went back for a tie-breaking taste test — but he has gone with his gut and declared the winner. He has also delivered a top 10 list that can be a coney-eater’s guide to Michigan.

We won’t steal MLive’s announcement. Gonzo’s winners are here.

This will settle everything, once and for all. (Oh, sure.) Come back for some of my experiences on the trip and to comment in our forums.

– Joe Grimm

Michigan’s best coney island is:

Tune into MLive.com Tuesday to see John “Gonzo” Gonzalez’ choice in the Michigan Coney Dog Project.

John Gonzalez

He has been a tireless taste-tester in checking out the top choice of MLive readers for the best coneys in (by taste-test order) East Lansing, Jackson, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Bay City, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Muskegon.

Gonzo put his health and reputation on the line by eating more than 20 coneys April 18-20. No man has given so much for his fellow Michigan coney lovers.

As Coney Detroit co-author and concerned friend, I visited most of those coney islands and hot dog stands with Gonzo, but did not match him dog for dog and left the decision up to him.

– Joe Grimm

Search for state’s best coney starts on Wednesday

It all starts Wednesday. MLive’s John “Gonzo” Gonzalez will go where no man has gone before, attempting to identify the best coney dog in the entire coney-lovin’ state of Michigan. He plans to announce a winner on April 24.

John Gonzalez

He began with surveys of MLive readers across Michigan, who have identified their favorites. He will now take the top of all those local lists and set out, through Jackson, Ann Arbor, Detroit and half a dozen other cities, testing two or three dogs in each place to come up with a winner.

I will be his coach and cheerleader at many of these places, but the decision will be all Gonzo’s. I plan to join him at Duly’s in Detroit and all the stops in Flint, Bay City, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Muskegon.

Here is his itinerary:
Continue reading

Gonzo for Michigan’s best coney dog

MLive’s John “Gonzo” Gonzalez has been training for an epic task. Starting with the recommendations of MLive readers from (Michigan) coast to coast, he hits the highways April 18 in search of Michigan’s best coney dog. I will be his coach. While I do plan to sample, I will refrain from voting.

There will be a lot of weight on Gonzo’s shoulders. We’ll keep you posted. Here is the fight card for MLive’s search for Michigan’s best coney dog. Come, meet Gonzo and cheer on your favorite coney.

– Joe Grimm

54. Zeff’s Coney Island, Detroit

The breakfast crowd at Zeff's Coney Island in Detroit's Eastern Market

2469 Russell St.
Detroit, MI 48207

313-259-4705

This is a Detroit classic, located in a strip of storefronts that tack down the south end of Russell Street, the main drag in Detroit’s Eastern Market.

Joe Gohl with his painting of Zeff's/Copyright Bobby Alcott for Coney Detroit

It’s menu tends toward subs, sandwiches and wraps and it is a busy breakfast spot, but it knows how to put out a coney and its usual companions: the plain hot dog, the loose burger in a hot dog bun and a coney taco. Zeff’s builds its coney on a steamed hot dog bun, not taco chips or a tortilla, like some other places.

For the book Coney Detroit, we included Joe Gohl of Dearborn, a coney fan with a paintbrush, who was painting a scene at Zeff’s. He had done several other coneys and worked his way on toward Zeff’s.

Good choice. You can see more of his work in the book.

Zeff’s Coney Island is featured in the book “Coney Detroit,” published by Wayne State University Press. This photo is from one of the 125 color photos in the book. All author and photographer royalties go to Gleaners.

Have you been to Zeff’s Coney Island? Do you have a favorite place for coney island hot dogs you’d like us to visit? We love your comments.