Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Greek Dog Showdown An Introduction
Sioux City, Iowa. County seat of Woodbury. Population 85,000, approximately. Formerly the nation's vortex for livestock sales. Birthplace of Deep Purple and James Gang guitar virtuoso Tommy Bolin. Permanent resting place of US Army Sergeant Charles Floyd, only Lewis and Clark expedition member to perish marching westward, cause: appendicitis. And, apropos this esteemed web log's mission, the home of three Coney Island style hot dog slinging restaurants owned mysteriously by families of Greek origin.
To understand the confluence of these Grecian owned and operated Coney Island hot dog shoppes in a place as random as Sioux City, one must first look north and east over a couple states to Detroit, Michigan, not Coney Island, New York, as you might suspect. But first, for clarity's sake, we'll define a Coney Island Hot Dog as the "heartland's" hot dog, a pork and beef mix with a natural casing placed in a steamed bun, topped with meat sauce, diced raw onions and yellow mustard. The cheese debate is far too dicey to get into here, so we'll just leave it alone.
Various Michigan wiener outlets lay claim to birthing the Coney Island dog, here according to that bastion of verifiably accurate information Wikipedia:
"Coney Islands are a unique type of Greek restaurant that originated in Detroit. Several restaurants claim to have invented the name and concept. Claimants include American Coney Island  in downtown Detroit, established by Greek immigrant Gust Keros in 1917, with the then-owner contending that he had bought a similarly configured chili dog at the well known New York park. The first Coney Islands were started by Keros and his brother, who got into an argument quite soon after and split their restaurant into two parts--the present day American and Lafayette Coney Islands which are next door to each other, and who to this day argue about which is the "original." Similar claims are made by Todoroff's in Jackson, Michigan."
Still others will say the Coney Island was created in Flint. But until I make it there to interview the locals, I'll have to take Wikipedia's word for it.
Still, we don't know why the hot dog. It does not appear to be a foodstuff of traditional Grecian or Macedonian origin. How they glommed on to the hot dog and effectively made the sale of it a honest and money-making enterprise is still a perplexing mystery.
Without digging too deep, we can safely assume some Detroit exile of Greek descent made it to Sioux City with a business plan in mind that involved hot dogs. A big thanks to that person, you made mine and thousands, possibly millions of others childhoods, gastronomically pleasing.
And so it became our mission, in late 2008, to sample the wares of each of these restaurants. Attending, tasting, and pondering were friends new and old; Abigail, Ann Marie, Joe, Al, Kaz, and your faithful correspondent. This is what we found.