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“Fort Wayne’s Famous” Coney Island

January 25, 2009
by

Over the holidays I was visiting my family back home in Indiana and got to visit the hot dog stand that started it all for me.  That’s right, “Fort Wayne’s Famous” Coney Island is the spot that drove me to this height of hot dog frenzy, the place my father used to take me on a weekend for a session of male bonding over a couple of dogs and a bag of chips.  I think every time we would go he would tell me about how he was friends with the Choka family who runs this venerable hot dog stand.  Maybe that personal connection kept him coming back, but for me it was some alone time with my father and the coney dogs that draws me back every time I visit.

The picture below is Sam’s reaction when I suggested she get a coney dog.  It’s like getting a kid to eat asparagus, every time I take her to a new stand and suggest she tries the local style dog.  In the end my persistence usually pays off, but this time she went with a cheese dog (mustard, raw onions, and sliced velveeta–I think she sometimes has more in common with midwesterners than I do).  Sam & I got to the stand around 2pm and the place was packed, which is par for Coney Island, especially during the holidays when the ex-pats are back in town.

I had four of my favorites, coney dogs with yellow mustard, raw onions, and chili sauce on a steamed bun with a grilled dog.  The sauce seeps into the bun and has just the right amount of spice to complement the sharpness of the onions.  A standard meal for a coney acolyte is not complete without a bag of Seyfert’s chips (once a locally-owned company) and an 8 oz. bottle of Coca-Cola.  The best part about this stand is the simplistic, cafeteria-style setup reminiscent of the 50’s.  The dogs are delivered on these tiny hard plastic plates which reminds me of the plates used in my grade school cafeteria, and the only other food offered are burgers and chili.

In the end I won out and got Sam to take a bite of my coney dog, which she looked upon and pronounced to be good.  She didn’t seem to impressed with the cheese dog she got, but later ordered a burger and was much happier.  Strange, when I met her she was only eating deli turkey and was more vegetarian than carnivore.  Look what love can do . . . .

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. Banksy permalink
    February 19, 2009 12:10 am

    Saw your review searching for a hot dog joint while in FW so I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately I left disappointed, which is unusual when it comes to dinner and hot dogs. I realize I am in the minority and maybe it was an off night.

    I got 4 how they come… dog, sauce and onions. They were a little soggy from the steamed bun and the onions so overwhelmed that the you couldn’t taste the sauce. I was bummed.

    I’ll be back in a few months for business and will give it another shot. This time light on the onions and double sauce. This place has too many great reviews to stop with one try.

    Love your blog… love hot dogs and I’m fortunate enough to travel for work to try them all over the country.

  2. Mike permalink*
    February 19, 2009 5:07 pm

    Hate to say it Banksy, don’t think it was an off day–that’s just the way their dogs come. Like most things in life, it’s all a matter of personal taste, so I say go for your idea of double-sauce, half-onions next time and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the dogs. Glad to hear you enjoy our blog and let us know if you have any memorable trips in the future.

  3. Banksy permalink
    February 20, 2009 4:29 am

    Do you accept “guest” reviews? I have been doing it for some time on FB but jsut have never had the time to organize a blog (I have to maintain our families blog and our Homeowners Association website.)

    I see you frequent the NY/Jersey area. I’m not sure if you’ve tried Rutt’s Hut yet in Clifton, NJ, you gotta try it. You seem to be in the mecca for great hot dogs, NY/NJ.

    Since you’re from Ft Wayne, I’m sure you tried Dog n Suds. I went there as well this week. The sauce was very sweet, not what I expected, but everything else was good. I didn’t prefer the sweetness to the sauce, but again, it’s a hot dog and I probably eat them 4-5 times a week. I’m the only guy in our company with an expense account who eats hot dogs. Everyone else is getting steak and I’m even sometimes in a gas station getting hot dogs instead.

    If you see a Sheetz gas station, try their dogs. Not bag for a gas station.

    Love your site!

  4. Steve permalink
    January 10, 2010 9:56 pm

    Mike,

    I too grew up on the coney dog – born and raised in Ft. Wayne! I have traveled to many countries and 30 of the 50 states and I have not found a better dog! Just found the blog and now I am hooked. Hope to see ya at the stand soon 🙂

    • January 13, 2010 8:48 am

      hey Steve, thanks for the note! I know most, if not all of Coney Island’s customers hold strongly to the belief that their dogs are among the very best–but the best part of the stand, in my opinion, is that it’s brought together so many people over the years. Next time you see me at the stand you’re sure to see my family and friends along with me, because it’s that kind of experience.

