When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Phoenix Coney Island Location: 8024 North 51st Avenue, Glendale Open: Just over two weeks Eats: Quick American eats Price: Under $10
Coney dogs, those chili-soaked franks beloved by Michiganders, have come to the city's west side -- and they've brought a few friends along.
Coneys, as well as American eats like burgers, sandwiches, and fries, can be found at Phoenix Coney Island (not a second location of the Phoenix Coney Island in Sterling Heights, for my fellow Michigan natives out there), the diner-style joint at 8024 North 51st Avenue (51st and Northern) in Glendale, in the former Island Grill.
And thanks to the restaurant's owner, who hails from Warren, Michigan, there are Detroit looseburgers, too.
Along with the coney, the counter-service eatery also features breakfast items as well as burgers (including a one-pound "Heart Stopper" -- see: Not funny anymore); hot dogs, gyros, sandwiches like a Philly cheesesteak, an Italian beef, and a variety of po' boys, baskets of fried eats like shrimp and chicken, and soups and salads. Most items can be purchased individually or as meals.
The chili on the coney dog ($2.99) is very good, meaty and seasoned with cumin and pepper. For people looking for a true taste of the Mitten State, this version's got a little more heat than what you'd expect, but it's flavorful nonetheless. Unfortunately, its spartan-like application over an all-beef coney dog (which, sadly, is available in jumbo-size only) results in more bread-y bun and hot dog than you'd probably like. And the fact that you're required to apply the mustard yourself might just be enough to make any Detroiter's coney-loving head spin.
Many of the same pros and cons of the coney apply to the Detroit looseburger ($2.99), where ground beef and chili come together inside a hot dog bun for a kind of sloppy joe. Chili and ground beef: Good. Not enough of each and zero mustard or onions: Not so good.
Open just a little over two weeks, Phoenix Coney Island appears to be going over well with its West Valley patrons. Inside the cheery, red room decked out with memorabilia from the 50s, diners pack the place -- placing their orders with friendly folks behind the counter, tucking into tables and sitting atop stools at the diner-style counter, and munching on burgers and fries or slurping on handmade milkshakes.
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A few adjustments to the Detroit eats and I'd probably come back for seconds.
Phoenix Coney Island 8024 North 51st Avenue, Glendale 623-939-1388
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday