When it's summer and you don't want to cook, or when it's late and you've had a few drinks, or when you just get that craving for a hot dog, Grand Rapids has plenty of options to satisfy your needs.
People almost always first think of Detroit when talking about Coney dogs in Michigan. But Grand Rapids has really thrown their hat into the ring of hot dog restaurants. It's surprising how many places you can get a hot dog in the city and suburbs. But then again, who doesn't love a good hot dog?
If you ask someone from Grand Rapids where to get a coney dog, there's a 95% chance they will point you in the direction of Yesterdog in Eastown.
Yesterdog has been in the community for 40 years now. It is the restaurant they based Dog Years on in American Pie, and they shot portions of the film there. Heck, Obama has been Yesterdog. It's a Grand Rapids institution and it's known worldwide.
Blah, blah, blah.
I've tried really hard to keep this project positive. If I don't like something, I keep it to myself. I want to promote Grand Rapids, not cut it down.
But I don't like Yesterdog. There, I said it. As a native Grand Rapidian, I might get death threats for saying that. But I don't like it.
It's gross. It hasn't been touched since it opened in 1976. Its walls are a stomach-acid salmon pink that makes you think about vomit. The wood floors and the booths are all scratched up.
Ordering at Yesterdog is like ordering at the Soup Nazi's counter. There is a set of rules you have to follow. There are no special orders, no customizations allowed. I was so nervous the first time I ate there, I practiced my order over and over in my head while I waited in line so I wouldn't get yelled at. It's oppressive.
A lot of people would say that these qualities give it character. And again I say to you: blah, blah, blah.
Lucky for me, that's not the only joint in town.
A year ago, I would have said Ritz Koney was the best place to get a hot dog. Its perfect location on Ionia Street was tucked along a lot of the city's most popular bars, making it a convenient stop for a late-night snack. But it also had its own bar, so if you wanted a beer with your dog, all the better.
I'm a little biased toward Ritz Koney because I used to live a couple blocks from it, so it was definitely the hot dog restaurant I frequented most. Unlike Yesterdog, it was clean, comfortable, and had a wide selection of hot dog toppings.
Unfortunately for the Heartside community, Ritz Koney closed its doors this year.
No matter--there are still other options. In which case, I would say the best place to go for a weiner is the Dog Pit on Monroe Center. Situated right across from Rosa Parks Circle in the heart of the city, it's a convenient location for pretty much all events and festivals. It's cheap. The dogs are 2 bucks and drinks and chips are 1 buck.
It's small. It just a long counter and then booths and tables against the wall. And while they may take their time with the service, there's none of the stressful pressure that you get at that other place. The dogs are good, the toppings are plentiful, and the atmosphere is relaxed. Really, what more could you ask for?
There are still plenty of places for me to try, even in the downtown area. One day soon I'll have to give Grand Coney, One Stop Coney, and Jonny B'z a try. But like I said before, I've got plenty of time. I'm not going anywhere.