The (cheesy) Coney Dog to Win Them All

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I live in Motown Detroit where Coney Dog’s reign supreme and the love of American Coney Island vs. Lafayette Coney is as competitive as Michigan State Spartans vs. University of Michigan Wolverines football!

If you’re not familiar what a coney dog is, you’re in for a Michigan local treat. These “coney’s” are hot dogs topped with a chili sauce consisting of ground beef (including beef heart) topped with yellow mustard, diced raw onions in a steamed bun–but never includes beans!

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A brief history about the origins points back to Greek and Macedonian’s fleeing the Balkan war in the early 1900s and entering the U.S. via Ellis Island in NYC. While these immigrants were thought to have encountered the hot dog from there (Hot dogs were discovered there!) they moved further west settling in Michigan where all Coney restaurants are your modern-day version of a typical diner. On top of breakfast and lunch, you’ll find Greek favorites like gyro’s, Greek Salads, and standard American fare foods like hamburgers, sandwiches, breakfasts, and desserts.

The real debate lies in whether you’re a Lafayette vs. American Coney fan. These two restaurants are situated right next to each other and as the story goes, brothers Bill and Gust Keros opened American Coney Island in downtown Detroit on Michigan Avenue in 1919.  Years later, they had a falling out and in 1936 Bill decided to open his own diner, Lafayette Coney Island, right next door. Today, American remains a family-owned institution while Bill’s employees now operate the Lafayette restaurant. The pair have been battling for Coney dog dominance ever since.

But to me, it’s not about American vs. Lafayette Coney Island but rather how and what I like to enjoy my coney sauce with!

Being a California transplant to Detroit, finding soft, tender bread that Asians prize over the common crusty baguettes is not easy. Don’t get me wrong, I love my artisanal, European style breads but there’s a time and place. Instead we’re making soft milk bread studded with Tillamook Sharp Cheddar wrapped around a hot dog frank. It’ll be dipped into Coney sauce topped with diced onions. Even Coney purists will enjoy this version because who doesn’t love a sharp tang of cheddar in each bite!

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Who needs to argue with what’s in an authentic coney dog when you can experience the whole messy thing in the privacy of your own home? Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m goin’ in!

After 109 years, Tillamook makes its cheddar in the same way – with simple ingredients,

patience, and old-fashioned farmer values. I’m working with Tillamook to bring you something new, something old. A new take on Detroit Coney Dogs with something classic like Tillamook Sharp Cheddar where their cheese is crafted with time for the boldest flavor and the most natural way.

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This post was sponsored by Tillamook. All text and opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for continuing to support the brands that help make Mightyinthemitten possible!

Milk Bread recipe:

Makes 6 hot dogs


(Note: Dough ingredients are weighed for accuracy)

  • 300 g bread flour
  • 4 g instant yeast
  • 30g milk powder
  • 40g sugar
  • 9g salt
  • 30g beaten egg
  • 125g whole milk
  • 75g whipping cream
  • 300g Tillamook Sharp Cheddar
  • 1 tsp poppyseeds (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs milk
  • 6 hot dogs of your brand choice


  1. Place all the dry ingredient into a mixing bowl.
  2. Combine egg, milk and whipping cream. Stir to mix well.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredient and mix on low. Knead the dough for about 10 mins until smooth and non-sticky. Cover with a damp cloth and proof for 60 mins or until double in bulk.
  4. Take out the dough and lightly knead. Divide into 6 equal portions. Rest for 10 mins.
  5. Roll out each dough into a rectangular shape. Scatter shredded cheese over dough. Roll up like a swiss roll. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  6. Wrap each rope tightly around a hot dog in a spiral, pinching the edges to seal, and leaving the ends open. About half an inch of hot dog should peek out of each end of the dough. Place on parchment lined sheet tray and repeat with remaining dough. Be sure to leave some space between the rolls as they need to proof again. Cover the rolls and proof for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F once doubled. Mix egg and milk for egg wash.
  8. Brush dough with egg wash and sprinkle with poppyseeds if using.
  9. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 30 minutes rotating half way. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Coney Sauce recipe

Makes 1 quart, more than enough for chili dogs and leftover chili cheese nachos!


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½  lb ground beef heart (optional if you can’t find it. Substitute ground beef)
  • 3 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp American chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 cups chicken or beef broth
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp hot pepper sauce (like tabasco)


  1. In a small bowl, mix the American chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef and beef heart for 5 minutes or until brown. Crumble it as it cooks so it is browned all over.
  3. Pour the meat into a strainer and drain the fat into a small saucepan. Discard all but 3 tablespoons of fat. Whisk the fat and flour together over medium heat. This makes a roux. Cook it, stirring frequently, until it turns amber, about 15 minutes. Then whisk in the chicken stock, tomato paste, and vinegar cooking on low.
  4. Move the ground beef to the side and add onion and garlic to the skillet and cook until tender.
  5. Push everything aside and add the spices and cook in contact with the bottom of the pan for 2 minutes, stirring so the spices don’t stick to the bottom. This “blooms” the flavor. Then mix in with the meat.
  6. Add the roux mix ingredients and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Cook on low for an hour to develop the flavor.


  1. Place warm coney sauce in individual serving bowls, top with chopped onion. I add more Tillamook Sharp Cheddar so it has a melty cheesy effect.
  2. Dunk your hot dog milk bun in the coney sauce using it as a spoon. Squirt some yellow mustard on your hot dog as you go and enjoy!



One thought on “The (cheesy) Coney Dog to Win Them All

  1. Glenn Carpenter says:

    Good article. Except you forget to mention that the true winner of the coney wars is any Flint area coney. Not wet and sloppy coney sauce like Detroit. Flint coney sauce is drier and more flavorful. Couple that with Kogels Vienna Franks and the true winner emerges.


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