Travel & Food

Coney dogs come to town with beer in tow

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Detroit-style Coney Island hot dogs are coming to the Sunset Strip in May, and they’re bringing craft beer with them.

Though the name suggests New York origin, coney dogs are actually native to the Wolverine State, first appearing in Michigan during the Wilson administration. Todoroff’s Original Coney Island in Jackson claims to have invented the coney dog in 1914.

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But if you ask most Detroiters, they’ll tell you the coney dog originated at either American Coney Island or Lafayette Coney Island in Downtown Detroit. Both opened around the same time (American’s website says 1917), and were founded by members of the same family. But Detroiters are less concerned with debating the origin of the coney dog than arguing which of the two Downtown institutions makes it best. According to The Detroit News, Lafayette “seems to have the more die-hard fans.”

Mike Binder, a native-Detroiter-turned-Hollywood-star, counts himself among team Lafayette. For twenty-five years, Binder has dreamt of bringing his beloved coney dogs to the palm-lined streets of Los Angeles. And on May 1, his dream will finally become a reality. That’s when Coney Dog is slated to open at 8873 Sunset Boulevard, right across the street from the Whiskey A Go Go.

Hot dog “I’d always go to Lafayette for a hot dog and beer after a Tigers game or rock concert,” Binder reminisced over the phone. To Binder, beer is an essential part of the coney dog experience. So while he hopes to recreate that experience on the Sunset Strip, he also wants to improve upon it. “I’m really trying to offer something more unique than run-of-the-mill American beers,” Binder said, explaining his decision to enlist the help of Ryan Sweeney, co-owner of Verdugo Bar and the Surly Goat, and one of L.A.’s great champions of craft beer, to create Coney Dog’s tap list.

Sweeney is now attempting to negotiate a regular supply of Stroh’s — a golden lager native to Detroit that was bought out by Pabst Brewing Company in 2000. While Sweeney doesn’t normally include industrial lagers on his tap lists, he thinks the beer will add “nostalgic value” to Binder’s Sunset Boulevard establishment. “But I’m not 100% that’s going to happen,” Sweeney said. As for the other seven to nine taps at Coney Dog, Sweeney promises a locally-focused lineup emphasizing quality, approachability and compatibility with the coney dog’s flavor profile. Sweeney says to expect brews from local brewers like Craftsman, Eagle Rock, Cismontane, and the Bruery.

Hot dog joints are nothing new to Los Angeles, but Sweeney thinks Coney Dog’s arrival on the Sunset Strip will mark a major milestone for the local craft beer movement.

“It’s so easy not to go in this direction,” Sweeney said. “So with this location, this concept and the addition of craft beer, Coney Dog is really taking the next step. Hopefully people will pick up and follow.”

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