Texas has it’s brisket, Chicago is known for deep dish, and in Detroit we have our Coney Dogs. Brought to Michigan in the early 1900’s by Greek immigrants—you know what, forget the history lesson. Hot dog, onions, mustard, and a meaty (typically beanless) chili sauce—experienced veterans go “heavy, heavy.” They’re cheap, never keep you waiting, and a traditional classic—making it the ideal food for the blue-collar Detroiter. Just like any city you may find yourself in, the food is a reflection of its people—and people in Detroit aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves. Like the city, Coney Dogs are simple, disheveled, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Downtown, there are two famous Coney powerhouses, Lafayette and American Coney Island. Next-door neighbors creating a debate among Detroiters that has stretched several generations: who makes the best Coney Dog? It’s a pretty big deal here. The wrong loyalty has been known to end relationships and divide the happiest of homes. Personally, I come from a family with a strong allegiance to Lafayette. If you ever visit, make sure to check out their bathroom—it’s worth the trip. Lafayette and American Coney Island get all the national attention when it comes to Detroit Coney Dogs, but they face a lot of competition. Chains like National Coney Island and Leo’s Coney Island can be found in just about every strip mall in the state. Then, there are the small unheard of Coney joints. The hole in the walls, and well-kept secrets; the types of places even Guy Fieri hasn’t heard of—and it was inside a place like this, about twenty-five minutes outside of the city, that I found Detroit’s best Coney.
Pontiac’s ‘Bob E.’s Super Chief’ holds a special place in my heart. It’s like that indie song you found a year before it started getting plays on the radio. I’m torn between wanting to tell the world about it, and wanting it all for myself. But enough is enough; people have to know about this place. It’s small, fitting maybe fifty people at its maximum capacity. The ambiance is rustic and old fashion—a very nostalgic feel, how it would look if your Grandma were to open her own diner. It feels a lot like home, and the staff always goes out of their way to make you feel like family. However, it’s not the outstanding service or feng shui that makes Super Chief the Top Dog—it’s their Coney. That Coney and its delicious, grilled, buttery bun. Food Porn is an appropriate name. Hold photographs of their buns next to Nikki’s and see which set really make you salivate. The grilled bun adds a satisfying crunch to start and end each bite in ecstasy.
What else separates Super Chief from its competitors? About six inches. Super Chief specializes in footlongs—the perfect solution to their problem of people devouring their product so quickly. I went today and ordered two. After I finished, another pair didn’t sound too bad. They’re so good they always leave you wanting more. Well, except for that time, inspired by Adam Richman, I boldly proclaimed that I could eat six footlongs in a sitting—so my dad took me up on it. Turns out once you get around four, they lose a lot of appeal.
If you’re in Detroit and looking for a quick and easy fix, it won’t be hard to find somewhere to chowdown. But if you’re looking for the best Coney around, take the trip to Bob E.’s Super Chief on Walton Road in Pontiac. Make a day of it; turn it into a Harold and Kumar type road trip—a journey to get Super Chief’d.