There’s the Detroit-style coney dog, and then there’s the Flint-style coney dog. Both are unique local riffs on the classic chili dog, but to people that have never lived in Michigan, it might not seem like there’s much of a difference between the two.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
Around here, which one you prefer determines more than your culinary preferences. It speaks directly to who you are as a person. Yeah, it’s that big of a deal, like picking between Paul McCartney and John Lennon, a Democrat and a Republican.
There are two keys to a Flint coney dog: Koegel’s franks and the “dry sauce” made from ground chuck and cow organs such as the heart and the liver. The all-natural casing on a Koegel’s beef and pork frank provides an especially satisfying and unparalleled snap when bitten into, and the sauce puts to shame the chili-like slop Detroit dishes out on the pure meat scale – to be honest, it’s just a pile of rich, fatty ground beef. It’s not even really a sauce, and it’s a terrifyingly beautiful thing.
Without those two vital components, you can’t call what you’re eating a Flint coney dog. And of all the “original” Flint, Michigan Coney Islands, only Angelo’s Coney Island is still kicking and serving up the real deal. Opened in 1949 on Davison Road about a mile from General Motors’ once sprawling complex of factories along Industrial Avenue, Angelo’s has somehow survived the ups and many downs of beleaguered Flint. For a mere $2.29, you can still get a taste of automotive history, with the required chopped onions and squirt of mustard.
“Have you had 2 lately?”
Angelo’s is definitely a book you shouldn’t judge by its cover. It has a dated, nondescript exterior, complete with fake stone and a tacky red awning. Inside, booths are held together with duct tape and the tables have deep battle scars, beat up from decades of scalding hot coffee, clattering silverware, and greasy elbows. If you were expecting linen tablecloths and waiters in formal attire, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Kids’ meals delivered in plastic hot rods and tobacco-stained fingers are the order of the day here. What can I say? Angelo’s is authentic; it’s real; it’s working class America.
“Aw, c’mon, are you sure don’t you want some pie, sweetie? We’ve got lemon pie, banana pie, chocolate pie, uh… blueberry pie, pumpkin pie, cherry pie, coconut pie…. Or we’ve got pecan pie, apple pie, or raspberry pie!”
A good meal at Angelo’s includes two coney dogs, fries smothered in gravy, a milkshake, and a “homemade” pie. And despite the clear artery-clogging properties hard at work, it all goes down incredibly easy. For one, the coney dogs aren’t as spicy as their Detroit brethren – when you have chunks of friggin’ beef heart on your coney dog, you don’t need to add much extra flavor. The savory gravy on the fries and slurps of thick, sweet milkshake don’t exactly challenge your palette either, but nourish and comfort instead. Coming last, the pie is just to make sure your sugar- and carb-induced coma reaches a pleasant plateau.
Like stars in the dark night.
If you haven’t added at least an inch to your waist size by the time you’ve left Angelo’s, you probably missed something you were supposed to order. Unless you ordered the blue raspberry milkshake, in which case you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake.
“Have a nice day, y’all! It was nice meetin’ you all!”