The origin of Detroit’s Coney Island hot dogs goes back more than 100 years, thanks to some Greek immigrants who ventured first to Coney Island New York, sampled hot dogs there, came to Detroit and started selling them. However, Coney Island hot dogs in Flint and Jackson have a different origin. 

In his book, “The Flint Coney, A Savory History,” Michigan Coney dog historian Dave Liske explains the Coneys there were created by Macedonians, not Greeks, and that difference comes out in the presentation and flavor of the hot dog toppings.

Liske said the chili sauce in Flint is based on a Macedonian stew. He recounted how the Balkan Wars of 1908 and 1913 drove both Greeks and Macedonia out of their countries, some coming to the U.S., explaining how Coney Islands came to Michigan. 


Meanwhile, in Jackson, Macedonian immigrants established the Jackson and Virginia Coney Island restaurants near the train station there. Local accounts say Jackson’s Coney Island hot dogs date back to 1914, a few years before Detroit’s American and Lafayette Coney Islands got started.

Brittany Craig manages Jackson Coney Island. “I’ve heard all kinds of different stories,” she said. “I wasn’t here in 1914 so I can’t confirm any of them.” 

Virginia Coney Island owner Joe Matthews said he’s had to rely on what he’s been told. “The documentation was destroyed at city hall when they had a fire years ago,” he said. 

One Detroit’s Bill Kubota headed to Flint, Lansing and Jackson to learn more about Michigan’s Coney Island hot dogs. He checks out Flint-style coney dogs at Gillie’s Coney Island in Mount Morris and Starlite Coney Island in Burton, two locations adjacent to Flint, but if you’re looking for a place to do a side-by-side taste test, Sparty’s Coney Island in Lansing offers both Detroit and Flint style coney dogs.

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