      • Kelly Garrett Lancaster. permalink
        September 9, 2011 7:17 am

        These guys are the best in the world. I was born there in Ft. Wayne and most of my family is still there. There are no better dogs than these. I remeber as a kid going down to Ft. Wayne to visit relatives and bringing 10-20 dozen back to Mi with us.. These are the best and I miss them. Glad to hear nothing has changed with them. Hope to get there soon it’s been a long time since I had one. And the chili sauce we used to get that to go as well. Keep up the good work on this sight.Now to just get there or have them shipped here. Kelly

        • September 10, 2011 8:24 am

          Wow, a Michigan native defecting to Indiana for their coneys?!? I thought you guys made it a point of pride that the coney originated in your home state. I’ve always been impressed that they’ve never jarred the chili; too many places do this (cough Tony Packo’s cough) and it just doesn’t come out right. That and there’s nothing like watching a guy who’s arm is lined with hot dogs all the way to his shoulder, slathering them with coney sauce, mustard and onions. Thanks for your comment Kelly, hope you get to visit the Fort soon!

  5. March 2, 2010 7:29 pm

    While I do enjoy the coney dogs from Coney Island, I must say that The Brown House in Auburn, IN (about 20 minutes north, just off I-69) is the best I have ever had. Their toppings are the perfect ratio, the sauce is tangy and savory, everything is perfect.

    • March 3, 2010 6:56 am

      I’m well familiar with Auburn but had never heard of the Brown House–is it a new hot dog stand?

      • vicki shepherd permalink
        May 11, 2012 3:10 pm

        The Auburn House is to Auburn, what Coney Island is to Ft.Wayne!!!
        Little gold mine thats been there for ever, im 66 and i went there as a kid……Coney Island too.I always want to stop there when im in Auburn..Coney when im in Ftwayne.

        • May 15, 2012 1:59 pm

          Thanks for the reminiscences Vicki, I’ll have to check it out when I’m back in Indiana.

  6. Banksy permalink
    March 12, 2010 12:24 am

    I’ll be back in Ft Wayne next week and will be sure to belly up and give Coney Island another go… but will also visit Suds N Duds… and a place I hadn’t been to before… Dawson’s Dogs. Have you been there before?

    • March 13, 2010 7:34 pm

      Never heard of Dawson’s. Where is it at in the fort?

      • Banksy permalink
        March 13, 2010 7:44 pm

        10020 Lima Road

        • March 14, 2010 7:25 pm

          I must have driven past it at some point. I’ll be back in the area in early May but prolly won’t get a chance to go to the local stands since I won’t have time. Oh well, you’ll just have to live the dream for me, Banksy!

  7. Steve B. permalink
    July 10, 2010 1:20 pm

    The Brown House in Auburn is about a block north ofthe Auburn Cord Duesy Museum across the tracks and jog to the east. It is a small brown drive-through on the north east side of the street. Great tenderloins! I first went to Coney island in the 50’s and when back in my old home area the places I favor are Coney Island, Powers and The Brown House.

  8. Michael permalink
    January 26, 2011 1:07 pm

    I live a few blocks away from Coney Island and I eat there about once a week. While I do own a drive-in diner in Northwest Ohio and people rave about our hot dogs, I still think Coney Island is the best!

    • February 9, 2011 7:54 am

      Where’s your diner in Ohio? I’ll be driving through on my way to visit my folks in Indiana, would love to try it!

  9. James Notestine permalink
    February 6, 2011 12:47 pm

    I live in Ft. Wayne, and I love the dogs here, a bit oniony, to be sure, but still great…The BEST part of this place is the CHEESEBURGERS though…get one with everything and Coney Sauce, and you will agree with me. I usually get my dogs with everything and cheese. Personally, I love these dogs, but I prefer Dog’N’Suds coneys more, their coney sauce has some kind of a “sweet/tangy” flavor to it that makes them nearly irresistable to me…

    • February 9, 2011 7:56 am

      I have to admit I’ve either never tried or remember trying Dogs ‘N’ Suds and always went with a hot dog over hamburgers at Coney Island, so I guess I gotta take both of your suggestions. Thanks for the comment James, and thanks for reading the blog.

