Angelo's Coney Island
1816 Davison Road, Flint MI 48506-4428 (map); 810-233-4000; angelosconeyisland.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Excellent thin, crisp, diner-style burgers
Want Fries with That? Nope
Prices: Coney Island Dog, $1.95; cheeseburgers, $2.29; fries, $2.29
Check this out: Two reviews in one. Hey!
Driving through Flint, Michigan, on our way from Ann Arbor to Hillman last month, my hunting buddy Clay and I decided to make a pit stop at Halo Burger—a local chain with a reputation for being better than the national chains (every region has such a chain). We should have kept driving. Asides from the decent onion rings and surprisingly excellent homemade chili, the burgers were a total bust. Dry and floppy with that acrid fake-smoke flavor reminiscent of Burger King, they weren't saved by the big scoops of olive salad they came with.
I asked the cashier, "Where would you go to get a decent burger in Flint?"
Her response: "Definitely not here. We'll just serve you any old crap." Ah, honesty. Instead, we were guided to Angelo's, an old-timey counter-service restaurant specializing in Coney's—Michigan-style hot dogs topped with mustard, onions, and a mild beef heart-based chili. Founded in 1949, they've since expanded to a whopping two locations, earning them the self-applied moniker "The McDonald's of the Coney Island business."
Now, dude, there's a name no-one would self-apply where I come from.
Luckily, the food is of an entirely different caliber. Their signature Coneys are made with Koegel's Viennas, the locally-made, natural casing hot dogs that have quickly become one of my new favorites. The chili is texturally spot on, with a fine, tender grain. Flavorwise, it's relatively mild though. You'll want plenty of onions and mustard to buttress it. Their fries are fluffy and crisp, but otherwise unremarkable.
Surprisingly, the best thing on their menu isn't their dogs, it's the burgers—a classic diner-style burger if there ever was one. When you place your order, the cook slaps a small handful of fresh ground beef down on the well-seasoned griddle and smashes it flat with a wide metal spatula. A few moments later, after a substantial crisp crust has been built up, the diminutive patty is flipped and the second side is just kissed by the griddle before being slipped into a pillowy white bun. It's like the Shake Shack cooking method taken to the extreme.
By letting it cook for the majority of the time on one side (fancy pants chefs use this technique for skin-on fish and poultry and call it cooking "unilaterally"), the result is ridiculously crunchy edges with some pretty awesome textural contrast. Just check out that crust!
And incredibly—for a burger this thin—it manages to maintain a pale pink center with more than a modicum of juiciness. You can get it with their Coney sauce spooned on top, but I can't imagine it being any better than the diced-onioned-and-pickled version I had.
Afterward, the friendly waitress coaxed me into ordering a slice of their homemade chocolate pie. It tasted like chocolate pudding in a frozen pie shell, but I have trouble holding anything against someone who's just delivered such a spectacular burger to me.