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The Oldest Michigan Coney Island

There is an ongoing debate on who developed the first coney island in Michigan. It’s kind of like asking for your mom’s chili recipe. It’s never the same twice, you get a different answer depending on who you talk to. Nevertheless we take a look at this ongoing debate between the Detroit, Fint, Jackson and Kalamazoo styles of Michigan Coney dogs.

The Detroit Coney

Lafayette and American Coney Island

Today we take a road trip from the Thumb region to visit our youngest at Western Michigan University. It also gives us a chance to explore a uniquely Michigan experience the Coney Island Hot Dog. Open just about any foodie magazine or Google about  Michigan Coney Islands and chances are you will stumble onto voluminous articles and posts discussing the back-to-back Detroit standbys of Americanand Lafayette Coney Islands. Local legend tells that these two hot dog stands emerged out of a disagreement between two partners. However, rather than locating far away from each other the former partner ended up next door. A rivalry was born


Enough About Detroit Coneys Already

Lafayette Michigan Coney Island

I’ll admit I’m a big Lafayette and American fan. If we are in Detroit I’ll stop in. Just about every food writer in Michigan seems to place these two Detroit stands into the obligatory #1, #2 in best coney dog contests. Despite these perennial rankings, many folks are amazed to learn that there are actually three tasty versions of the Michigan Coney; the Detroit, the Flint and the Jackson styles.


Want the Original Coney? Leave Detroit and Head West!

Jackson Coney Island
Jackson Coney Island

It seems to be universally accepted that the first Michigan Coney was created in Jackson by George Todoroff in 1914. His Jackson Coney Island restaurant was located in front of the Jackson Train Station on East Michigan Avenue. It closed when his son, who was running the restaurant, was drafted into World War II. Today the Jackson Coney Island continues the tradition.  They have the distinction of being the first coney island in Michigan


The Oldest Coney Island in Michigan

Oldest Coney Island in Michigan

It surprises many folks to learn that the oldest continuously operating Coney Island in Michigan belongs to Coney Island Kalamazoo. They opened their doors in 1915 and it has been running at the exact same location ever since. Its location downtown makes for a busy lunch crowd.


The Kalamazoo Coney

Kalamazoo Coney Island

The mildly spicy low moisture Jackson style coney “sauce” is more like an open loose burger on top of natural casing hot dog. The meat spices have the obligatory garlic and chili powder but there are also hints of celery salt, turmeric, and even the exotically expensive saffron. I asked one of the cooks about the spice mixture. She said that it comes pre-ground in a small stainless container for each batch and it’s a closely guarded secret. Topped with onions and mustard on a steamed bun. It didn’t last long.


Keep the Coney Rivalry Going

Michigan Coney Island Kalamazoo Cooking

In our post about Unique Michigan Foods, You Have to Try, I did get some hate email about our love for the Western Michigan version of the Coney dog. We stand by our tasty assessment and point out that the Kalamazoo Coney Dog doesn’t follow you around all afternoon if you know what I mean. I say keep the dogs cooking and try to improve an original. Pass the mustard.

Michigan Coney Island Kalamazoo Entry

More Uniquely Michigan Foods


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Mike Hardy

Mike Hardy is a Marketing Information Technology Manager and author of a fun-loving blog covering topics of the Upper Thumb of Michigan. Starting in 2009, he authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 15,000 visitors per month. Mike welcomes your feedback, which can be found on Thumbwinds, "About" page.

5 Responses

  1. kwame says:

    I ate at Todoroffs in Jackson in 1975 so it was up and running long after ww2. You may want to contact the city in Jackson MI for more info.

  2. Michael Betz says:

    That’s right! Kalamazoo’s Coney Island started in 1915. I wonder if Dr. W. E. Upjohn used to walk there from The Upjohn Company to enjoy one of these savory treats? But Jackson claims to have started in 1914? I’ll need some proof!

  1. October 26, 2018

    […] train station also takes credit for the invention of the famous Coney Island Hot Dog in Michigan.  In 1914 George Todoroff set up a hotdog stand right in front of the station.  It was popular […]

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