TC SIdewalks LIve!: Saint Paul Coney Quest

As readers of this blog well know, I've long been fascinated by Saint Paul's coney island landscape. I was there when the Gopher Bar was the last surviving holdout single-underhandedly fighting the dread smoking ban. Since those days I've been wandering the capitol city in search of hot dogs, and I have found myself at a crossroads.

Today, there is only on question on my mind:

Does Saint Paul have its own vernacular coney island dog?

The coney island hot dog is a noble food. Contrary to popular opinion, the "coney island hot dog" does not come from Coney Island New York, but from Detroit Michigan, where diner-owning Greek immigrants first took the hot dog and added crucial ingredients: onion, and some kind of chili.

It spread from there until, according to the internet, there flourished a great many distinctive coney island identities. Pictured here is the Flint coney, which relies on distinctive local sauces and sausages (Angelos' and Kogel's respectively). Cincinnati, Detroit (of course), and a few other towns claim similar distinctive hot dog varieties. (Lacking chili and containing everything but the kitchen sink, the "Chicago dog" is not in this category.)

But somehow Michigan's hot dog managed to plant its seed in Saint Paul, and today you can still find at least three separate and distinct purveyors of coneys in the greater downtown Saint Paul region. We will visit them all. I have my favorite, but this is less a ranking than an exploration of identity. Do these coneys share anything in common? Do they deserve to be placed along side the Flint coney, the Detroit coney, and the Cincinnati coney in the greasy halls of sausage history?

[From top to bottom: Kelly's, Keenan's, and the Gopher.]
To answer this question, we will be traveling on bicycles to three purveyors of coney dogs in the greater downtown Saint Paul area.

NOTE: there are many hot dogs available in the downtown area that are NOT coney dogs. For example, both Chris & Robs and the Bulldog is known for their hot dogs, however these are not coney dogs (nor do they claim to be). The same holds true for the Bedlam Theater, which plies a chaotic mess of random sausaged delectations.

No, we will be pure. We will acknowledge our past. We will succumb to the trajectory of history. We will wend our way into the dark corners of the city and force a confrontation. I realize this quest is inherently conservative, and harbors a lingering reaction that may one day encase our souls.

But we are young and full of hope. Today we must embrace it! We will swallow our pride and choke on our Greek and German roots until we find its true flavor.

My guess? We will find satisfaction.

What: Bike ride in search for the vernacular Saint Paul "Coney Island" hot dog, stopping at three (3) extant coney establishments and one ghost.

We will taste them in our minds and mouths, and the purpose of the tour is to answer the following question:

"Does Saint Paul have its own vernacular coney island dog?"

Date: (next) Thursday October 9th

Time: Meet up at 6:00 PM at...
Place: Kelly's Depot Bar, where the first of your coneys awaits.
Distance: Less than 3 miles from dog-to-dog-to-ghost-to-dog
Total coneys: A minimum of 3
Total historical importance: Limitless

[Facebook invite.]

This is a short ride, with long implications. Should we answer in the affirmative, the Saint Paul coney will rise to among the very finest vernacular coneys.

Note: the word "coney" actually means "rabbit." "Coney island" is not an island.

Also note: this amazing artistic review of the Gopher Bar is a must-read.

1 comment:

Mitch Vars said...

I'm starved