Detroit Coney Dog? I thought Coney Island was in New York? Time for more leaning, this time from the old Wikipedia. Apparently Coney Dogs originated in the early 20th century in Michigan, particular becoming popular in the cities of Flint and Detroit a few years before they ever made it to the Big Apple. An authentic Coney should be made with a Koegel Vienna beef wiener from the Koegel Meat Co. in Flint and should be topped with onions, mustard and a beanless chili sauce heavily flavored with cumin and made from beef hearts.
Still with me after the beef-heart chili deal? Good, because it definitely is a dog worth experiencing. Ron Butler, the owner/chief cook/bottle washer at Jim's overnights his chili sauce and Koegel dogs from Michigan to ensure their authenticity. (Speaking of dogs, look for the picture of Jim above the counter and you'll see the namesake of the establishment.) Keeping with the Midwestern theme, Ron serves case after case of Faygo soft drinks and Vernor's Ginger Ale to accompany the dogs, burgers and well-seasoned fries. If you're a cream soda fan, try a Faygo Rock and Rye with your next Coney. You'll thank me.
The beef casing of the Coney has just enough snap to it, and the fact that the dogs are grilled instead of steamed or boiled ensures a little bit of pleasing char. The chili sauce is wonderfully messy, and no one will look down their nose at you if you use a fork to finish up the drippings. Mainly the reason no one would look down their nose is that everyone in the entire joint is facing in the same direction.
You see, Jim's Coney Island is tee-tiny. With only 8 or 9 stools facing the grill and Ron's entertaining ongoing chatter, if the weather doesn't allow for outside seating you better get there early or consider a to-go order. There are a few bistro tables outside, but the parking lot is small and spaces aren't marked, so expect a little anarchic traffic to entertain you while you eat. Jim's shares the lot with a service station, so it's pretty much every driver for themselves when trying to park.
Because it is so small, my most recent dining companions pleaded with me not to tell the Bites-Net about it. However, since I learned yet another fact about Jim's from Bites commenter Shannon, who shared how wonderful their burgers were, I promised not to keep my secret any longer. A repeat trip was planned, and this post moved from my to-do list to my actually-do-it-dammit list.
Ron makes loosely packed beef patties at the time of order and slaps them on the griddle under a shower of seasoned salt. Each burger is actually two patties with condiments thoughtfully layered between the buns, cheese and patties so as not to get all mixed up in a steamy mess that ends up tasting like bad Big Mac Special Sauce. (Read: Thousand Island.) The burger was juicy and well-seasoned without being too salty. The bun could hardly contain the amount of meat and toppings, but there were no complaints from our dining party. Except we needed more napkins ... and a nap.
Is it the best burger in town? That's still up for debate, but it's definitely in my Top 5. However, Jim's may well be the best burger deal in town. A lunch combo of either a burger or two (!) Coney Dogs with a generous helping of fries and a drink will set you back less than seven bucks. That alone will earn my return business. Especially if I can get somebody else to drive and hassle with the parking.
Jim's Coney Island
4663 Trousdale Drive
Nashville, TN 37204