Tag Archives: foodie

Foodie Tour of the D… Detroit’s Obsession with Coney Islands (that’s Hot Dogs with Chili + Onions)

Wanna make a lunch decision you will instantly regret?

Go on a foodie tour of the coney islands in the D… Detroit loves it’s Coney Dogs!

They don’t call them coney’s in New York… on Coney Island in Brooklyn hot dogs are hot dogs… Nathan’s is probably my favorite though Hebrew National aren’t bad either, even Ballpark is OK. But that’s something I’d have every once in a blue moon, typically at a BBQ on a summer’s day.

Well in Detroit hot dogs with chili are all the rage. I remember seeing stores along Van Dyke for as long as I remember coming up to visit my friends on 26 mile and always wondered what the fuzz was all about… what is this Coney Island? and why are there so many of them…? on this trip to Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park I found out. So come join me on my little foodie adventure that resulted in nothing more than confusion and a stomach ache… I enjoyed it!

I started out on Woodward Avenue near Pontiac because of a side trip to the Fiat Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills while on a hunt for a Fiata sighting, but more about that in another post. My first stop was Athens Coney Island on Woodward in Royal Oak, MI Naively my plan was to pop into three or four different joints, order a coney to go, and sample it while driving to the next one… that plan was STUPID!

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 1 athens

As I soon found out with Athens coney dog in my car, eating it was messy and I soon regretted the decision of doing this! I also ordered french fries with this dog so I don’t puke all over myself having a hot dog for my first meal of the day and they were extremely bland. But I needed a baseline to compare my future coney’s to, so with a small chili stain on my t-shirt I proceeded to the next place which happened to be the most famous one’s depending on whom you ask.

Downtown Detroit is known for it’s turf war between two family owned coney joints… or at least the family was related when the restaurants opened. Now Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island are two competing businesses working side by side selling coney’s to fans of their rivalry.

I went to Lafayette first just because I parked my car nearest to their entrance… The place looked pretty old school, with two old Greeks behind the counter slapping together people’s orders. I figured for this one I’d sit down to avoid getting any more chili sauce all over me. The order was served on a small plate with a fork and a glass of water which the fella behind the counter insist I take, I didn’t want it. Here’s the famous serving:

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 3 lafayette

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 2 lafayette

Despite my best efforts as soon as I picked up the coney to shove it in my mouth the little dices of onion went flying everywhere. The dog was tasty, chili and mustard added good flavor, but raw onion is not something I normally eat knowing how it typically sends my stomach rumbling… so I was a bit apprehensive. All in all, it tasted like a hot dog something I could probably make sans the chili.

Next stop American Coney Island:

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 5 american

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 6 american

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 7 american

Unlike the previous two stops, this place took their hot dog selling business seriously and looked extremely polished and commercialized. Was that good? Sure… I’d say it looked like a chain now though the owner was clearly running around supervising the staff and talking with some of the customers, that was cool. Still retained some of that mom and pop feel like the diners I visited.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 8 american

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 9 american

I ordered their coney with some fries and found out that if I dip the fries into the chili, I’d save myself from making a mess of it in the end. The dog was good, the chili did taste slightly different and the chunks of onions were much smaller which made them a bit less noticeable in every bite, although clearly the strong taste was still there. I could see why people rant and rave that this place is #1.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 10 american lafayette

The location also captures a small portrait of Detroit in general. While the downtown looked really nice, a lovely place with nice buildings, stadiums and other entertainment venues. A new M-line rail is in development that I’m sure will revitalize the city bringing people from Midtown and other points closer to Downtown. The Bathtub Bar next door looked in complete state of neglect and disrepair. And that sums it up. No matter how wonderful Detroit is there are aspects of it suffering neglect (including those horrible pot hole lined highways, freeways and avenues, so massive I don’t know how I didn’t suffer a blow-out… I will bitch about in another post) which brings the image of the whole city down. It’s not to say other cities don’t have their eye sores to look at, but in Detroit it’s the first thing that jumps out at you and most people tent to talk about. I really love Detroit and I wish the image changes soon! So I praise places like American Coney Island for doing their part in polishing the city’s image.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 4 american lafayette

Now after these three pit stops any sane person would call it quits, but I decided to have a go at one more place for scientific purposes of comparison of course… I visited one of the chains in the suburbs called Kerby’s Koney Island on Woodward in Bloomfield Hills, MI ( I was heading back to FCA HQ for another go at the Fiata ).

