Confirming suspicions that Mike Binder’s two-year-old Motor City-import, Coney Dog, had not exactly turned into Sunset’s hottest spot, the founder tells Detroit Free-Press today about his recent sale of the business to the owners of Gaby’s Express. “I always wanted a Coney joint on Sunset Boulevard,” he laments of his strategy to bring L.A. the Detroit’s ubiquitous chili-dog joints. “I did the best possible version, and it didn’t make money.” Now Coney Dog is half-Coney Dog, half Gaby’s Mediterranean Express, serving all of the dishes from both brands’ menus but keeping the original name for now. So, what went wrong?
Despite an initial boost from the Red Wing posse fiending for Faygo, Better Maid chips, and chili dogs, Binder says it was clear Angelenos didn’t really want “that kind of food.”
Yeah, maybe chili-dogs don’t live up to the same level of hype as Binder’s super-group of celebrity partners like Adam Sandler and Detroit-nostalgic stars like Tim Allen, Sam Raimi, Kris Draper, and Braylon Edwards. And his theory about L.A.’s appetite for tubular pork does have a speck of support in the somewhat similar fate of the Papaya King Sam Nazarian imported to Hollywood just a few months later.
But more than likely, it’s these very attempts to recreate phenomenons from afar that are building their own stumbling blocks. Outside of our cherished Detroit refugees, no one really ever asked for, or heard of, this hyper-regional concept. It feels as though restaurateurs often benefit better from doing their research and tapping into L.A.’s own intrinsic strengths and desires than trying to coax us into buying into a cultural throwback from a distant zip code.
We have our own thing out here, after-all. And that extends to a nostalgia for our own chili-topped temples of meat.