Detroit’s Coney Dog premieres in West Hollywood
It was just before noon today, and a line of characters, many of them dressed in U-M, MSU, Red Wings and Lions and other Detroit-themed garb, were wrapped around the corner on Sunset Boulevard, waiting for a little Motor City flavor in the heart of movie-making country.
The reason for the excitement was the opening day for the 100-seat Coney Dog, a new Detroit-themed restaurant that has set up shop on one of Hollywood’s most well-known drags, next to Whisky a Go Go rock club and just down the street from the Chateau Marmont, a longstanding celebrity haunt.
Detroit-styled coneys, loose burgers, Sanders, Stroh’s and Faygo are all on the menu, and before it even opened the restaurant became a social-media rallying point among former Michiganders now living in the Los Angeles area.
Admitting to first-day jitters was Birmingham-born Mike Binder, the actor-writer-director who owns the restaurant with several other Michigan-connected big shots, including comic-actor Tim Allen, director Sam Raimi and Detroit Red Wing Kris Draper.
“It feels like the night before I shoot a movie. I hope nothing goes wrong,” said Binder, who greeted restaurant patrons and made sure they were enjoying their dogs. “It’s like making a movie because of all of the attention to detail. I had bun steamers flown in from Michigan, I toured the hot dog factories … even got the right silverware. We wanted to do it right.”
The inside will look familiar to ex-pats. The 100 seats are a mixture of booths, bar seats and long communal tables, a layout not unlike Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit. There are photos of famous Michigan coney locations. Four large flat screens hang on the walls — many in the opening-day crowd said they’d be back later this week to watch the Detroit Tigers, who will be in town for a series against the Dodgers.
Binder said because of health inspection issues, it was unclear if the restaurant was going to open as planned today, a soft opening geared primarily for those who had connected with the restaurant through Facebook. “But then they gave me the go ahead to open and I thought it was going to be a slow week. Then I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! The Tigers play this week!’ It’s going to be nuts, but clearly this is all meant to be.”
Dave Kensler, 33, of White Lake Township, was first in line with his wife Tiffani Kensler, 30, of Detroit.
The two have lived in Studio City for almost 8 years, and usually make a coney stop when they visit Michigan. They got in line almost two hours before the restaurant opened — Dave wore a Tigers cap and a MSU hockey T-shirt; Tiffani wore a U-M tee. They are alums of the rival universities and met and married in Michigan.
“I love it. I miss coneys; I miss Detroit in general. It’s almost like a little oasis of Detroit here in West Hollywood,” Dave Kensler said. “It’s not only the coneys, but it’s the Vernors and the Stroh’s and the Faygos and people who are calling it pop.” And as for how they taste?
“It feels like home,” Kensler said, piercing the air with his fist and talking around a bite of his coney dog.
This is making me cry happy tears of awesome, I just want everyone to love Michigan stuff. I hope it does well, I hope it makes it. I don’t understand restaurants outside of my state because they don’t have local coneys. I’m always saying, “But then were do you go out to eat?!” to my out of state friends (they always answer with a national chain restaurant! Bah!).