  10. Matt Morrison permalink
    October 15, 2011 3:09 pm

    I agree that Coney Island is a great experience. My friends and I tried over 12 ‘dog’ places all over Fort Wayne. In our opinion, the Green Frog has the best coney dog. Just saying.

    • October 16, 2011 7:21 am

      The Green Frog, huh? Never knew they served dogs but I’ll have to check it out next time I visit the Fort. Thanks!

  11. Jamie permalink
    January 3, 2012 4:50 pm

    I sadly 😦 can only reminisce about the taste of coney island hot dogs since I’ve not had one since the late 80’s. I was born and live in Texas but my Dad is from FtWayne and mom
    From Muncie. So I remember fondly Coney Island. And pizza king pizza. Mmmmm

    • January 4, 2012 10:05 am

      Oh wow, pizza king! Haven’t thought about that for years. Thanks for the comment, and sorry to hear you haven’t had a coney dog in so long!

      • Paul Grotrian permalink
        April 4, 2012 2:17 pm

        LOL i was also born and raised in Ft Wayne and i really miss the Coney island hot dogs i have never found any thing that could match them, and by the way i also live in Texas now (Richardson) a burb of Dallas

        • April 4, 2012 2:30 pm

          any good stands in Dallas, Paul? Would love to hear about them. Don’t know if Texas has a regional dog but I bet the BBQ is awesome!

  12. vicki shepherd permalink
    May 11, 2012 9:06 am

    when i was a kid, my mom would pull up in front of Coney Island ,and go in and get 10 dogs for $1.00!Oh they were so good,then as we all got older some of us would still go in ,yes sometimes they were sloppy, sometime the chili had a layer of fat on top lol but SO WHAT !!!you were in the famous Coney Island ,icon of Ftwayne,the big kahula,I loved going in the 60’s and 70’s just to see the customers, anything from wine-o’s to men and women in formal clothes(they dressed back then)lolUsually very late at night when the Night Clubs closed ,Coney Island has a lot of memories for everyone .5 star food?? who cares !!Its Coney Island !!

  13. November 10, 2012 11:16 pm

    Just ate at Coney Island today for lunch. I live in Auburn and have easy access to the Brown House. They are good, but more costly than Coney Island. What I like about Coney Island is they invite you to park behind the restaurant, and walk in thru the kitchen. Where else can you walk thru and inspect where your food is prepared? Now just the Chili sauce is cooked in vats back there and they are very secretive on what is in that sauce. The Dogs are cooked in the front window. So you know you are getting fresh food. I saw a sign that the use Didier meets as their supplier, how cool is that!! They use local businesses? I’ve been working on trying to figure out that chili recipe for years (might be beneficial for those that moved away). So far I’ve come up with Curry powder, onion powder, beef broth, and mustard in the recipe. I don’t think it has much tomato in it. Maybe someday they’ll can it and sell it for everyone to enjoy!!! Glad they’ve been around for so long, and for as busy as they were today…they’ll be around forever as long as the family secret sauce is kept sacred!!!

    • November 11, 2012 9:37 am

      I think you’re absolutely right Lori, this is one of those hot dog toppings that we’ll never see the true recipe for–anyway, I suspect that their measurements would be way in excess of anything we could prepare in our kitchens. If you’d like, I’d love to have you post your version of the Coney recipe to the blog, email us at thehotdogiate@gmail.com and I’ll put it up–who knows, we might get many different variations, seems like there’s a lot of people who have attempted to approximate their favorite coney sauce.

  14. Mike permalink
    June 5, 2013 4:33 pm

    Mike,
    Saw the comment reference Dawson’s Dogs. It originated on South Anthony, not far from McMillan Park. I used to go there all the time as a kid, their root beer was better than A&W. But I gotta agree, Coney Island had the best dogs. When I would bring my family home on leave, the two places that were no miss were Coney Island and Powers Hamburgers. When I retired from the Army I stayed here in Lousiana. Just found your blog and have been enjoying reading the comments. If anyone ever figures out a way to ship Coney Island dogs, I’ll be first in line.

  15. Andy permalink
    March 6, 2015 4:13 pm

    Best dogs I have ever ate! Try Powers burgers while in Ft. Wayne as well you will love them.

Trackbacks

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