The Coney Islands of Indianapolis Part 1
I am reasonably sure that most folks have heard of a Coney dog or as it was called years ago a Coney Island. That is a hot dog topped with a meat and tomato sauce. If not then surely you are familiar with the Chili dog. The difference is the type of meat sauce. The Chili has a more pronounced Southwest flair to it. I have always thought the Coney Island dog came from New York. Actually I have discovered that the name may be from New York but the sandwich hails from Detroit. At the turn of the century Greek and Armenian immigrants started selling hot dogs smothered with a meat sauce. Possibly in an effort to “Americanize” it they named it Coney Island. Since that was the reputed home of the hot dog they thought it apt.
The reason I got interested in their history is a new carry out joint opened in Indy selling authentic Detroit Coney Dogs. The owner gets the sauce from Detroit so it should be authentic. After I realized that I had to get to Chucks Coneys I thought why not make it a multi part review. I know of several joints that sell coneys and chili dogs. Knowing that I could eat more than one in a day I decided to go ahead. Due to the logistics Chucks would be my last stop for day one. Naturally it wasn’t open. Their web site listed Saturday hours they just weren’t open. So let’s begin with Big Dan’s.
Big Dan’s used to be called Mr. Dan’s; and before that it was Gay Dan’s. As the sign says it has been around since 1950. I think in the 80’s it fell on hard times and now only the one at 5925 Mass. Avenue remains. I read where in the past 50 years 16 Mr. Dan’s have opened and closed. It is an authentic Hoosier experience.
They use an all beef dog. Initially it was Nathans now it is Eisenberg dogs; the Chicago dog. The dog is excellent. A great snap with a bit of spice and wonderful texture. I really couldn’t tell much about the coney sauce the amount was small and it couldn’t compete with the cheese and onion. I think to properly judge I have to go back and try just the dog and sauce. My version with onion, cheese and mustard was $4.68.
They have some replica ads from the Gay Dan days.
Garcia’s Hot dogs. 5102 E 16th Street
Garcia’s is a hot dog-cart doing business at the corner of 16th and Emerson Ave. I have seen it on several occasions but never had an opportunity to stop. I am glad I finally did. He has an amazing set up that allows him to griddle his dogs to order. He also has bacon wrapped dogs.
He greets every customer with a smile, a handshake and a hearty Welcome My Friend. The man understands Hospitality.
He splits his dogs length wise and cooks them on his griddle; giving them a bit of char. He puts them in a steamed bun, adds cheese then a bunch of chili. The onion finish gives it a nice crunch. His chili has a definite Southwest flavor. Loaded with cumin. Reminiscent of tamales. More than likely from a can but fits the dog well. It was very messy to eat in your car, it could stand a knife and fork.
Next time I am in the area I am trying a bacon dog with some of his homemade relish. His chili cheese dog was $3.50. I gave him $5 because that was definitely a 5 buck dog.
Coming soon Part 2 of Coney Dogs on Indianapolis.