They are actually native to Michigan. All they share in common with hot dogs on Coney Island is that they are hot dogs, and a name.
A Coney Island Hot Dog is a beef wiener topped with a meat chili sauce, chopped yellow or white onion and American-style yellow mustard, served on plain, white, soft hot dog rolls.
The wieners are cooked on a flat griddle (iron or stainless) over gas flame heat.
Flint style Coney’s have dryer chili sauce, similar to taco meat; Detroit style has a moister chili, with some cumin in it. Flint-style fans dismiss Detroit style as “just” a chili dog.
Three different Michigan hot dog establishments claim to have invented the Coney Island Hot Dog: Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island in Detroit, and Todoroff’s in Jackson. See History section below.
Coney Island Hot Dogs are now mostly found in America’s “heartland” states. In Ohio, a Cincinnati Cheese Coney is Cincinnati chili, onions and shredded mild cheddar cheese on the beef wiener, in the soft hot dog roll.
The Coneys that you may come across in central and western New York State are different, having nothing to do with mid-western Coneys. The toppings are different — there is no meat sauce, and the wiener is spiced pork. The name there in New York State came about because a Syracuse, New York State company, Hoffman Sausage, use to sell their white hots as “coneys.” They have discontinued this practice, but the naming habit has stuck with locals.
“My name is Bill Keros, and I am the grandson of the founder of Lafayette Coney Island (Bill Keros I). Here’s the story with the reason for “Coney Island” in the name:
My grandfather came over from Greece on the good ship Themistocles, arriving Ellis Island on October 23, 1910. He came on the invite of his older brother, Gus, who had a hat cleaning and shoe shine store at 124 W. Lafayette. Pappou arrived on shore, aged 20, and proceeded to head toward the one place that everyone was talking about…a must see…some place called “Coney Island” in Brooklyn. Having been born and raised in the small village of Dara, 12 miles east of Kiparissia,in the Peloponnesus of Greece, and straight off the boat, the very first thing he saw was “Coney Island.”
You can imagine the effect that sight had on his world view….an indelible imagine that still has us talking. He arrived in Detroit and worked for his brother for a while, and then suggested that they open up a hot dog restaurant next door at 118 W. Lafayette. I won’t go into the reasons why Pappou wanted to open up a restaurant, and why a hot dog place in particular, but his brother decided not to join him. Looking around, he decided to name his restaurant after the the first thing he saw in the USA that left an indelible impression…Coney Island. Sensing that name was not enough, he looked around and saw that he was located on Lafayette Blvd., and put together the name “Lafayette Coney Island!” The year was 1914, an LCI was born!
Three years later, his brother realized that the Coney business was much better than shining shoes and cleaning hats, and the American Coney Island was born.” — Bill Keros. Wikipedia Discussion on Coney Island Hot Dogs. 8 August 2009. Retrieved September 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Coney_Island_hot_dog