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 11 kerbys

Their coney’s were just as messy as the rest of them, but instead of ordering fries I went with fried zucchini sticks or zucchini fries.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 14 kerbys

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 12 kerbys

That was a great decision! The zucchini fries were extremely tasty and I actually managed to notice the different taste of Kerby’s chili. At this place I finally reached for the fork and ate the messy dog as it was probably intended to: in a civilized manner.

detroit foodie tour coney island hot dogs with chili 13 kerbys

So all in all… four different places visited, four different coney’s sampled and I am no closer telling the difference between them now then before I started. They all tasted like hot dogs to me.

A funny moment while I was finishing my meal at Lafayette some kids were talking about doing a coney road trip, sampling the different coneys around the State…  made me chuckle a little. If that’s your thing, go for it and enjoy. Personally I’ll probably leave the chili dog experience to my next BBQ or pic-nick. (or more likely one of the cookouts at the race track somewhere, where burgers and dogs are easiest fare to make). Glad I’ve been there and done that now, so I’m not tempted to do it again next time I come back to Detroit!

Three Week Foodie Tour of the South, with some Racing Sprinkled In

Over the past three weeks I’ve got a chance to sample some amazing foodie experiences around the southern part of the country while marshaling various events in Texas, California and Alabama. My goal is to share my opinions on the places I liked and others that didn’t really do it for me anymore, while promoting the idea that there’s so much more to do when traveling for Motorsport events than just being stuck at the circuit all the time.

foodie tour long beach california in-n-out burger and fries animal style

I’ll start with my visits to the In-n-Out burger joint. It is a fast food place and as such not exactly a culinary phenomenon, but we don’t have it in New Jersey and everyone rants and raves about them on the west coast, and specifically in California so I had to have it. Was it as good as everyone claims it to be? Not particularly. I think I’m In-n-Outed already. The burgers are fantastic, for sure. But I think the fries killed the experience for me. There was an In-n-Out in Austin, Texas my host and I went to during the MotoGP before trying one in Huntington Beach, California during the Long Beach Grand Prix and the problem is the same: french fries go cold quickly making them taste like paper… especially when you get them done animal style, the cheese just puts a hard layer over the thin cut fries ruining the taste of the potato (I’m assuming that’s what they’re made of). That said, next time I’m in Cali I’ll probably have one again, minus the fry.

Another chain that really didn’t do it for me was Shrimp Basket in Irondale, Alabama. I like the idea of seafood to mix things up but this joint didn’t really live up to my expectations and I left disappointed. The food was mediocre, small portions and overpriced.

foodie tour alabama grand prix irondale shrimp basket

Similarly, I was very disappointed in Boomerang’s food truck at COTA, the Aussie flag peeked my interest as I absolutely love to have meat pies whenever I travel to Australia. But this place ruined it for me. The pie was basically a miniature pot pie which is nothing like the proper Aussie/Kiwi pies, and at $10 a pop they’re grossly overpriced, considering real OZ pies go for $2-4 bux.

foodie tour austin texas cota motogp boomerangs 1

foodie tour austin texas cota motogp boomerangs 2

I had to have one when I saw the truck, but I’m sorry I did.

foodie tour austin texas cota motogp boomerangs 3

Now to the foodie experiences that I seriously enjoyed…

Meches Tacos is an excellent taqueria less then a minute away from COTA that serves amazing breakfast tacos…. simple yet excellent! So good in fact I ate them before I realized I should take a picture. Look for it on FM 812 in Del Valle, TX just past the track entrance when traveling from Austin.

