At WinterQ event in Great Bend, Kansas a couple weekends back, there was a Friday night appetizer contest. As with most of these ancillary events, it was pretty much anything goes. Folks will spend upwards of a hundred dollars on an entry to win $25. We typically don't enter so that we can remain focused on the big prize, the KCBS sanctioned contest. However, hearing that WinterQ was a bit festive and unique to most events, I decided to enter. I settled on mini chili dogs, mostly because I thought they'd be great for dinner on a cold night. If you read the contest recap below, you'll see how it all came out.
My inspiration for these mini chili dogs came after sampling the seasonal chili offering at Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Olathe. That chili reminded me of the Cincinnati style chili we had at Skyline on the road to Washington, D.C. last summer. To my surprise, Jeff Stehney's inspiration had little to do with Cincinnati style chili, but rather the Coney Island chili in Oklahoma City. See, Jeff grew up eating the mini chili dogs at Coney Island and recreated from his childhood memories to serve in his restaurants this winter.
Discovering this, I knew I had to make a pit stop while traveling through OKC on my way to Austin, TX for the National Barbecue Association annual conference. Luckily, Coney Island was not hard to find, located just a few blocks south of the new Ford Center where they'll play the Big XII men's basketball tournament this year. So, I stopped in to check it out.
If you're thinking of dropping in to Coney Island for a bite to eat, consider this - if you don't want chili, don't go. Everything they offer has chili on it. I ordered three of their mini chili dogs. They were very reasonable at $1.25 each. I also ordered a large drink. My entire tab was under $6. The chili dogs were very good. The buns were crazy fresh. The dogs themselves were cured and were bright red, something I had seen but never eaten. I didn't notice a discernible taste difference in them. The chili was good, but not special. I ordered mine "loaded," which meant yellow mustard, onion and cheese. When I return, I will ask to go light on the mustard or forgo it altogether as there was so much mustard it overpowered the chili. That was the only disappointment.
Chili dogs, Frito pies, chili topped spaghetti and bowls of chili just about complete the entire menu. Coney Island has been in business since 1924 according to the signage on the glass storefront. It had the feel of an old time place where many childhood memories were made. When I'm in the area again, I will stop in for a few mini chili dogs and a tall, cold, Big Red.