Sep 1, 2023 - Food and Drink

Late-night food options: We just need Coney Islands

Illustration of a clock with chef's knives for hands.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Now that we're at the end of our weeklong dissection of Detroit's limited late-night dining scene, we've entered a state of Zen-like acceptance and embraced a a new viewpoint:

  • The Coneys are just fine.

Flashback: Our assessment began with the premise that it's hard to find a decent meal after hours if you're not in the mood for Coney Island fare.

🌭 Reality check: For most people, two Coney dogs and a plate of fries is just what the doctor ordered for food after hours.

What they're saying: "It's the right combination of grease and that spongy bun that soaks up the alcohol," Serena Maria Daniels, Eater Detroit's city editor and founder of Tostada Magazine, tells Axios. "If you're a club kid, the tradition is to end the night at a Coney Island."

State of play: Daniels says the current late-night landscape could be floundering for a while.

  • "After all the volatility in the restaurant industry in the past three years, [late-night food] is not being prioritized in a lot of establishments," she says. "Staffing levels may never return to what they used to be."

The latest: Some new establishments with a nightclub vibe, like Zuzu, are serving food after midnight on some nights.

🗣️ The other side: Despite Coneys' domination, readers weighed in with some of your other favorite late-night places to eat:

A.J.: "We typically would (pre-COVID) hit the coney islands on Lafayette as we live down here. But now, we've been reduced to … WHITE CASTLE!!!" on Michigan Ave. in Corktown.

  • "Stick with the 1921 burger with cheese sticks, and a WATER. No pop!"

Jason S.: "Travis in St. Clair Shores is a local legendary spot for late night/24-hour grub. Its hours have fluctuated since the pandemic, and it's certainly not healthy, but it has some of the best sliders around."

The bottom line: The city's late-night dining experience definitely could be more balanced, but the local Coney Island is still a great place to feed your hunger.

💭 Our thought bubble: The Axios Detroit team recently visited some of its favorite late-night dining options:

Joseph's Coney Island

Joseph’s Coney
Joseph’s Coney Island. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

👋 Annalise here. I chose the east side's Joseph's Coney Island, which has been serving the city since 1984, per its Instagram.

  • Sure, a Coney is the obvious pick. But I'm chuffed about Joseph's particularly intense fervor around the fact that it's always open — its Insta proclaims: "24/7 ANYTIME WE DON'T STOP."
  • A scrolling sign outside also says, "WE DON'T STOP." I think that makes it a full-on motto, and I'm fine with that.

What we ate: On a recent nighttime visit, a friend chose chili cheese fries — they give you a lot, with a choice of cheddar or squeeze cheese — while my ever-present sweet tooth drove me to a monumental helping of cinnamon roll French toast.

  • It was about $18.50 total.


Photo: Everett Cook/Axios

👋 Everett here. I'm a graying millennial who doesn't eat much after midnight anymore, but I can still recommend O.W.L. on Woodward and 11 Mile.

Driving the news: This is technically a diner where you can get food like a burger or hash, but O.W.L.'s Mexican fare is what makes it worth the trip. Tacos and nachos, sure, but also dishes like chili chilaquiles and choco flan.

State of plate: I went for the torta ahogada, a pork sandwich that comes smothered in vegetables and a tasty sauce that admittedly could have been a little spicier.

  • I also recommend the chicken wings — pay by the wing! — and cinnamon rolls.

If you go: O.W.L is open early and late at 27302 Woodward Ave.

Honest John's

grilled cheese
Honest John’s grilled cheese. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

✌🏼 Sam here. Cass Corridor residents know we have just two late-night food options: Detroit One Coney Island and Honest John's.

The intrigue: Anna highlighted her favorite eastside Coney yesterday, so I'm going all in on Honest John's Texas toast grilled cheese sandwich.

  • For $4.50, you're not finding a better late-night snack that fills you up.
  • You can order it with wheat or rye bread, or with American or provolone cheese — but please don't.

Quick take: You must order the grilled cheese with Texas toast and Swiss.

  • Any other ingredients and you might as well make one at home.

If you go: Honest John's is open from 7am-2am, but its kitchen closes at 12:45am.

  • Its online ordering system doesn't currently work.

Boostan Cafe

Hamtrmack’s Boostan Cafe. Photo: Joe Guillen
Hamtramck's Boostan Cafe. Photo: Joe Guillen

✌️ Joe here with a culinary dispatch from Hamtramck for our series on late-night eats.

Driving the news: I love Middle Eastern food, and Boostan Cafe is always a reliable option when my usual spot in Ferndale closes at 9pm.

What I ordered: The chicken ghallaba with carrots, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes in a sauce made with house spices ($19.25).

  • It comes with two sides. I went with rice and grilled vegetables.
  • Plus lime juice ($4.48).

State of plate: The food was simple, tasty, relatively healthy and there was more than enough for lunch the next day. Mission accomplished.

If you go: 3470 Holbrook Ave.; 9am-midnight Monday-Sunday.

  • Limited seating.
  • The well-staffed kitchen focuses more on cranking out food than wiping down the handful of tables. Relax — it's a take-out spot.

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