Unlike my last trip to Austin for PWC in March where I focused primarily on BBQ joints for dinner, this time around Tex-Mex was the name of the game, and the highlight of my visit was a trip to Baby Acapulco’s. I was feeling pretty exhausted and a bit under the weather so I ordered Baby A’s tortilla soup to help self medicate, and that stuff was pretty awesome. Again, was too hungry to take a picture but I did snap a shot of a similar lunch at Pappasito’s Cantina at Dallas Airport on my flight home…. another excellent choice for quick and good meal when traveling to Texas.

foodie tour motogp at cota texas papasito's cantina

I enjoy visiting Pappas restaurants in Texas ever since a friend of mine took me out to the Pappas Steakhouse in Houston. Now whenever I’m in Texas I try to visit one of the establishments depending what I’m in the mood for… Tex-Mex at Pappasito’s or seafood at Pappadeaux.

Some chains of course are better than others. We went to a bunch of bad ones in Southern California which was surprising considering how saturated the market is there with good authentic Mexican food. But we also went to some really great places. One was a hole in a wall bar serving simple sandwiches on rye bread called Joe Jost’s. I ordered the hot dog which was actually Polish kielbasa and a liverwurst pate style thing on rye. This place was a few minutes drive from the temporary circuit downtown and full of people when we went. Funny enough all the drinks were served in margarita style glass, even beer.

foodie tour long beach california bar food

Next awesome stop was actually adjacent to my flag point. After two days of eating the same exact sandwich provided by Cal Club I couldn’t stand the idea of having the same thing on Race Day so we climbed the fence and went to Islands fine burgers and drinks. The root beer float I got to start off my meal really hit the spot on a warm and sunny day. But the highlight of the meal was my bacon avocado burger and those excellent fries. It was very delicious!

foodie tour long beach california islands root beer float

foodie tour long beach california islands burger

I felt like I needed a nap after that big  meal, and the uneventful IndyCar race that followed almost succeed putting me to sleep.

The final meal on the trip before flying out of town took delicious to the next level. I’m a sucker for Motorsport advertising, and when I saw a beautiful Dodge Viper racing in the Pirelli World Challenge series wrapped in Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles livery I had to see what the fuzz was all about. After visiting the Mazda HQ in Irvine I made my way to their Anaheim location to give it a go.

roscoe's fried chicken n waffles 1

Boy did that hit the spot. I requested the chicken breast with two giant waffles. The meal was so big this was one of those rare occasions where I didn’t finish it. I don’t normally leave food on the plate after I’m done eating, but this time I just had no place to put it, I was completely stuffed. And very satisfied. The freeflow of fruit punch and lemonade in a distinct two tone as pictured was a nice touch and something I hadn’t really seen before at a chain restaurant. Another good sign the place was packed for lunch!

roscoe's fried chicken n waffles 2 fruit punch and lemonade

Lucky for me, just a week later I had another Southern place to compare these friend chicken and waffles to. As I got an opportunity to stop by a real soul food place in downtown Atlanta on my layover heading home from Alabama. Glady’s Knight’s Chicken & Waffles wasn’t a planned visit, but since I was staying in a cheap motel just a block away and there weren’t too many other options in the area, I jumped on the opportunity to give it a try. Comparing the two I would vote for Roscoe’s as my more favorite, the chicken was juicier and the pancakes were more affordable. But the Hotlanta joint definitely had a better ambiance inside. And instead of the fruit punch and lemonade combo they had a sweet tea and lemonade instead… and after a week or so in the deep south, sweet tea became my go to drink every time!

foodie tour atlanta soul food fried chicken and waffles

foodie tour atlanta soul food sweet tea and lemonade

Now I’ll finish this write up with the really good stuff!

Alabama took me by complete surprise when I arrived there. It was nothing what I had expected. And while I always remind myself to travel with an open mind, arriving in Birminham blew my mind!

The foodie experiences were a major contributing factor to the mind-blown phenomena, and by sharing the pix below I’ll attempt to explain exactly why.

The first thing I learned about Southern Cuisine in Alabama is that they have a special sauce for their meals unique to the region. It’s called the Alabama white sauce and it’s best served on chicken or turkey although some friends that recommended it prefer it on pork too… So of course I went out hunting for this amazing white sauce.

