Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Flint Coney


If you know your Bible, you'll know that Manna came from Heaven.  If you're from Flint, you'll know that Manna comes from Davison Road.  The Flint Coney is not only a true local delicacy, it's a religion onto itself.  If you want to start a 3 day long rumble initiate a discussion among Coney aficionados over which Flint Coney is the best.  If you want to start a civil war start a discussion among Detroit and Flint Coney aficionados over which Coney is the best.

You see Detroit has it's own, vastly inferior Coney Dog.  It's a disgusting, sloppy pile of goo that they cynically refer to as “Coney Sauce” plopped over a perfectly marvelous Kogel Vienna.  If I owned Kogel Meats... the ONLY frank worthy of the name “Coney”... I wouldn't even allow those Detroit joints to use my product!

It's a damned shame, it really is!

This is not intended to denigrate the other Flint delicacy, The Kewpee Burger in any way.  In the world of hamburgers the Kewpee was particularly special.   It was ( and still is under a new name, the Halo Burger) a freshly ground burger, properly fried up on a flat grill and topped with olives.  That's right, olives!  You could get a Kewpee burger and a “Boston Cooler"  for a half a buck.  The "Boston Cooler is an ice cream float made of Vernor's Ginger Ale, a kind of Ginger Beer flavored with caramel.  It's been a Michigan delicacy since 1866.

Now if you lived within a 20 mile radius of Flint you not only ate Coneys, but you did so with a relish and verve unknown anywhere else in the world.  You supported your favorite Coney joint as you might a favorite sports team.  If you were an Angelo's fan it was UNTHINKABLE to be seen at Olympic.  If you were an Atlas fan it was UNTHINKABLE to be seen at Angelos.

A genuine Flint Coney is a kind of Chili Dog topped with mustard and onions.  NOTHING else by the way.  The sauce can't truly be described as Chili, however.  It does have Chili powder in it, but it's the meat that makes the difference.  What kind of meat?  Thought you'd never ask.

Beef heart.

I can hear the “BLECCCCHHHHH”s and “EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWW”s right now.

And to top it off, it was originally cooked in rendered suet!   My father remembered walking past one of the numerous Coney joints on Saginaw street in the 1920s.  He swears that he saw the cooks rendering suet.  He also says that every Coney joint would cover their sauce with a cloth in order to make sure nobody saw what went into it. I 'm guessing the cloth was to PREVENT things... like flies... from going into it.

I'm seriously thinking that a goodly part of my mental incapacity had to come from eating Coneys.  It can't ALL be genetic can it?  That being the case, there are lots and lots of people around Flint who are thisclose to being an idiot like me.   At any given moment at least 75% of those folks...

...wait, make that 85%..., wait...

...OK, what the hell, 100% of people in the area were either eating a Coney, arriving at a Coney joint, or digesting a Coney.

There are at least 10 establishments that lay claim to being the original Flint Coney.  This much is known however, the original Flint Coney opened in about 1919 about 2 years after Detroit's American Coney.  Both the Flint and Detroit style Coneys are the product of Greek and Macedonian immigrants who opened chili parlors around 1910 or so.  

Sandee and I went to American in Detroit and talked to the grandson of the original owner.  He's a European trained chef but his calling is running the family business.  He told us how the Coney Dog came about.  It seems that a GM worker was running late one day at lunch.  He had ordered a dog and a bowl of Chili, but didn't have time to finish it so he scooped up the remaining chili, stuffed it on top of the dog and headed out the door.

VOILA, the Detroit Coney was born! 

The Flint sauce is drier, and very mild.  If you taste it by itself it's not very good at all.  It's when you pile it on top of a Kogel Vienna with mustard and onions that it becomes...

Well, heavenly!

1 comment:

  1. While you are naming our fabulous, never duplicated Michigan food products, I would like to mention the following: Faygo red pop, BetterMade Barbecue Potato Chips, Red Pelikan mustard, Sanders fudge sauces and ice cream parlors(all of us went to one last night--yum!), cream ales made with aforementioned Vernors, and our own Dearborn Sausage Company hot dogs. Plenty of other wonderful things and a huge shout-out to the great mom-and-pop restaurants, diners and eateries that make this area uniquely special.