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Detroit recipes needed, please.

I need recipes for Detroit local favorites to feed my boyfriend. I'm from Alabama and we both live in San Diego now. Other than his vague descriptions and Google Images I have no idea what City Chicken, Travis burgers, or Coney dogs taste like... making them hard to recreate.

Any help is much appreciated. And don't feel limited to the three foods above. I'll take anything Detroit.

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  1. I'm from Detroit, and I've never heard of either City Chicken or Travis burgers. Your boyfriend may have grown up in a different part of Detroit than I did. There is a website called detroityes.com that has a forum with posts from Detroiters and Detroit ex-pats. Maybe someone there can help you.

    I did a search on detroityes, and apparently City Chicken doesn't contain chicken (it's a mixture of veal and pork). Here's a link to a recipe for City Chicken: http://www.coalregion.com/Recipes/cit...

    3 Replies
    1. re: wanderinglady

      Thanks so much for replying. I believe he grew up in East Detroit but I'm sure that doesn't narrow things down. I went to Detroityes but they don't allow Yahoo users to register. I'll register for a gmail account the next spare moment I have.

      As for the City Chicken recipe, thank you. Unfortunately, I've found 6 different City Chicken recipes and I don't know which is a good, authentic version.

      You're from Detroit. Do you have any local recipes you can share?

      1. re: inkedgal

        The foods I associate with Detroit are coneys, fried shrimp (like Dot and Etta's), BBQ, soul food and -- believe it or not -- corned beef sandwiches. Other than soul food and BBQ (recipes that you can get anywhere), I can't think of any other "Detroit" food that I would have recipes for.

        However, if your boyfriend is a Detroit-style fried shrimp fan, this is an easy approximation: Get tempura mix, add salt and pepper to taste, use twice as much water as directed on the box, dip deveined shrimp in the batter, and deep-fry. I don't like my fried shrimp stuck together, so I use a frying pan, but I think a deep fryer would work too.

        And I found this on the DetroitYes! board: "I make a pretty good copy of coney island chili to get my fix in San Diego. I use a chili block made by XLNT from Los Angeles. I add more ground beef and chili beans. If I use it on loose hamburgers or hot dogs, I leave out the beans." Here's the link: http://atdetroit.net/forum/messages/6...

        Sorry I'm not more helpful, but if I run across anything new anytime soon, I'll post it here.

        1. re: wanderinglady

          Wow, thank you so much.

          That's wonderful news about the XLNT. I've seen that in the stores and I'll give the shrimp recipe a try.

    2. My husband grew up in Detroit, so I'm not the expert in the family, but there are some things that we always have to hit when we get back to the area.

      We go to a classic coney island style diner. You'll find standard diner fare there, and coney dogs, of course, but also Greek classics. Spanikopita, gyros, lemon rice soup. That kind of stuff.

      We go to Pizza Papalis (greektown location) for the best darn pizza ever. Ever. EVER. And I live in Phoenix, with Pizzeria Bianco. I just looked up their website, and discovered that they ship! I haven't tried it, and I don't know if it'll be as spectacular, but I'm definitely going to give it a try. http://www.pizzapapalis.com/shipping.... There is something magical about their crust, their ingredients. No Chicago-style place I've tried (including in Chicago) is half as good.

      Schwarma! The Detroit area has one of the most dense populations of middle-eastern immigrants. I eat chicken schwarma at least once a day when I'm there. It's just about my favorite food on earth, and no places around here, good as they are, come close to what I get at the freakin gas stations in Detroit.

      We also always have to make a trip over to Ann Arbor for a Zingerman's sandwich. I don't know if that's one of his obsessions, but it's officially one of mine, and I didn't even grow up there. They also ship. Pricey, yes. Worth it, yes. http://www.zingermans.com/

      1 Reply
      1. re: modthyrth

        Too funny ModThyth! The pizza sounds amazing and I live in Phx too. And no, we don't have any shwarmas here that I'm awre of. Gotta get to Detroit soon . . Tee Hee. Neva Eva thot I'd say that!

