Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Claiming the chili dogs

I doubt this will interest anyone outside the state of Michigan (or maybe New York), but something I read at ann arbor is overrated (a pretty good blog, despite a title I philosophically disagree with) raised my left eyebrow.

As Michiganders - or perhaps more specifically, metro Detroiters - know, "Coney Islands" are chili dogs that have somehow become a popular regional food, even though they're named after a place in New York. I realize you can get a chili dog most anywhere and in many of those places, maybe they're referred to as a Coney Island.

But in Michigan, these places are everywhere, often Greek-owned, serving breakfast all day, along with Gyro sandwiches, Greek salads, etc. But the Coney Islands are the main attraction. In Detroit, the two most popular Coney Island joints are right next to each other. These chili dogs have been claimed as a local culinary treat. Maybe it's a legitimate claim; I honestly have no idea. (Hopefully, a Michigan reader can set me straight.) What I do know is that I haven't seen Coney Island restaurants anywhere outside of Michigan (I'm snobbily not counting A&Ws). Man, I'd love to have one here in Iowa.

Logic tells me they must be in New York, but maybe I didn't see any because I traveled with the vegetarian Mis Hooz. In my limited travels, I haven't seen them in Baltimore, Charleston (S.C.), Kansas City, St. Louis, San Diego, or Chicago. (Chicago has their own magnificent hot dogs, which deserve a blog entry of their own.) I'm sure they're out there (and I hope I hear about them); I'm just saying I ain't seen 'em - and yes, that's probably because I'd rather have something besides a chili dog when I'm visiting another city.

What is the point of all this? Why are you killing time around the work you're supposed to be doing, reading about friggin' chili dogs? In upstate New York, those "Coney Islands" are called "Michigans." Does this mean this kind of chili dog somehow originated in Michigan? Or were they created in New York? I know - your noodle is baking right now. Take all the time you need to digest this.

As you contemplate, here's an article by Plattsburgh, NY columnist Gordie Little, in which he tries to find the origin of "Michigans."