Famous Food from Michigan

Two coney dogs, a famous food from Michigan, along with French fries.

Guest post by Tera Rowe

Detroit is the epicenter of the auto industry, Michigan’s largest city, and the birthplace of both of our recipes of famous food from Michigan. Henry Ford’s high $5 a day was a huge draw for African American immigrants during the Great Migration, as well as immigrants from central and eastern Europe. Greek brothers and Polish bakers inspire the featured recipes of our famous food from Michigan.

Beyond the city of Detroit, Michigan is an excellent place to grow food. The Great Lakes provide plenty of water, a good climate, and great growing conditions. This makes Michigan #2 in agricultural diversity. Many food producers such as Kellogg’s cereal, Ballpark Franks, and Gerber Baby Food call Michigan home.

Coney Dogs

Greek and Macedonian immigrants spread the Coney Dog across the eastern US in the 1900s and 1910s. It’s not clear exactly where the birthplace is. But if you go just by sheer numbers and the longevity of the restaurants, Michigan is a likely answer. The origin might be disputed, but what a coney dog consists of is not. A coney dog is a beef hot dog in natural casing, served in a soft steamed bun. The hot dog is topped with an all-meat chili (no beans), diced white onions, and yellow mustard. The chili is usually slightly sweet and a little bit spicy thanks to its Greek roots.

In Detroit, Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island have been in a friendly sibling rivalry for over 80 years! Greek sheepherders from Dara founded the diners to serve hot dogs to auto workers. Both claim to be the first opening in the early 1910s.

The longest continually open coney restaurant is in my hometown, Kalamazoo! It’s been operating since 1915. My grandma grew up near Flint and would not eat at the Flint location because it just wasn’t the same. She was always ready for a coney dog when she returned to Flint or Detroit to visit family, but she wouldn’t touch the ones closer to her new home. The coney dog is so ingrained in our food culture that people even top their bowls of chili with onions and mustard!

Two coney dogs with French fries behind them.

Paczki

Paczki (pronounced “pohnch-key”) is a donut-like pastry that is filled with custard or jam. Traditional jam flavors are prune and rose. Now you will find raspberry, cherry, even dulce de leche! Paczki came to Michigan thanks to Polish immigrants that settled in Hamtramck and Poletown in the 1880s. They needed a way to use up sugar and lard leading up to Lent and created this delicious donut. Now they are served as a pre-Lenten treat.

Fat Tuesday is lovingly referred to as “Paczki Day” across Michigan. It is the only time you can find these tasty treats. Bakeries go all out with different flavored fillings, each one will have at least 15 different varieties to choose from. Everyone has a favorite bakery that they claim makes the best paczki. They get in line early or even pre-order to be sure they get their favorites. One year my son and I visited the 5 bakeries in our area that serve paczki. Surprisingly our favorites were from a bakery inside a gas station!

Three paczkis on a plate with strawberry jam, custard, and dulce de leche filling.

Famous Food From Michigan Menu

Michigan State Facts

  • Michigan was the 26th state in the US
  • The only authentic Dutch windmill operating in the US is in Holland, Michigan
  • A one-mile stretch of road in Detroit is the location of the world’s first concrete-paved road, poured in 1908
  • Two-thirds of the world’s supply of tart cherries come from Michigan, making it the number one producer in the world
  • Michigan has more miles of freshwater shoreline than any other state
  • Famous people from Maine include: Henry Ford, Gilda Radner, Madonna

About the Author

Tera Rowe is the creator of Your Everyday Heirlooms. She collects vintage recipes from her family and around the country. On the blog, she shares what she made, good or bad, and encourages her community to help test promising recipes so they can be preserved for future generations. You can connect with Tera on Facebook at Your Everyday Heirlooms.

If this is the first state dinner you have enjoyed with us, check out our journey from the beginning, starting here.

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