photo: courtesy of Leo's Coney Island
The real-deal Leo's Coney.
Former Michiganders and Detroit transplants rejoice, the coney has finally come to Chicago. In a world of drag-it-through-the-garden dogs, the coney represents an oasis for the chili-topped Koegel dogs that so many Michigan residents know like the backs of their hands (as opposed to their palm, which serves as a map). However, in a city like Chicago that's so married to a specific style of sausage, can the coney get a fair shake? Judging by the throngs that packed Leo's in its opening days, it's pretty safe to say that the answer is "yes."
In case you're not familiar with the coney dog, it's a style of sausage imported from the famous New York boardwalk that really took hold in the Detroit area and then spread outward throughout the Mitten State. Traditionally a grilled dog in a plain bun topped with a thin, beanless chili aggressively spiced with Greek seasonings and topped with mustard and chopped white onion, it's a dog that is more than just the sum of its parts. The Leo's chain is located all over Michigan and well known not just for coneys, but also their Greek salads, another major part of the Leo's experience.
So does the Illinois outpost of Leo's stand up to the originals? Thankfully for all the coney-craving Chicagoans, the answer is yes. Griddled dogs come absolutely covered in coney sauce, and loose meat coneys (coney sauce over browned ground beef in a hot dog bun) are just as good as back home. The Greek salad has all the fixings you expect, like chickpeas and beets. The space is bright and clean, yet cafeteria like, staff is attentive and the food comes out fast and furious.
The menu isn't just a one-note song - you can also get gyros and kebab, burgers and sandwiches, kids menu selections and even breakfast if you like. But let's be real - the true draw here is, of course, the coney. In short, Chicago's long drought for the true coney experience has finally ended, much to the chagrin of the few places around town still trying to produce their takes on the dog.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Karl Klockars