Angelo’s Coney Island

There’s the Detroit-style coney dog, and then there’s the Flint-style coney dog. Both are unique local riffs on the classic chili dog, but to people that have never lived in Michigan, it might not seem like there’s much of a difference between the two.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Around here, which one you prefer determines more than your culinary preferences. It speaks directly to who you are as a person. Yeah, it’s that big of a deal, like picking between Paul McCartney and John Lennon, a Democrat and a Republican.

There are two keys to a Flint coney dog: Koegel’s franks and the “dry sauce” made from ground chuck and cow organs such as the heart and the liver. The all-natural casing on a Koegel’s beef and pork frank provides an especially satisfying and unparalleled snap when bitten into, and the sauce puts to shame the chili-like slop Detroit dishes out on the pure meat scale – to be honest, it’s just a pile of rich, fatty ground beef. It’s not even really a sauce, and it’s a terrifyingly beautiful thing.

It's famous!Some come for the bags of ice.

Without those two vital components, you can’t call what you’re eating a Flint coney dog. And of all the “original” Flint, Michigan Coney Islands, only Angelo’s Coney Island is still kicking and serving up the real deal. Opened in 1949 on Davison Road about a mile from General Motors’ once sprawling complex of factories along Industrial Avenue, Angelo’s has somehow survived the ups and many downs of beleaguered Flint. For a mere $2.29, you can still get a taste of automotive history, with the required chopped onions and squirt of mustard.

The king is dead! Long live the king!

“Have you had 2 lately?”

Angelo’s is definitely a book you shouldn’t judge by its cover. It has a dated, nondescript exterior, complete with fake stone and a tacky red awning. Inside, booths are held together with duct tape and the tables have deep battle scars, beat up from decades of scalding hot coffee, clattering silverware, and greasy elbows. If you were expecting linen tablecloths and waiters in formal attire, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Kids’ meals delivered in plastic hot rods and tobacco-stained fingers are the order of the day here. What can I say? Angelo’s is authentic; it’s real; it’s working class America.

Gimme a bowl of grease, please!

“Aw, c’mon, are you sure don’t you want some pie, sweetie? We’ve got lemon pie, banana pie, chocolate pie, uh… blueberry pie, pumpkin pie, cherry pie, coconut pie…. Or we’ve got pecan pie, apple pie, or raspberry pie!”

A good meal at Angelo’s includes two coney dogs, fries smothered in gravy, a milkshake, and a “homemade” pie. And despite the clear artery-clogging properties hard at work, it all goes down incredibly easy. For one, the coney dogs aren’t as spicy as their Detroit brethren – when you have chunks of friggin’ beef heart on your coney dog, you don’t need to add much extra flavor. The savory gravy on the fries and slurps of thick, sweet milkshake don’t exactly challenge your palette either, but nourish and comfort instead. Coming last, the pie is just to make sure your sugar- and carb-induced coma reaches a pleasant plateau.

Like stars.

Like stars in the dark night.

If you haven’t added at least an inch to your waist size by the time you’ve left Angelo’s, you probably missed something you were supposed to order. Unless you ordered the blue raspberry milkshake, in which case you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake.

Now THIS is a work of art.

“Have a nice day, y’all! It was nice meetin’ you all!”

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16 Responses to Angelo’s Coney Island

  1. I was just in that area a couple days ago, even saw the Angelo’s Coney Island sign.

  2. Erik says:

    It’s these places that make the world go round. I dig the diner seating, should never be replaced. Looks like the dog you have no regrets eating at whatever time of day and don’t mind the bad breath for the remainder of.

  3. Raymond Osborne says:

    I grew up about 8 blocks away from Angelo’s, but I now live in Denver, Colorado. Just seeing the photographs in this article had me drooling from remembering the sounds and smells inside of those beautiful doors! Great article, and I’ve shared it with everyone. Now where is that pack of Koegel’s and tube of Gracie’s in my freezer…

  4. Karen Paul Holmes says:

    A note about Angelo’s owners:
    Great article. Notice that the sign on the door says, “The old owner is back.” That doesn’t mean original owners who were Angelo Nikoloff and Carl Paul (my dad) who then brought on other partners, all Macedonians. They eventually retired and sold it to the guy who has it now (who sold it but got it back, which is why the sign says old owner). In my opinion, it isn’t as good as it used to be, but it is still the best coney around.

  5. I am in Az now but will be Flint March 23->30 and will be there. Can’t wait Hope to bring back sauce.

  6. Jon Schuster says:

    Great memories. Rode my bike there as a kid. Drove my car there as a teenager. Never got tired of the food! Thanks for the fond recollection.

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