The Story Behind the Rivalry Between Detroit’s Two Oldest Coney Island Restaurants

Inside American Coney Island
Inside American Coney Island | © Ken Lund / Flickr

Two hot dog joints sit side by side on Lafayette Boulevard in downtown Detroit. They are the oldest and most famous places in the city to grab a Coney Island, the city’s specialty hot dog loaded with chili, yellow mustard, and onions. But perhaps even more famous than the restaurants is the supposed rivalry that has developed between them over a century of business.

It all began when Greek immigrant Gust Keros opened a hot dog cart on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lafayette, where he sold his Coney Island hot dogs. The cart was a success, and in 1917, he moved to a permanent residence on Lafayette, pretty much where it stands to this day, and called it American Coney Island.

American Coney Island

He brought his brother Bill to the country to get involved in the business; however, in 1924, Bill opened Lafayette Coney Island right next door instead. Whether this was due to a dispute or just a business decision is still shrouded in mystery. What isn’t a mystery though is that with their close proximity to each other and customers to fight for, a rivalry quickly emerged; this was as much to do with the customers as anyone, as Detroiters pledged allegiance to one or the other but never both.

The Coney at Lafayette Coney Island

American Coney Island has a nostalgic, red, white and blue diner interior and has since expanded to other locations in the city and even in a casino in Las Vegas; it also sells a Coney kit and merchandise on its website. Lafayette, meanwhile, doesn’t even have a website, and the décor has gone unchanged for years; therefore, it is often seen as the more no-fuss and authentic place. And, as the restaurants have changed, the customers’ loyalty has become about more than just the different ingredients and recipes.

Despite its 100 years of history, the Keros family still owns American Coney Island. Grace Keros, Gust’s granddaughter, is now the owner and has often played down the rivalry while reminding everybody that her grandfather was the true creator of the Coney, and insisting that American is both far superior and more popular.

Inside American Coney Island

The family rivalry is over though, as the family sold Lafayette to its employees almost 30 years ago. Food networks, however, have continued to push the competitiveness, with Man vs. Food and Food Wars both having taste tests between the two and featuring loyal customers defending their choice. Grace’s cousin even pretended to be a member of the Lafayette staff on TV in order to add an edge to the story.

With that in mind, it seems that the true rivalry is actually between loyal Detroiters who have chosen their favorite based on their own nostalgia, experiences, and attitude, and refused to change ever since. So which of these two famous restaurants is the superior one? That is purely subjective, but for a true Detroit experience, once you’ve picked one, be sure to stick with it.

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.