And I found it at Saw’s soul food restaurant downtown.

foodie tour alabama grand prix birmingham saws sampler

My CouchSurfing host lives just about a mile down the road and was happy to show me this joint. She even recommended the sampler plate to try more of the things on the menu. She was completely right, everything was delicious and I really did enjoy the sauce.

foodie tour alabama grand prix birmingham saws juke joint sausage

A few days later my buddy Robert and I went to the other Saw’s location called Juke Joint, which had a different menu but equally delicious food. I ordered some amazing sausage and fried green tomatoes. I also ordered sweet tea fried chicken sandwich to go so I can have it as lunch at the track the next day. Both were fantastic options!

foodie tour alabama grand prix birmingham golden rule sampler

foodie tour alabama grand prix irondale bama white sauce

Speaking of taking food to the track, on Friday a whole group of Road Atlanta flaggers went to Golden Rule BBQ joint just a few miles from the track for a big dinner. There I got to sample some amazing sliced pork again served with the local white sauce which is vinegar and mayo based with pepper and other stuff added for flavor. I had so many leftovers there was no need to buy lunch the next day.  It was such an delicious experience I’m happy to say that out of all the Southern food I got to sample on the trips to Texas and California, Alabama wins hands down for having the best food!

I am so looking forward to my next Grand Prix Foodie adventure.

Top 10 Foodie Experiences while Marshaling (International)

Three important components make up this wonderful hobby that I blog about while volunteering in Motorsport: 1). Racing, 2). Travel to get to the Races and 3). the Foodie experiences along the way.

Here are my Top 10 Foodie experiences (cheap, greasy, delicious!) while marshaling, that I would absolutely go back for just to sample the awesome food again. This post will be divided into three sections, because I could and totally will give my Top 10 Foodie experiences while marshaling just in the USA alone. This part is the  International foodie experiences at each venue. And then the places you may transit through just to get to the event (both domestically and internationally).

#10 Canada: Poutine

canada poutine

When marshaling in Canada, you should try Poutine –  french fries, covered in cheese curds and smothered in gravy.

Although a Quebeci cuisine I haven’t really been all that crazy about it while marshaling the Canadian GP in Montreal. Instead it was the food of choice for me in Ontario during the ALMS races at Mosport. I tried to stick to a strictly “poutine” diet which meant trying quite a few different poutine trucks every day, and my favorite by far was one located at a little gas station just north of the Candian Tire Motorsports Park.

The best experience so far was sharing a few big portions with friends right at the track, which we all immediately regretted feeling bloated and full, so we decided to walk the entire length of the circuit to “walk it off” and that I will always remember! You have to try it for yourself.

alms mosport 6

#9 Australia: Fish & Chips

foodie australia fish and chips

When marshaling in Australia (or New Zealand for that matter) do try their Fish & Chips.

While traditionally a British thing, I think it would be foolish not to call Aussie style Fish & Chips an Aussie thing especially when you do have an opportunity to visit a proper fish and chips place along the Indian Ocean like say driving the Great Ocean Road, or on your way to Phillip Island because there’s a beautiful assortment of excellent and very outstanding fish and chips places that serve ridiculously fresh fish. Typically served with malt vinegar or tartar sauce which is my favorite.

The fries are really good, but the fish will be the highlight of that quick and tasty meal. Legend has it they deep fry flake which apparently is shark (gummy shark). And I don’t know about you but tasting shark is exotic and generally awesome.

#8 Germany: Veal Schnitzel with Gravy

foodie germany schnitzel

When marshaling in Germany you must have the Schnitzel!

Whether you go for chicken, beef or veal you won’t go wrong because they’re all equally tasty. I’ve sampled a lot of delicious food in Germany from their wonderful sausages to the delicious sandwiches (pretzel bread = yumm!) But a nice warm veal schnitzel served with fries and smothered in mushroom gravy is finger licking good. Especially when you are walking distance from your post at the Nordschleife on a cool summer’s day.

