American Coney, coney dogs in window Bowen

Detroit’s Coney Island: A Rivalry And A Staple

Story By: Lindsay Whitman Drewes

Photos By: Bill Bowen


Detroit is far from NYC, but it still has a long, storied Coney Island history. Find out why Coney Island dogs are a staple to Detroit, why they date back to the turn of the century, and how such a deep-seated rivalry about Coney Island dogs began. After you find out the back story on Detroit’s Coney Island, you’ll have to try some of the best dogs in the D and decide which side of the rivalry you fall on, Lafayette or American?

What is a Coney Island Dog?

A Coney Island hotdog is not just your run-of-the-mill hot dog. Several things differentiate a Coney Island hot dog from a regular hot dog. Sure, both start with a frankfurter of sorts. Coney Island dogs usually have a beef frank on a steamed bun. Then it’s topped with meat (no beans) chili, diced white onions, and mustard.

Lafayette Coney Island, @brigade_hospitality
American Coney Island, Bill Bowen

Coney Island In Detroit

Coney Island dogs are usually associated with New York but Michigan might have an equally long relationship with the dog. No one is sure if the Coney Dog even originated in Coney Island or if Greek Immigrants passing through just borrowed the name.

The first Coney restaurant in Michigan, Todoroff’s Original Coney Island in Jackson, Michigan, was founded in 1914. Detroit’s American Coney Island opened just a few years later in 1917 on West Lafayette Street in downtown Detroit.

Gust Keros came to Detroit from Greece and started American Coney Island. In 1924, his brother William came to help run the business. But when a storefront was available next door to American Coney Island, William grabbed at the opportunity to open his own shop, Lafayette Coney Island. Both restaurants have stayed put side by side on Lafayette street for the better part of a hundred years.

The Keros family has kept American Coney Island a family business. Today, third-generation Keros’ continue to run American Coney Island. Lafayette Coney Island, on the other hand, is no longer in the family. It was passed down to William’s son George who ran it until 1991, when he sold it to employees. Don’t worry, though. They still use the same great family recipes from William’s time.

American Coney Island, Jason Vaughn
Lafayette Coney Island, @thedetroitdiet

Lafayette or American?

So what’s the difference between Lafayette and American? Well, both make a great dog, so it comes down to a matter of preference. American is known for a homemade, slightly spicer chili compared to Lafayette’s meatier family recipe. If you’re looking for a place to sit with friends for a while, American has a larger dining room.

Lafayette Coney Island, @axcachia
American Coney Island, Bill Bowen

The rivalry between the two Coney Island spots in Detroit isn't just some local secret. It's caught the attention of national media, including The Today Show, Food Wars, and Man v. Food, to name a few.

10 Best Coney Island Spots In Detroit

Are you hungry yet? Now it’s time to explore the many Coney Island choices in the Detroit area and decide which you think is the best. Here’s a list of the top 10 places to get a Coney Dog in Detroit.

  1. American Coney Island 114 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226
  2. Lafayette Coney Island 118 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226
  3. Duly’s Place Coney Island 5458 Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48209
  4. Coney Man 3031 W. Grand Blvd., Ste. 230, Detroit, MI 48202
  5. Coney Town 200 GM Renaissance Center, Level A, Detroit, MI 48243
  6. Detroit One Coney Island 3433 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201
  7. Main Street Grill & Coney Island 1985 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, MI 48207
  8. Olympic Grill 119 W. Warren Ave., Detroit, MI 48201
  9. Woodward Coney Island 616 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48226
  10. Zeff’s Coney Island 2469 Russell St., Detroit, MI 48207

And for a tasty vegan option, check out Chili Mustard Onions!

Detroit One Coney Island, @briana__monique
Coney Town
Chili Mustard Onions, @coloradoveganadventure