Thursday, February 20, 2014

Detroit Coney Island Dog

My dad was a Chef but at home he cooked regular food. This is about one of the meals I never figured out. We always had a block of Frozen Chili on the house and I vaguely remember my big brother putting in a sauce pan and thawing it out.

When I went into the military and was living on my own, I knew what to do when I wanted chili. These bricks are easy to find in any freezer section of the market.

After thawing and bringing the chili to a boil, I found some crackers a bowl, a big spoon and was ready to chow down.

Yuck. What? Why did I ever think this stuff was good? Maybe the brand was wrong? Maybe I didn't pay close attention. I don't know but soon I gave up and found a real recipe for chili. Fail.

Last week I found myself in Detroit/Pontiac MI and had to drive a 7 mile stretch of road called Walton Blvd. It was a busy street but I noticed many restaurants and a good percentage of them were either closed or up for sale. The other thing I noticed was that the names of the open and busy ones were, "The Stuffed Bun,

The Classic Coney Kitchen, Nikko's Koney Kitchen, Bob E's Big Chief (The One With The Toasted Bun)."  It was weird seeing pizza joints closed down while there were nice restaurants dedicated to hot dogs.

I mentioned this to one local and heard more than I ever wanted about the Coney Island Dog and how it was a serious Michigan tradition. I called home and my very wise wife tasked me to go have a Coney and report back. :)

At lunch the next day I stopped at Nikkos. I tasted a Coney and then a Loose Coney. I knew I had to ignore how I felt and think about what this actually was. The Coney was a chili dog, a natural encased hot dog on a fresh bun . The Loose Coney was hot dog bun with seasoned ground beef covered with a layer of thin chili sauce. Both had a strip of yellow mustard for a wisp of acidity and a covering of diced sweet onions. Ok, got it. I now know what these guys like and I can now report back, Good.

But how I felt? OMG!!! After years, I finally remember what that brick of frozen chili was about. The memory came back fully and was complete. My brother would boil a pack of hot dogs, then thaw and heat the chili. One day. every couple of weeks we had Chili dogs on Wonder Bread hot dog buns. This is was that brick was for, NOT chili, it was actually chili sauce. Chili, Meat etc. pureed smooth.

Today I made a Detroit Coney and that first bite brought me back, way back.  It made me realize that my dad must have taught my brother (1 year older) how to cook dinner for his 9 and 7 year old brother and sister. This was a bite full of memories. Not just childhood memories but good memories.

I think I now really get the definition of Comfort Food.