So when going to work at the “Green Hell” that is Nurburgring add a schnitzel to your list. My favorite joint is Giulia’s in Adenau which is a stone’s throw away from Post 120. And no meal would be complete without a stein of WARSTEINER beer. Seeing it served instantly brought memories of classic cars I saw on TV and later in person at various historic races around the world sporting the WARSTEINER sponsored logo including those beautiful E30 BMW M3’s, the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR of the mid 2000’s and of course the Porsche prototypes of the much older vintage era.

foodie germany beer nordscheleife

#7 Bahrain: Shawarma Malgoum

foodie bahrain shawarma malgoum

When marshaling in Bahrain you must try a Shawarma Malgoum!

So the french fry theme continues except this time it is engineered in to a delicious shawarma served on a busy street corner in a little village outside of the capital of the tiny island of Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf. I got really lucky to have an opportunity to marshal WEC in Bahrain and one of the marshals that drives a course car offered to show me around and give me a little sample of what the local food scene is like. It’s tough otherwise to find proper Bahraini food in Bahrain because of the dominance of all the western food chains and typical Indian joints that are readily available in the Middle East. But a cheap and compact shawarma really gave me a culinary peak at something truly local. You must experience it for yourself.

I did get a chance to go out for some lamb chops and other well made meats served with humus and pita bread, but I don’t think anything hit the spot like the Malgoum. Why do they call it that? and why is it a very Bahraini thing? Well because it’s an “everything” shawarma stuffed with all sorts of goodness from diced tomatos to generous portions of beef (chicken or lamb, whatever you prefer) some salad, and chili sauce.

Quickly made. Cheap and best enjoyed with friends late night. Typically followed by smoking some hookah at a juice bar. An experience I can’t wait to repeat in the future.

foodie bahrain hooka

#6 Singapore: Chicken Rice

foodie singapore chicken rice

When marshaling in Singapore you must have Chicken Rice!

It’s impossible to come to Singapore and not be overwhelmed by all the amazing culinary variety. You’ve got your traditional Chinese food, Malay food, Indian food, Thai food, Indonesian food, and plenty of Western food options too. But what MUST you try on your visit? Chicken rice, no if’s, and’s or but’s about it! Why? Because it is the simplest and the most readily available foods found on the island. It is also one of the cheapest. And most importantly it’s one of the best things they have to offer both locals and visitors alike.

Chicken rice or more properly Hainanese chicken rice is exactly what the name suggests, a simple cup of white rice served with poached and steamed chicken with some sweet chili, ginger and molasses like black substance that adds a very unique flavor to the dish. Often accompanied by a little bowl of the broth that the chicken is cooked in to sprinkle on your rice while you eat it with a fork and a spoon (using the fork to pile spoon-full’s of chicken and rice mix for each bite). I would highly recommend chicken rice for anyone as basic as it sounds it’s the one thing I really crave the most after living in Singapore for a while.

Don’t forget to get some freshly cut fruit for desert after your meal. Readily available at just about every Kopitiam on the island, the fruit is as important as the dish itself, to me at least. Especially with the exotic options like dragon fruit, starfruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, green/red apple, banana, strawberry and kiwi’s. Try it! Love it!

foodie singapore fresh fruit

#5 Malaysia: Nasi Lemak

foodie malaysia nasi lemak banana leaf

When marshaling in Malaysia you must have Nasi Lemak!

Nasi Lemak to me is the most Malay of the Malaysian dishes I’ve sampled, and I’ve been fortunate enough to try a few. It is coconut rice cooked with your choice of chicken, beef, cockles or even livers covered in spicy fish paste and topped with an egg all wrapped around in a banana leaf.

Traditionally eaten for breakfast, I’ve learned to love this dish at Sepang when one of my fellow marshals would make a morning run to pick up enough for our entire team. It’s true that coconut rice has a tendency to drive your stomach crazy afterwards, but the food is so delicious it is well worth all the funny business that may happen after you’ve digested it. It is phenomenal. You must try! And whenever possible have some Ipoh white coffee to wash it down. Ipoh coffee is served with a hefty serving of condensed milk which makes it white’ish in color and is absolutely amazing with a perfect amount of sweetness that I really love.

foodie malaysia nasi lemak

#4 South Korea: Anything with Kimchi

foodie korean bbq kimchi

When marshaling in South Korea try anything and everything that comes served with Kimchi!

