Category Archives: Local Fun & Food

The Oldest Coney Island in Michigan

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 about Coney’s in Michigan and chances are you will stumble onto voluminous articles and posts discussing the back-to-back Detroit standbys of American and Lafayette Coney Islands. Local legend tells that theses two hot dog stands emerged out of disagreement between two partners. However rather then locating far away from each other the former partner ended up next door. A rivalry was born.

Enough About Detroit Coneys Already

Lafayette 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? Go to Detroit and Head West!

Coney Island Kalamazoo

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. 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 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

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.

Coney Island Kalamazoo Entry



Bird Creek County Park

Port Austin’s Beach of Choice

Bird Creek County Park Boardwalk

Bird Creek is a seven-acre day use park and beach located in the small town of Port Austin at the tip of Michigan’s Thumb. Bird Creek features a 350-foot boardwalk along its one-acre beach with roofed picnic shelters overlooking the beach and the water.  The boardwalk includes picnic spots, benches, restrooms, a large shelter and connections to play areas and shore fishing. The park features a large picnic Pavilion adjacent a playground, restrooms and shower facility. A concession stand with pop, ice cream & snacks is available on weekends.

Located in the village of Port Austin, this park is walking distance to the village. It is a favorite spot for sailors and boaters who dock at the State harbor and marina. There are nearby kayak rentals and the park is prime stop on the Heritage Water Trail.

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How to Survive Falling Though Ice

There have been two deaths and one rescue on the Saginaw Bay ice in the Upper Thumb these past several weeks. We found a short video that describes the steps to survive an ice break though even if you can’t get yourself out of the water. It’s a fight for survival and one only has minutes before hypothermia, unconsciousness and death.

Ice Safety Guidelines

The Minnesota DNR provides the following guidelines.

For new, clear ice only

  • Under 4″ – STAY OFF
  • 4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • 5″ – 7″ – Snowmobile or ATV
  • 8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup
  • 12″ – 15″ – Medium truck

Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe. Currents from nearby rivers or debris in the ice can create thin areas.White ice or “snow ice” is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.


The Most Exclusive Home in the Thumb

There are not too many exclusive areas that are widely known in Michigan’s Thumb. The historic gated cottage communities of Pointe Aux Barques and Harbor Beach Resort Association come to mind. But to really get away from it all one has to consider the finger of land that juts out into Saginaw Bay five miles; Sand Point. 

Sand Point was developed to be one of the most  prestigious  communities. This home located within Thumb Pointe is truly unique. With a clear view of sunrises and sunsets this beachfront  luxury home is currently on the market for a cool $1.1 million.

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At 6,000 square foot under air, this home sits on 138′ of sandy beach.  With five bedrooms, five full & three half baths, three double sided fireplaces, a library, office, screened porch, recreation room with full bar, sauna, workout room, and a five car attached heated garage. Across the street that is available canal dockage to tuck away your yacht. A luxury playhouse and one of a kind in the Thumb.