Food in Sioux City was shit. First of all there is nowhere to go and all the places we decided to go to were average at best, horrible at worst. Green Gables, a restaurant that is touted as the oldest surviving restaurant in Sioux City, is sadly nothing more than a glorified Denny’s. Kahill’s Steakhouse at the Marina Inn and what seems to literally be the Republican National Headquarters of the Siouxland, Luciano’s, both had the prices of a more mid-priced upscale restaurant but neither rose above being anything but serviceable.
All this being said, practically the moment I stepped foot in Sioux City I was hearing about the Coney Island. The Coney Island, as I was to learn, is simple bite sized hot dog not unlike a chili dog. Instead of chili the boiled dog is dressed in a sort of mystery meat sauce along with a squirt of mustard and chopped onions. Simple enough, but this Coney Island business was brought to my attention by so many people, especially those who were born and raised, that it became an obsession for me. What wasn’t clear to me was where to go. I had seen Milwaukee Wiener House on a foot tour of downtown and became convinced that this was the place to get the Coney Island. After some consulting, and a call to my grandfather, the place in which everyone seemed to championing was the aptly named Coney Island. How could this be though? Sure both were institutions dating back over 80 years but Coney Island didn’t have a single write up online. Milwaukee Wiener House, on the other hand, had a write up on roadfood.com, in which they state that “we believe we found the city’s best [Coney Island-style] hot dogs at Milwaukee Wiener House.” The challenge, as Ozone from Breakin’ would say, was on. So at 9am (lovely time for a hot dog, although both places open at 6am) on my last day in Sioux City, the taste test began.
With its subtle, almost Wes Anderson-esque sign in the front, Coney Island, was the more unassuming of the two. After a brief conversation with the man behind the counter, I ordered my Coney Island. It was so built up for me, that by the time I was finally ready to bite into it, I thought this dainty little dog wouldn’t match the hype.
To my surprise it was extraordinary. The flavor of the meat sauce complimented all the simplistic elements — I loved it and still often crave it, but I was still under the impression that Milwaukee Wiener House would rein supreme — so the battle waged on. But before I left I talked with an older gentleman who grew up in Sioux City. He had come all the way back home, just to have a Coney Island, he was even wearing a Coney Island Cap.
Milwaukee Wiener House (not sure of the history but a Milwaukee Wiener House, in Sioux City, serving Coney Islands? — identity crisis) looks like the shit. Just look at that illustrated logo (even on the tray! — reminds me of the work of Mike Allred) of original owners Tom and Gus, they clearly rule[d]. Yet something was immediately amiss. There was nothing called a Coney Island on the menu. I had to ask if they served them, which they enthusiastically replied, yes indeed. I ordered up two now that I was getting hungry. Visually they looked a bit more thrown together, not handled with the same delicate care of Coney Island’s. Yet taste was the matter at hand and unfortunately, Milwaukee Wiener House was a cut below that of Coney Island.
It wasn’t as big of a jump as going from Dom to Cook’s but it still was distinctly not as good. If I were to have had it before I had the Coney Island, I probably wouldn’t have been disappointed, but now I had to eat two and was already craving a Coney Island… Coney Island.
So the verdict is, if you are in Sioux City, get a Coney Island at Coney Island, and since they are walking distance, get a shirt at Milwaukee Wiener House. Or, since they are 2 bucks, you can take the challenge yourself.
Check out more hot shots of the Coney Island Battle in the Gallery.
Coney Island is located at: 510 Nebraska St, Sioux City, IA 51101
Milwaukee Wiener House is located at: 309 Pearl St, Sioux City, IA 51101.