      2. city chicken is my all-time favorite picnic food; i recall many a summer day spent on belle isle while scarfing it down. i'll ask my mom if she still has her recipe; it's been years since i've had it.

        the other foods i remember from growing up in detroit (east detroit, now east pointe, off nine mile between gratiot & kelly) are italian (because of my family, not the restaurant scene), coneys & greek food (many of the coney islands are/were greek-owned), polish food (a treat since we didn't venture into hamtramik often), donuts, donuts, donuts, pizza (loui's @ 9 & dequindre being my fave), lots of fresh lake fish, and middle-eastern (mainly from the la shish chain).

        detroit is/was a pretty blue-collar town, so most of the memorable food came from diners, soul food restos, bars, etc. lots of really good, stick-to-your-ribs, hearty stuff. washed down with plenty of stroh's (sadly, now defunct, although pabst owns the labels). like another poster wrote, not a lot that's really specific to the area. it's the combination that was unique; start your day with a fresh pierogi, have kebabs for lunch, fried perch for dinner, and so on.

        i'll post back if mom comes through, otherwise google around. for what it's worth, our city chicken version was veal & pork, breaded, browned, and finished in the oven. generally eaten cold. i know it didn't have onions atop it, wasn't doused in cream of mushroom soup, or any of the other add-ons i found while searching. i recall it being pretty straight-forward finger-food.

        oh, and no joke, depending on your boyfriend's age, you might ask if he likes muskrat (the older he is & depending upon his religion, the more likely he's had it).

        3 Replies
        1. re: mark

          Depending upon his religion?????

          1. re: praeburn

            detroit/south-east michigan catholics have/had a special dispensation that allowed them to consume muskrats during the pre-easter weeks when various food-restrictions come into play. as the muskrat lives in/near water, the catholics deemed it "fish". i believe it was much more common during the early/mid part of last century; i have only vague memories of hearing about it as a kid during the '70s.

            that's not to say that only the catholics ate muskrat, just that it's a more common experience for them.

          2. re: mark

            tell your mom thank you for me.

          3. I'm from Detroit, and I know city chicken well. I usually associate it with Polish restaurants, though don't know if it's of Polish origin. Speaking of which, however, he might be partial to other Polish treats, such as kielbasa, pierogis, and stuffed cabbage, which are eaten by many Detroiters, Polish and non-Polish alike. Never heard of Travis burgers; will check 'em out. But you gotta give him Vernor's ginger ale to drink. If you don't have it locally, you can find it online--my wife orders it for me as a treat. Saunder's chocolates and hot fudge are other local favorites you can find online.

            1. If you're looking for Vernor's ginger ale, you should be able to find it at Vons. I live just east of Los Angeles, and the local Vons has it there. Also, if there's a BevMo! near you, they have Faygo soda, also from Detroit.

              1. I grew up on the West Side where Lelli's restaurant was a family favorite. Here is an approximation of their famous "Zip Sauce" for steak:

                * 1/4 cup butter (Lelli’s clarifed it)
                * 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
                * 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
                * 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
                * 1 teaspoon dried parsley
                * 1 teaspoon salt
                * 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
                * 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
                * 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
                * 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
                * 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
                * 1/3 cup beef drippings


                1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Clarify it. Stir in the rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, parsley flakes and salt. Mix in the mustard, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Warm gently for about a minute. Mix equal parts of the sauce with beef steak drippings to complete the sauce just before serving.

                2 Replies
                1. re: SSqwerty

                  Lelli's Zip Sauce

                  1/4 cup chopped scallions
                  2 tablespoons butter
                  2 tablespoons butter
                  1 teaspoon dijon mustard
                  dash pepper
                  3/4 cup dry sherry

                  Saute scallions in butter; add soy sauce, mustard, pepper and sherry. Heat to boiling and pour over meat.

                  1. re: SSqwerty

                    I was also a West Sider that loved Lelli's. Found a product called Maggi Seasoning that with a little butter makes a decent easy zip sauce.
                    Any chance you have a recipe for Lelli's spaghetti meat sauce?

                  2. Wow, thanks so much for the information. Unlike me, he wasn't raised in the church but I do know he loves Faygo and ICP. I will make some zip sauce and I'll check out the links for shipping.

                    Bev-mo here I come.

                    Thanks, all.

