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Detroit hot dog challenges Chicago style

September 29, 2010 4:46:36 AM PDT
The Coney from Detroit is mounting a challenge to the the classic Chicago-style hot dog on the North Side. The famous Chicago-style hot dog began way back in the Great Depression. It was sold from pushcarts and provided a complete meal for just five cents. There has never really been any competition for this creation; until, perhaps, now.

If there is such a thing as competition for the Chicago-style hot dog, it might be coming from Leo's Coney Island on N. Southport. The Coney is an import from Detroit, where Leo's has been a popular seller since 1972. It's really nothing like the dogs Chicagoans are used to.

"Leo's Coney Island Dog is a steamed plain bun with a pork skin encased hot dog. A Koegel's hotdog, specifically, from Michigan, (and) topped with our beanless chili, mustard and onion," said Lou Goldhaber of Leo's.

Leo's opened in February and the place was sold out, mostly with people from the other side of the lake.

"There's a lot of Michigan transplants who moved to Chicago who really grew up on the Coney concept," said Goldhaber.

Is this better than the Chicago dog?

"I've got to tell you now - I'm from Detroit. So yeah it is," said one hot dog-eating customer. Asked if he ever tries Chicago dogs, the man said: "Yeah, I do sometimes...I like them. I'm partial to these," acknowledging that the Detroit dogs taste like home.

Leo's is not the first outsider to come here and try to take a big bite out of the Chicago-style hot dog market. Usinger's from Milwaukee tried it a bunch of years ago and failed. Nathan's from New York failed, and their buns were chased right out of Chicago. But Leo's? This might be different.

And that's because this isn't just a hot dog stand. It's a restaurant. Besides that, if you're craving a dog, you don't have to have a Leo's Coney. They also serve - you guessed it - the Chicago-style dog.

"We do an authentic one. A Vienna-style hot dog. On our menu. Right next to the Coney," said Goldhaber.

So they are not here to conquer us. They are here to complement us.


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