Detroit-Style Coney Island Hot Dogs

If you’re in Detroit and you’re searching for a hot dog, you’re looking for a “Coney Island,” a term that describes both this chili-soaked dog as well as the establishment that serves them. The Detroit delicacy has almost no direct connection to New York’s fabled Coney Island; both “American Coney Island” and “Lafayette Coney Island,” next door neighbors who both claim to have invented the regional specialty in the early 1900s, were opened by Greek immigrants. Regardless of which restaurant they’re loyal to, Detroiters seem to agree on what defines a classic Coney: A beef and pork hot dog with a natural casing for plenty of snap, ladled with copious amounts of beanless beef chili, a squeeze of yellow mustard, and sprinkled with raw, white chopped onions.

The chili is the star of any self respecting Coney; a slow-simmered, finely ground beef sauce with just a touch of sweetness. The recipes for authentic Coney sauce are as wide and varied as the restaurants that serve them, with some techniques calling for such exotic additions as chopped beef heart, bacon grease, lard, or even ground Greek olives. Our version is a little simpler, but doesn’t sacrifice flavor; the combination of beefy chili, tangy yellow mustard, and pungent raw onions elevates the humble chili dog to a full knife-and-fork meal.

Detroit Style Coney Island Hot Dog


Detroit Style Coney Island Hot Dogs And Sauce

  • Author:


For the Coney Sauce:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcesteshire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

For each hot dog:

  • 1 hot dog bun, warmed
  • 1 natural-casing beef and pork hot dog, grilled or boiled
  • Squeeze of yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white onion, diced


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef. Use a potato masher to break beef up into the smallest chunks possible. Halfway through cooking, add onions, and cook until onions begin to turn translucent. Add garlic, stir to combine, and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, and stir well. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens. If sauce seems too “chunky,” transfer to a food processor and pulse in short one second bursts until chili reaches desired consistency.
  3. To serve, place a cooked hot dog on top of a steamed or heated bun. Ladle with a big coop of chili, and finish with yellow mustard and chopped onions.


Variation: Now that you’ve made your Coney Sauce, try a “Coney Loose Burger.” Top a hot dog bun with seasoned cooked ground beef instead of a hot dog, and finish as above with Coney Sauce, yellow mustard, and chopped onions.


Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.


  1. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve lived in Metro Detroit all my life and never realized that Coney Dogs were something specific to us. Thanks for sharing this – my husband is a huge fan of them, and I’ve never been such a fan that I felt comfortable trying to reconstruct them.

    1. I lived in Detroit Metro area from 1973 to 1978, and i had an uncle who moved his family there many years ago. I never heard anything about Detroit Coney Dogs from anybody, until recently here on the internet. So I think you had to live or shop in certain sections of the city to know about them.

  2. Oh my goodness! My husband and I always went to Lafayette Coney Island. We don’t live there any longer and miss them. My husband of 42 years will be so excited when I re-create these. Thank you so much!

  3. It’s about time that someone gives Detroit some props for this amazing dish! I just saw a commercial for the fast food chain Sonic that depicts a Detroit Coney Dog being described by a Russian Immigrant that lives near Coney Island in NYC, they obviously did not do their research!

  4. This was wonderful. I was skeptical at first of the two cups of water, but it was perfect. I did skip the onions, because they taste like ass, but everything was great. A keeper – thanks for sharing!

  5. i think this is closest to the greek sauce ive known, the tomato paste is the key, noy tomato sauce. some use cumin, some don’t. they are what i remember most from my childhood in canton, ohio

  6. Well, I don’t quite know how to say this. My mother made what we called coneys or chili dogs many years ago when I was growing up in Indiana, and I ate them at restaurants occasionally. I never associated them with any location. I worked in Detroit from 1973 to 1978, and I had an uncle who lived in Royal Oak I believe. I never ever heard anyone talk about Detroit Coney Dogs. Sorry. Just now finding out about this.

  7. I grew up in Detroit, and remember going to the Coney’s at the Northland Mall, and always ordering this with my sister. However, I think one of the other commenters might be on to something, I don’t remember any tomato taste. When I googled ‘loose meat sandwich’ I think I got closer to what I remember. But having said that, I will be trying this recipe, it looks good!

  8. I grew up in Detroit and my husband was born in Flint. We lived in Clarkston, MI. We often took our kids to see the Tigers play ball at Tiger Stadium and we always stopped to have Coneys at the downtown store before the game. Our kids were always so thrilled and it became a family tradition. Lot of great memories.

  9. Yes. The origin of the Coney. Delicious concoction created by Macedonian Immigrants in the early part of the 20th century. In Detroit, Flint, and Jackson Michigan simultaneously.

  10. Detroit and Flint coneys are different, Flint being with thicker sauce. Haven’t been to downtown
    Detroit in a long time. Now I live in Oxford and need to travel no further than to the south end of town. Just off the corner of Drahner road and Lapeer rd, the souathwest corner is a place called Country Coney. You need go no farther. Try their Coney Special. chili, no beans, loose hamburger, onions and mustard in Large, (footlong) or regular size. Go early, they close at 3:30 pm

  11. This was AMAZING!! 1,000 times better than that horrible canned stuff. Exactly like American or National Coney? NO, but delicious!!!! Definitely better than American Coney!!! I didn’t have cumin, but make sure I have it next time. Might use 1/2 the sugar and chili powder. I combined 2 recipes: boil water, stir in tomato paste, then add dry spices and herbs, then add raw ground beef (will break up naturally, no need to put in food processor – 1 less step): it really works!!! Add onions. I used Beef stock instead of water, simmered until consistency I wanted about 2 hours. Any one who has lived in Detroit and has never heard of a Coney Island must be living in a rabbit hole LOL. There are lots of different Coney sauces depending on region. This is the closest I’ve found to Detroit version.

    1. good to know!!! (that is the closest you have found) Yep, growing up in Detroit, West Side, I’d make midnight runs into downtown for a “Coney Island”. Then went to Wayne State and still kept the tradition. Didn’t appreciate them until they were gone!!!–I moved here to Florida. No good Buddy’s Pizza, Coneys and on and on….

    2. You should try RedHots Coney Island in Highland Park. They are the only place with their chili. since 1921

  12. the best was Duly’s on Junction and, until the last month, Coney Joe’s in Brighton. Authentic!!!!

  13. This recipe tastes like home. My husband and I have been craving Detroit Coney.s. I cooked the meat onion and garlic as directed and then pulsed in the food processor to get that wonderful coney texture. Delicious!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.