                    1. Lelli's Zip Sauce

                      1/4 cup chopped scallions
                      2 tablespoons butter
                      2 tablespoons butter
                      1 teaspoon dijon mustard
                      dash pepper
                      3/4 cup dry sherry

                      Saute scallions in butter; add soy sauce, mustard, pepper and sherry. Heat to boiling and pour over meat.

                      1. Hi,

                        I was born,and raised in Detroit.I lived by 7 mile and Hoover,and attended Osborn High.Cruised Gratiot Ave in the 70's.And ate at all the places in that area many times.I do remember an Onassis Cony Island on 8 mile rd,where we would get chili dogs for about 40 cents.Luckey for me,here in Florida there is a cony island place with the same kind of dogs we got when we were in Detroit.If you would like to know how to make Glumke ( Polish stuffed cabbages) I will certainly give you the recipie.I learned from a friends' Polish mother in Hamtramack.Even though I'm Italian,and related to the Zerillis of Detroit.I remember a lot of great pizza places,and greek restaurants.And dont forget Top Hat,and White Castle!


                        1. Here's a recipe for Cincinnati chili, which I understand to be the same as Coney dog sauce (?). It's basically a meaty chili, no beans, seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, etc. (I believe it was originally based on "Greek bolognese"--me kima---sauce?)

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                            NOOOOOOOO Cincinnati chili is nothing like Detroit chili.

                              1. re: ChristinaMason

                                My parents lived in Michigan before I was born and my Mom started making coneys then. Coney sauce does not have the same flavor profile that Cincinnati chili has although the texture is similar. Coney sauce does not have any cinnamon, cloves, all spice are any Greek spices. It basically has chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper. Here's a good example of a coney recipe:


                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                  LAFAYETTE CONEY ISLAND SAUCE (Gloria Pitzer)

                                  In a deep skillet, brown 1 lb. ground round in just enough oil to cover bottom of pan. Stir and crumble til no longer pink. Mash with fork to consistency of rice and keep on low heat. Meanwhile you put into a blender: 14 oz. clear chicken broth, 4 T. flour, 1 T. chili powder, 1 T. paprika, 1 t. ground cumin, 1 t. turmeric, 1 T. chicken bouillon powder (or 3 cubes mashed) and 6 oz. V-8 juice. Blend briefly to combine, add to meat and stir til smooth and thickened. Remove 2 c. mixture to a blender, puree and return. Serve spooned over hot-dogs or in bowls as a chili.
                                  (serves 6)


                              2. re: ChristinaMason


                                You can order detroit coney chili from here and get some good natural casing dogs too.

                              3. A Cudighi is a spicy Italian sausage patty sandwich, served on a long hard hoagie roll, with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. It was originally served with raw onions and mustard on a roll.[1] The sandwich is known as an Italian sausage sub throughout most of the United States

                                Elephant Ears (cinnamon sugar pastry)

                                Vernors Ginger Ale

                                1. I'm from Roseville (which is right next to East Detroit.) & I live in California now. I miss Detroit food a lot & recently discovered that Almond Boneless Chicken is a local thing. No one ever knows what I'm talking about when I mention it. Anyway, there are tons of Cantonese restaurants in the area and it's very popular. I just found an awesome recipe that I can't wait to make myself . I think it's a crucial Detroit recipe.

                                  "Almond Boneless Chicken - batter coated chicken that is deep-fried and sprinkled with almonds - is a specialty in Detroit, Michigan."



                                  ps. I'm sure it's mentioned above...but also..PACZKI's! (pronounced 'poonch-key(s)'



                                  1. You can find a number of J.L.Hudson's recipes linked on my wepage, www.DetroitMemories.com/links.html. Travis burgers are only on the east side. There's a location at 9 Mile & Mack (across from Roy O'Brien Ford) and another on Gratiot. They fry the onions with the hamburger. Yum! I believe City Chicken was originally a Polish recipe.


                                    1. If you are from Detroit you would know that Faygo is called pop not soda and also you would know that National Coney Island is the largest Coney Chain in Detroit and surrounding areas. You can order all of the ingredients online. Coney Dogs have skin and there are no beans in the chili.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: priest

                                        Chamberlain bread was my DH's favorite. Anyone have a recipe for their sourdough?

                                        1. re: sarahmchugh

                                          Sorry sarahmchugh....if you live in and around the Detroit area...try Avalon Bakery breads and treats.

