Whether you call it a Coney dog, Texas dog or even the Michigan Coney, the consensus is that chili dogs are at the pinnacle of hot dog evolution.
The venerable all-American dish, like other hot dog histories, is seeped in urban legend and short on facts.
It seems, however, that while most hot dog historians (yes, there are some) agree that the Germans immigrants created the North American-style hot dog, the history of early chili dog variations is a bit fussy.
Some say the original was first topped with a Greek sauce in Philadelphia and billed as a Texas Weiner, others say the Coney hails from New Jersey in the 1920s, and other to Michigan’s Flint Coneys.
The Flint Coney topping is made of mostly ground beef.
According to the Flint Coney Resource Site, “Some assert that in order to be an ‘authentic’ Flint Coney, the hot dog must be a Koegel Coney and the sauce by Angelo’s, which opened in 1949. However, the sauce was originally developed by a Macedonian in 1919, Simeon O. (Sam) Brayan, for his Flint’s Original Coney Island restaurant. Brayan was the one who contracted with Koegel Meat Company to make the Coney they still make today, also contracting with Abbott’s Meat to make the sauce. Abbott’s still makes Brayan’s 1919 sauce available to restaurants through the Koegel Meat Company.”
The Greek tradition is strong in Detroit where they love their Coneys.
“In Detroit historically many Greek and Macedonian immigrants operated Coney islands, or restaurants serving Detroit Coney dogs. By 2012 many Albanians began operating then as well. The Greeks established Onassis Coney Island, which has closed. Greek immigrants established the Coney chains Kerby’s Koney Island, Leo’s Coney Island, and National Coney Island during the 1960s and early 1970s. All three chains sell some Greek food items with Coney dogs. National has most of its restaurants on the east side of the city, and Kerby’s and Leo’s have the bulk of their restaurants on the west side of the Detroit area,” writes Katherine Yung, Joe Grimm in their text “Coney Detroit.”
Whoever was first, it is clear that, like America itself, a combination of influences from the world itself came together into one of the nation’s most beloved foods.