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.
How many folks remember drive ins? I am sure you know what I am talking about. You drive up and park and the server comes out; takes your food order and then delivers it to you on trays that clip to your car windows. If you don’t recall first hand I am sure you have heard tales from your parents or Grandparents.
I am not sure how long Mel’s has been serving food to the folks in Mars Hill,but I would guess more than 50 years. It isn’t easy to get to but it is worth the effort. It is about 50 yards from a busy highway and a railroad track. I am not sure how busy the track is but a train came by while we were there.
As you can see it is pretty close. Mel’s is the building in the foreground.
A couple of old-fashioned drive ins in town have house made root beer as their hook. Mels’ doesn’t. All it offers is its food and great pricing.
They have no indoor dining. You eat in your car or on some picnic tables out back. That may turn some people off but Pat and I loved it. You may not be able to see the prices all that well on my picture but both Zomato and Yelp have shots of the 2014 menu. The new menu is about a half buck more per item. Pat ordered a single hamburger, a small order of mushrooms and cheese bites as well as a hot dog and vanilla malt.
I opted for a breaded tenderloin. I don’t know if it was just the special for that day or if it’s the normal pricing but the girl asked me if a wanted a second tenderloin sandwich for $1.10. One for $2.75 two for $3.85. At first I said no. I quickly realized I had made a faux pas and changed my order. I figured that Pat and I could share the ‘shrums and cheese bites so I finished my order with a coney dog and a Chocolate Malted.
I only ate one of the tenderloin. It was a pre-breaded item not hand breaded in-house. So it wasn’t representative of scratch cooking but it was representative of a damn fine sandwich. For $2.75 each and $3.85 for two make that an excellent sandwich.
The coney dog was very good as well. A dirty water dog on a common place bun and smothered with a pretty good coney sauce. Pat asked me if I thought it was house made. I don’t know but I doubt it. Why should they. I would guess they bought it ready-made and spiced it up with chile powder and cumin. I don’t think this joint ever felt the necessity to scratch build food items. Their mission is to feed people,what they want to eat. And I gotta’ feeling folks like the food a lot.
Oh and the Chocolate Malted was pretty good too. I mean Chocolate is the best of all Malts.
I think without realizing it Pat and I have been pursuing long operating establishments. A couple of weeks ago the Kitley Inn,established in 1946 and now Edwards an original Dog and Suds from 1957. Whereas Kitley looks as though it hasn’t changed much since ’46 Edwards definitely has had a face lift or two.
These replicas are on the side of the building and probably 3/4 size of the original rides. On the inside you will find a very swank and refined space with no vibe you may expect from an old-time diner.
The interior may be too refined and contemporary for that 50’s look but they offer non stop music from that era. If you are an old guy it will make you smile. They still offer curb service too. You order at the front counter,given a ticket and they call your number when ready. Everyone was very friendly and most helpful with my too many questions. The biggest reason I wanted to come here is I was certain that,with the exception of the root beer little of the food was done from scratch. I have no idea where or how I got that impression I just did. Well I was wrong. This place actually has cooks. My apologies to Edwards Drive In.
Wednesday they offer a $1.99 BBQ slider. For a 3 buck and change up charge you can add onion rings and a medium drink. In my case that would be a Root Beer.
Well the sandwich was so-so. Not a bad bite for 2 bucks but nothing to really make you shake,rattle or roll. Now the rings were a different story. They were crisp and flavorful and abundant. Often onion rings are a touch soggy from excessive batter. Not these. Sometimes they are just too greasy. Not these. I hesitate to call them the best I have had because I am sure I used that line before. I just have to say that these are an excellent product and they were masterfully prepared. As for the Root Beer it was as delicious as you would expect or if you are old enough as you remember from years ago.
Pat told me that we had been here before. I couldn’t remember. He also said that his breaded tenderloin last time was very greasy. This time his food was on point. I still say I have not been here with him.
I think this could be a very nice joint to visit when it is warm. Onion rings and a Root Beer. If they use the same ring batter for the mushrooms then marry that with a coney dog and Root Beer and call me satisfied.