                                          1. re: priest

                                            How has superman ice cream and better made potato chips been overlooked in this conversation? :) Ex Pat born and raised in Detroit, lived forever in San Diego and now living in Atlanta. Someone up there said Detroit doesn't have many regional foods, that's not true at all. Detroit has just as many regional favorites as anywhere else in the Country.

                                            1. re: chefck

                                              My mouth is SO watering along with my eyes as I miss all the wonderful foods from home! However, I must say, I grew up Catholic and NEVER ate muscrat! What was that about??? Ok, all the rest of the suggestions are correct! CITY CHICKEN was the original question? Go to a recipe I found on


                                              of the American-Polish Century Club of Sterling Heights, Mi.
                                              RECIPE: Sharon’s Polish City Chicken
                                              Submitted by: Sharon Stachurski,Aux. Pres.
                                              Date: March, 2011
                                              Ingredients and Directions:
                                              2 lbs. Cubed Veal (1 ½” x 1 ½” cubes
                                              )2 lbs. Cubed Pork “ “
                                              2 Whole Eggs well beaten
                                              ¼ C. (approx.) of milk
                                              Salt & pepper to taste
                                              Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper together.
                                              Wooden City Chicken Sticks – get from a butcher, sold in bunches.
                                              In separate bowls, place flour and seasoned Italian Bread Crumbs (you may use plain bread crumbs—a matter of personal preference)
                                              Rinse meat, drain well & place on skewers, alternating between pork & veal.
                                              Lightly salt and pepper meat.
                                              Dip skewered meat first in egg, then in flour, then in egg, then in bread crumbs.
                                              Pat crumbs to the meat and set aside.
                                              When finished breading, heat ½ C. Crisco shortening in a frying pan.
                                              When shortening is hot, carefully place city chicken in pan and fry on all sides till golden brown.
                                              Remove from pan and drain.
                                              Place in roaster (preferably on a rack) and sprinkle lightly with soy sauce.
                                              Put a little chicken bouillion water in the bottom of the roaster and a touch of soy sauce and stir.
                                              Use the broth in the bottom of the pan to baste the city chicken.
                                              Cover the pan tightly with alum. foil, then with roaster lid. (this helps steam the meat and keep it moist)
                                              Bake in a 325 Deg. oven for approx. 1 – 1 ½ hour, testing the tenderness of the meat. (If making a large roaster full of city chicken, stand them up against one another and cook longer – probably a couple hours, basting frequently.
                                              Serve as is or with pork gravy.
                                              Servings: Usually plan on 1 for women and 2 for men…. I usually buy a few extra just in case.
                                              Leftovers can be frozen for several months and reheated.
                                              NOTE: When making city chicken, I think it is better to make a large quantity and freeze some since they are so much work and mess to begin with….

                                              This IS a lot of work, but you already know the way to a mans heart is through his stomach.....need I say more :) Enjoy.

                                        2. re: priest

                                          You are right on all counts of course. I moved from Detroit in 1987 to San Diego, now living in Las Vegas and I cannot and will not call it soda. To me it always will be pop. Coney Island chili is nothing like any other chili, it does not contain beans and it's not made with ground beef-it's made with organ meats. I owned an ice cream parlor/sandwich shop and we bought our hot dogs and chili from Detroit hotdog company who supplied Lafayette Coney Island with these products. They were authentic a and the ingredients were well-known to those of us who sold the product. And yes the Detroit hotdog company made hot dogs that had heavy skin that snapped when you bit into it. To me there is still no other hotdog. From what I understand Lafayette and American Coney Island in downtown Detroit Is supplied by Koegle which has taken over for Detroit hotdog company. We now have Motor City Coney Island shop in Henderson Nevada. Their products are exactly the ones used by the Lafayette and American Coney Islands. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have Faygo pop, Better Made potato chips, Sander's hot fudge and those delicious, addictive Coney Island hot dogs and hamburgers Just a few short miles from where I live.

                                          And by the way I grew up on city chicken which was not cubed meat but highly seasoned ground meat packed around the stick, breaded and deep-fried. I don't ever remember eating cubed meat on a city chicken skewer. I would love to find this product again they were wonderful.