2014 Best Casual Restuarant
Ft. Wayne's Famous Coney Island
No two words stir up memories and appetites like the words Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island. Okay. That’s five words, but all you need is the last two. You can say hot dog, but it doesn’t do the same thing to your brain.
To explain the effect of those two words, Coney Island, on the synapses, Jim Todoran, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Kathy Choka, needs three bullet points.
1. It’s a good product – Yes, it is. Grilled hot dog, yellow mustard, coney sauce, chopped onions, steamed bun. Simple, consistent, delicious.
2. Good service – Again, yes. The employees of Coney Island are like family (many really are family) and are as loyal as the customers. They memorize your order, transmit it to the prep line with varying degrees of vocal thrust, depending on the ambient noise level in the place, then deliver it on familiar plates. They move like bees in a hive, helping out as needed and never letting a customer dangle for too long.
3. The history of the place – The ultimate yes. It’s the steam on the front window and the little Coke bottles. It’s the stools, the tables, the stack of paper on the file cabinet near the roll top desk. If you grew up in Fort Wayne, the history of Coney Island is part of your history. It is our shared history.
I caught up with Todoran on a recent Monday morning to talk about Coney Island’s second Whammy win for Best Casual Restaurant. He was chopping onions at a small table in the tiny kitchen that everyone at one time or another has walked through.
“It reassures us that everything we are doing is right,” he said of the win. “It’s nice to be recognized.”
Coney Island celebrated its 100th birthday in 2014 and, as far as anyone can tell, not much has changed over the years.
“We’re constantly trying to fight change,” Todoran said. “That’s what people relate to. When they come back after 20 years, Fort Wayne is big and built up and changing, but we’re still the same.”
A few years ago, PBS aired a special on the vast number of local hot dog joints around the country, each with it’s own twist on the simple frank. But they screwed up and missed Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island.
“They never contacted us,” Todoran said with a quiet shrug. “As far as I know we’re the oldest one in the country. I think there’s another one in Michigan that might be 101. But people in their home towns, they love those hot dogs. It’s their place.”
Yes, and Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island is our place. (Mark Hunter)
Fort Wayne's Famous Coney Island*
Don Hall's Old Gas House*
Dash-In, Mr. Coney, Salvatori's, 416 Pint & Slice, Cindy's Diner, CS3, Don Chavas, Paula's on Main, Phoenix, Trolley Bar
* On the ballot † More than one
|2013 Winner:||Henry's Restaurant|
|2012 Winner:||Casa's Restaurants|
|2011 Winner:||Coney Island|
|2010 Winner:||Mad Anthony Brewing Company|
|2009 Winner:||Mad Anthony Brewing Company|
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Thursday, April 27
Click on the headings below for full calendars
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Community Unity — Community dinner, games and prizes, and neighborhood safety forum, 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Jennings Recreation Center, Fort Wayne, free, 427-6028
Issues and Ales — Panel of experts discuss important issues in the community with audience Q&A , 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits, Fort Wayne, free, 456-7005
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Chris Worth — Variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Fort Wayne Comedy Connection — Comedy at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at River View Tavern, Decatur, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 724-3500
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Mowry at Pedal City, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 415-6167
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Karaoke at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., ,
Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9243
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Shut Up and Sing — Karaoke at Duesy's Sports Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 483-5681
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-1311
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, April 26-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
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37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3 , Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru April 30, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568