I’m sure you all know what kimchi is so there’s no point explaining why this fermented spicy cabbage goodness is amazing. But when volunteering in Korea, like the Korean Grand Prix of the past or any of the current events held in the country. Whatever you eat that’s served with kimchi will leave you with an excellent memory to take back from Korea home, wherever you may live.

On my last visit I was lucky enough to experience kimchi with a several “guides” that showed me around. I first used CouchSurfing and people were kind enough to show me around the Seoul market, trying food all along the way, from Korean Sushi to Korean BBQ.

Then when we made our way to Mokpo with a fellow marshal he spoiled me for choice with the food options on the way and at the Marshal hostel that served us food for breakfast and dinner. Whatever the food: from delicious meat to fish, kimchi highlighted the dish and made me crave it more and more. I can’t wait to have it again on my next trip to this beautiful country. You should try it too!

foodie south korea kimchi

#3 Malaysia: Fish

foodie malaysia fish rice

When marshaling in Malaysia and if you’re lucky enough to have someone knowledgeable show you around… try the Fried Fish!

There’s a little village not far from the Sepang Circuit that I’ve had the pleasure to frequent after long days of working at the track. The whole rescue team that I camped together with at the track would go out every night for a relaxing evening to socialize with fellow marshals and share a delicious meal. Needless to say I was the only foreigner there, but I felt extremely welcome and more importantly I was absolutely in love with the fish they served at this little Muslim Thai restaurant that basically specializes in a very unique dish I haven’t tried anywhere else in Malaysia or Thailand on my travels, and I always make it a point to sample as much food as possible whenever I am in Southeast Asia.

What is the fish called? I have no idea. It is grilled to make the skin crispy and then smothered in the most delicious sweet chili sauce, served with rice. I always get a cup of Ipoh coffee or two to go with it, which is white coffee I described with my Nasi Lemak dish above, or coffee served with condensed milk. My favorite!

PS. the name of the fish dish is: “ikan kembung masak pedas

#2 New Zealand: Meat Pies

foodie new zealand meat pie

When marshaling in New Zealand (and Australia) you must try the Meat Pies!

Much like fish and chips, which I also really really like, Meat Pies are a British import to the Pacific but one that has gotten a flavor of it’s own and I much prefer the Kiwi meat pies to anything I tried in the UK. The meat pies are typically stuffed with chicken, beef, pork, livers, veggies, and a variety of other combinations like black pepper steak or curry chicken. And I love them all. I really do!

The best part about meat pies you get them served at the track while marshaling so you don’t really have to go looking for them at a specific restaurant or bakery. Although while driving on the way to Hampton Downs or Pukekohe on the North Island I’ve always made it a point to stop at Pokeno to stock up on their delicious goodness.

The pies were also readily available to buy frozen and heat up at home by brands like Big Ben who also sponsored local racing. But nothing compares to freshly made kidney liver pies or chicken curry pies I’d get on the way to the track. I loved it, you’d love it too!

foodie new zealand kiwi meat pie big ben

#1 Singapore: Durian

foodie singapore durian

When marshaling in Singapore the #1 meal you should try is Durian!

The highlight of my life in Singapore and pretty much every subsequent visit since has been to sample some fresh Durian. I don’t know if people would ever understand the craving I have for such an infamous fruit. But I definitely crave it! And you can’t just have any durian you stumble upon the street. Hell they sell them in Chinatown in Manhattan or San Francisco. But apparently there’s nothing worse than bad durian. You have to have it in season. You have to ask for the Malaysian durian which is smaller than the big Thai durian and therefore more potent, tastier.

Other products with durian are a hit or miss. I’ve tried durian ice cream and absolutely hated it, but also tried durian moon cakes during Chinese New Year celebration and absolutely loved them. But there really isn’t a substitute for the real thing. And if you do end up going to the Singapore GP I would highly recommend spending one evening exploring Geylang with a local marshal who would surely be able to point you in the right direction to try the “King of Fruit!”

Of course your experience may be way different from mine. I’m happy to share my favorite American Top 10 Foodie Experiences… and I think the Malaysian and Singapore Top 10 Foodie Experiences will follow, so stay tuned!