Sunday, October 23, 2005

Detroit Breakdown*
A Regional Specialty That Failed Me

Poster MJM writes lovingly (with pic) of Lafayette Coney Island of Detroit here. The grand poohbahs of Roadfood, the Sterns, also write lovingly of Lafayette in their latest book (although there is no mention on their web site). I've been anxious to try...

About 15 years ago, I tried Cincinnati chili for the first time. Before that moment, I had been reading about 5 way and all sortsa other regional specialties in the Stern books. Those books, of course, made me interested in the chili. Going into Cincy I thought I'd enjoy the experience of "trying", but I did not expect that much. I was surprised then in how much I really liked Cincinnati chili. It was good, really good. It set the standard for regional oddities over the years. And what I have found, with things like LA french dips, Central Texas BBQ, NY pastrami, Boston Indian pudding, [ed. italian beef?]etc., is that these things are not just interesting but exceptionally tasty. There is a reason they have become famous.

Which meant that when lunch came around in downtown Detroit, I knew exactly where I needed to go. For once, however, the hype did not match the product. I cannot fully say "so what" because, as well described on LTHForum (link above), Lafayette Coney is a classic, the kinda of barely changed, Hopperesque place I live for. Still, the product just did not move me. At all. And when I tried for the sake of chow-science, All-American's coneys next door, I did not leave any more blissed.

The Detroit coney dog gets griddled and then condimented with chili sauce, mustard and onions (I skipped the latter). The dog itself is pretty good, well crusted from the griddle and a nice smokey flavor. The toppings, however, added nothing. Bland is not quite a word for chili, but I am not quite sure the word (Antonius, MikeG, Hammond, Desmond?) for something with flavors that still have little taste.

I passed through Detroit's Greektown a few times for reasons I cannot detail and rued missing the lamb with squash daily special. I did buy a some nice pastries at Astoria.

To end, I'll add that for someone like me, who fetishizes over old buildings (and old stuff generally), downtown Detroit is a fine place to hang for a day. I think I counted 3 skyscrapers built after 1985.

Lafayette Coney Island
(313) 964-8198
118 W Lafayette Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

Astoria Pastry Shop
541 Monroe St
Detroit, MI 48226-2932
(313) 963-9603

*Who else misses J and the gang?

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