“Those who shall be so happy as to inhabit that noble country cannot but remember with gratitude those who have discovered the way by venturing to sail upon an unknown lake for above 100 leagues.” – Father Louis Hennepin, 1679 report on the Detroit area
Detroit, MI is a city with a rich history. I think too many of us forget that history during a time that has largely seen our beloved city in such a state of disrepair. With crime rates soaring and unemployment reaching record levels, it can be difficult to see signs of the flourishing city that once was. Despite the wreckage that encircles our city, despite the stories of violence and despair and despite the hard times that have fallen on the good people of the city, Detroit has a proud heritage and a “never say die” spirit that resonates throughout the state.
Nowhere is this spirit more evident than residing within the walls of the proud Detroit dining establishments that have stood the test of time. I hope you’ll join me on a culinary travel through time as I take a look at some of Detroit’s iconic eateries. Our first stop is on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lafayette in the heart of the city at one of Detroit’s most beloved places to dine, American Coney Island.
The American Coney Island is one of the oldest restaurants in the City of Detroit and is as popular today as ever. Diners from al lover the country pay a visit to this historic eatery when visiting Michigan. As much as Detroit is known for its coneys, American Coney Island is known for bringing this culinary favorite to the city.
The American Coney Island was founded in 1917 by Constantine “Gust” Keros, who immigrated to Detroit from Greece in 1903. Having landed in New York on his trip from Greece, Gust immediately fell in love with the hotdogs of coney island. Gust relocated to Detroit and opened American Coney Island. Having added Greek chili, sweet vidalia onions, mustard and a steamed bun to the dog, American’s coney dogs became a Detroit favorite.
Gust Keros’ “coney island” hotdogs quickly made a name for themselves and Gust’s business became such a success that he sent for his brother William from Greece and trained him in the business. Around 1924 as the story goes, an argument ensued between Gust and William over the chili used on the dogs. Unable to resolve their differences in opinion, William opened Lafayette Coney Island Restaurant next door to American and the debate over which coney island is the Detroit favorite continues.
For the past 65 years, American Coney Island has been owned by one of Gust’s five sons, Charles “Chuck” Keros and has been run for the past 20 years by Chuck’s daughter Grace, the first and only Keros woman to become actively involved in the family business. It is due much to the hard work and dedication of Grace that American Coney Island has remained one of Detroit’s favorite places to dine nearly a century later. The family tradition of excellence lives on inside the walls of this popular eatery.
The American is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, making it possible for the Detroiters and visitors alike to have a comfortable, friendly place to relax and enjoy this nostalgic culinary masterpiece any time of the day or night, any day of the week, any season of the year. Whether a native Detroiter, a suburbanite or a visitor from afar, American Coney Island is sure to satisfy your coney craving.