awkwardly

Wednesday

A few weeks back, we went to Todoroff's just to try something different. I tried a single coney dog combo, small drink and medium fries, for $3.75. Judging by the description, it sounds a little overpriced, but their small drink was exactly the same size as a Wendy's medium. (Melinda had been eating hot dogs at home all week, so she wasn't interested in Todoroff's specialty. She got a burger and I smuggled my plain brown bag into Wendy's so we could eat together.)

At most places, coney dogs are sold in groups like White Castle sliders: less than three hardly constitutes a complete meal. At Todoroff's, their idea of chili is basically seasoned ground beef, and they packed about a burger's worth on top of the hot dog, so you definitely get your money's worth. I would classify it as a little spicier than "mild," but I'm not real fond of spicy foods. A diagram on their website describes the chili as having "no beans or drippy gravy," which would probably turn off some traditional chili afficianados, but it seemed fine by me. (Is there any such thing as a "traditional chili afficianado"? Yes, actually I met some in Texas. The kind who use sirloin and venison sausage, not ground beef.)

The decor inside matches the outside, giant beams dominating the walls and gleaming ductwork left visible overhead. The tables are all stainless steel. Besides coney dogs and fries and onion rings and chili, a sign on the wall reminds you to try their rice pudding.

And don't you dare forget the franchise opportunities! How many fast food joints have you been to lately with stacks of business cards on the counter? Next to that were half page flyers detailing who you'd contact to start your own Todoroff's franchise, and why.

For some reason there are a lot of coney islands around Jackson. I thought I had read an article that said a lot of immigrants to this area passed through New York on their way, and they just dragged the popular food from Coney Island to Jackson. This article claims that George Todoroff actually started selling chili in Coney Island in 1914, and later used his chili on top of hot dogs when those were popularized, at or about the same time that frankfurters became known as "hot dogs." But I can't tell if he came from Jackson to NY and then back, or if he settled in Jackson after New York, or what the real deal was.

Either way, when you talk about a coney dog, you're talking about the basic combination that this guy put together about 90 years ago. To get the authentic experience, you have to come to Jackson, Michigan and get served at a restaurant run by descendants of the master.

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