This fascination with the Coney Island hot dog is new. Thanks to my wife's father, Sonny, I had the opportunity to eat Coneys at the same little shop where he ate them as a school kid in the twenties and still, right up to the present day. These were not like the hot dogs I was used to.
Previous to the Coney Island encounter, my feelings about hot dogs were thus: as long as it didn't taste like a hot dog, that was okay; in fact,that was good! That is why my hot dog of choice was one with lots of mustard, a good helping of diced onion and lots and lots of good ol' sweet pickle relish. You can't taste the hot dog that way. An alternative was a chili dog but that was one smothered in chili with lots of diced onions and cheese - enough that it had to be eaten from a plate with utinsels. Can't taste the hot dog that way either.
With the combination of flavors from the chili sauce, the onions and the mustard, the Coney Island hot dog is again a tasty and handy finger food.
- Hot dogs - the thinner, bun-length dogs are best but I guess just about any hot dog you like will do. However, if your local supermarket features Nathan’s Hot Dogs, you owe it to yourself to try them if only once - they are definitely worth it. You can boil them but they are so much better when they have been grilled either on a griddle or BBQ grate.
- Hot dog buns - small buns but fresh. They have to be soft, soft enough to let you push the onions and chili into the side of the bun without the bun splitting.
- Chopped onions - white or Spanish onions are best. They need to be sharp in taste so the sweeter Vidalia type onions are usually not the best choice.
- Yellow mustard. Plain old yellow mustard is best for Coney Island hot dogs. They sort of evolved together. You could use a designer mustard but it wont be as good as if you had used good ol' French's Mustard.
- Chili sauce - serveral recipes for "authentic" Coney Island chili sauce, as well as some others, are included below.
- There is only one "acceptable" extra for the Coney Island hot dog. (I know, this is all very regional. In some places its sauerkraut, but here, in St. Petersburg, Florida, it's hot sauce.)
- Hot pepper sauce - Suggest Pat's Special Blend Hot Sauce but Tabasco will do nicely.
Basic Directions for Traditional Coney Island Hot Dog
- Grill hot dogs, warm buns.
- Place hot dog in bun. Place stripe of mustard along side hot dog.
- Place spoonful of onions along side of hot dog on same side as mustard.
- Place spoonful of chili sauce along opposite side of hot dog. Use finger to push onions and chili down along side of hot dog and into the side of the bun until you can close-up the bun. Add hot sauce if desired. It is ready to eat.
The secret here is proportions. It will take a bit of experimentation to get it right but that's okay. You get to eat the test results. It is a balance of the mustard, onions, chili sauce and the hot dog. No single ingredient should predominate - it is the blend that makes the distinctive flavor of the Coney Island hot dog.
I talked for a bit with the owner of the Coney Island stand. He didn't give much to help me figure out the recipe for his chili sauce - and that is the one ingredient that makes the Coney Island hot dog unique. Did a few taste tests and then a few more several days later. Started to get a feel for what was in it. Also did some research on the internet and found several recipes, all "authentic," and all different. Some very different. Pick one you like and give it a try. Enjoy a real, "authentic" Coney Island hot dog.