Detroit: A City on the Rise – Lafayette vs. American Coney Island

Lafayette and American Coney Island sit directly next to each other.

BY CHRIZ ZADOROZNY, Staff Columnist

The rise of Detroit starts with food and with the recent talk of the cuisine Downtown, we look to one of the biggest “food wars” in the city itself.  Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island are the two restaurants that compete for best Coney dog in town.

For those that don’t know what a Coney dog is, it can be defined as, a hot dog inside a steamed bun topped with chili, onions, and mustard.  The original Coney Island, Todoroff’s, was named after the Coney Island amusement park in New York, and opened in Jackson, Michigan in 1914. Later, in 1917 American Coney Island opened in Detroit between Michigan Ave., Griswold St., and Lafayette St.  American is home of the original Coney Dog in Detroit as stated by their website.

Lafayette Coney Island split from American Coney Island a couple of years later after the brothers that formed the original American Coney Island couldn’t agree on some ingredients going into the recipes for the chili.  Gust Keros stayed with American while Bill Keros formed Lafayette, which sits directly next door to American.

It’s not very often you have restaurants that are competing for business owned by the same family but still feuding to this day.  Both restaurants are still family owned and have a different approach to what ingredients go into their chili.

American Coney Island meal with the Coney Dog covered in cheese.

To start, American Coney Island has a more sit down, dining like setting with tables, chairs, and waiters.  The inside is covered with red, white, and blue with lots of pictures of Detroit’s history.  Many celebrities have come into the restaurant and have signed pictures dedicating them to the restaurant and how delicious their Coney dogs are.

Lafayette Coney Island has a diner type setting with a long bar and a long table in the middle.  The inside is rather small, fitting only about fifty people, and almost every seat will be full all night when events are happening in the city. Lafayette too has signed pictures of celebrities and awards for winning food contests.  The one thing that sticks out in Lafayette over American is the pictures of the crew with the Stanley Cup that the Red Wings won a few years back.

The menus are a big difference in both restaurants too.  Obviously, the big ticket items on both menus are the Coney dogs.  American has more of a sit-down restaurant feel as previously stated and it shows in their menu.  They also serve Greek salad, gyro sandwiches, Buffalo wings, and a chicken pita sandwich, among a few others.

The grill where the infamous Lafayette Coney Dogs are made.

Lafayette’s menu is simple; their famous Coney dog, French fries, and chili.  It’s a very small menu but the flavor is in the food to make up for it.  Lafayette also serves beer at a cheaper price, than the beer available next door at American.  In the summertime, both restaurants will have one of their workers outside to try to “recruit” you to come and eat in their restaurant.  It’s a great rivalry between two restaurants that can go back almost 100 years.  It’s up to you to choose which one you prefer.

The only similarity that you will find in the restaurants is that both use the same hot dog from the same company.  You will find the difference in the chili and the onions so it is now up to you to choose determine the fate of Detroit’s great food war.  As Detroit rises, the food will be at the forefront and this is where it all started.  Next week we will talk about one of Detroit’s greatest traditions: the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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