A few weeks ago I wrote about the surprises I found while putting content from our Moon Michigan guidebook online. Well, I’ve found another surprise—I have been eating Detroit-original Coney Dogs since I was a child. In fact, I just had some for the first time in years while visiting my mother this past Fourth of July weekend. I always thought that Coney Dogs came from Coney Island Amusement Park in New York and apparently that’s a common misconception.

Moon Michigan author Laura Martone tells us that the family-owned and operated American Coney Island (114 W. Lafayette, Detroit, 586/219-0995) is the place where a wiener with skin, beanless chili, onions, and mustard was first called “one with everything.” They’ve been in business since 1917 and these dogs still lure a clientele ranging from cops on the beat to fur-clad suburbanites grabbing a bite after a show at the Fox Theatre.

But if you’d like to get a taste of Detroit before your next visit, mom has agreed to share her recipe for the beanless chili that makes her version of Coney Dogs so delicious.

Coney Island Chili


  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. mild chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground sage
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup masa


Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and then add the first 7 ingredients and stir until the aroma “blooms,” then stir in the chicken broth and masa. You may need to add more broth or masa as you stir to get the right consistency—you should be able to spoon out the chili without it being gloppy or runny.