It's fair to say that the 2 a.m. crowd of Los Angeles has never truly been in want of suitable venues for late night noshing. Yet, even with this vast selection: the ham-fisted mutant burritos at Oki Dog, the artery-straining Tommy Burger spackled with brown roux, the endless trucks and carts slinging tacos a su gusto or foil-grilled bacon hot dogs, there remains a stubborn contingent that bemoans the city's lack of “proper drunk food.” It's these nostalgic east coast expats who, over the past few years, have championed the city's necessity for a proper Philly cheesesteak, an authentic Chicago red hot, and various nebulous interpretations of the New York slice. Granted, this push is by no means a bad thing, even if it amounts to the gustatory equivalent of shoring up the Dodger's pitching roster by raiding half of the National League bullpens (an appealing prospect this season).
The latest of these domestic imports is West Hollywood's Coney Dog, opened a month ago inside a revamped diner across from the Whiskey a Go-Go. As you may guess, the specialty here is the Coney Dog, a heavily spiced chili-soaked hot dog universally beloved by Michiganders and widely touted as both hangover cure and cause.
Detroit-born director Mike Binder (along with investments from Tim Allen, Sam Raimi, and Adam Sandler) funded the restaurant, stocking it with Faygo, Better Made chips and flat-screens tuned singularly to Tigers baseball. Movie stars and restaurants often make poor bedfellows, but in this case the focus here seems to be on mindful replication rather than over-inflated novelty.
The Coney dog, a smoky link flown in from the Motor City, draws the crowds here, but it is the menu's other brother, known as the “loose burger”, that proves more compelling to the inebriated diner. A sifted layer of pale ground beef sits beneath the ladle of chili, forming a rudimentary sloppy joe, though much more substantial and zesty in flavor. The bubbling vats of “Coney sauce,” the meaty chili fortified with hefty amounts of cumin and pepper, are allegedly imported directly from Detroit as well, an idea that seems as superfluous as it does endearing.
Atop the chili is stripe of yellow mustard and chopped onions, added for proper contrast. The steamed bun it sits in is remarkable if for no other reason than its ability to remain intact under such adverse conditions. It's exactly the kind the compact, filling nightcap you'll want nearby when the bars let out.
Coney Dog may not lend itself to street cred worthy of its gritty roots, but considering most patrons chief concern will be chili splatter on their designer clubwear, we'd imagine it's the closest intersection Hollywood and Detroit can expect.