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Kalamazoo Coney. Photo: coneyislandkalamazoo
Table of Content

Michigan food is blessed with such variance in culture and resources that you can’t pin down any specific Michigan foods as being “the” iconic favorite.

Here are a few Michigan foods you should try when you have a chance to visit here.

1. Kalamazoo Coney

A favorite Michigan food is the Coney Island Hot Dog is a hot dog in a bun topped with a savory meat sauce and sometimes other toppings. It is often offered as part of a menu of dishes of Greek origin and classic American ‘diner’ dishes and often at Coney Island restaurants. It is largely a phenomenon related to immigration from Greece and the Macedonian region to the United States in the early 20th century.

Coney Island Kalamazoo was founded in 1915 and is the longest continuously operated Coney Island in Michigan. Their coney island is made up of a topping made from their own recipe served on a Koegel’s Skinless Frankfurter.

Based on a reader’s’ poll conducted by mlive.com in 2012, Coney Island Hot Dog, 266 E. Michigan Ave., and Dogs With Style, 410 S. Burdick St., took home the No. 1 and No. 2 honors, respectively. Michigan is home to many coney dog variations; Flint, Detroit, Jackson and Kalamazoo all claim to be original.

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Michigan Tech Beef Pasty. Photo: Pinterest

2. Michigan Tech Beef Pasty

On a cold winter day, there is nothing better than a Pasty to chase out the cold. If you know anything about this meat pie staple of Michigan’s U.P. you know the argument about gravy vs. ketchup as the topping of choice.

Michigan Technological University was first established as a mining college. The copper-rich ore of the Keweenaw Peninsula attracted workers from Europe that knew mining techniques. The Cornish from southern England brought the knowledge of mining and the Pasty to create this true Michigan food. Encased in a rich crust, miners could bring a fine supper to the depths of the copper country, according to thumb wind.

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Whitefish Chowder. Photo: hatcocorp

3. Whitefish Chowder

Michigan is blessed with some of the tastiest freshwater fish in the world. Walleye Pike, Yellow perch, and Whitefish are always at the top of the order. You can find whitefish offered in just about every restaurant and pub in northern Michigan.

However Marquette’s waterfront restaurant “The Vierling“ offers one of the better versions of a local Michigan food favorite. Their Whitefish Chowder is a local standby and online reviewers gauge it one of the best. So if you find yourself in Marquette stop in at the historic Verling near the harbor and order one of their home-brewed craft beers and a chowder. You won’t be disappointed.

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Coney Dog. Photo: mealhack

Related: 7 Best Places That Tourist Must Visit in Michigan

4. Coney Dog

It’s undetermined if this cult-favorite chili dog actually has ties to the birthplace of the hot dog: Coney Island, New York. It’s possible that immigrants passing through Ellis Island borrowed the name of the famous amusement park when referring to this Detroit favorite.

What we do know is that the Coney Dog dates back to as early as 1917, when Greek immigrants opened a bunch of quick-serve diners across Michigan, called “Coney Islands,” and started serving the hot dog, as the traveler.

Detroit’s Coney Dog consists of a hot dog on a bun slathered with beanless chili, yellow mustard and raw onions. There is a battle between the two most famous vendors, next-door neighbors Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island, as to who makes the most authentic Coney. The differences are apparent to Coney connoisseurs, who hold strong opinions on the treasured food.

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Boston Cooler. Photo: atlas Obscura

5. Boston Cooler

Despite its name, this drink has no relation to Boston, Massachusetts; rather, it’s named after Boston Boulevard, a street in Detroit. The Cooler consists of Vernors, a ginger ale originally produced in Detroit, and vanilla ice cream.

Depending on where you order the Boston cooler, it may have the consistency of a float or a milkshake, but the tangy ginger ale balances out the sweetness of the vanilla ice cream, making it a hometown favorite.

Head to Strohs Ice Cream Parlor, a Detroit original, or Ray’s Ice Cream (known for its made-in-Michigan flavors) to give the Cooler a try.

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Zip Sauce. Photo: meijer

6. Zip Sauce

In 1930s Detroit, an Italian steakhouse called Lelli’s Inn started serving steak with something called “zip sauce,” a unique sauce rumored to contain butter, au jus and a mix of spices. The sauce, which adds a poignant richness to the steak, is poured over the meat and typically gets soaked up by surrounding potatoes or veggies.

The original location burned down, but Lelli’s still dishes up the steak and sauce at its current location in Auburn Hills, outside the city.

It caught on quickly with Italian steakhouses and is now served at a number of them in Detroit and the surrounding areas, including Mario’s in downtown Detroit.

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Double-Baked Rye Bread. Photo: the food dictator

7. Double-Baked Rye Bread

Kosher-style delis are found across the country, but very few outside of the Detroit area use double-baked rye bread. The baking process was devised in the 1950s by Jack Goldberg, who opened Stage & Co. in Detroit (now Stage Deli in West Bloomfield) in order to keep rye breads hot when they were served.

He started baking them until they were 80-percent done and then finished them with a 20-minute second round of baking before the deli’s lunch rush began. The result? A warm, thick rye bread that held up (and still does) to the mounds of corned beef typically piled on top.

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