Like most places in the country, there are signs of Spring in Louisiana. We don’t really get a “Spring,” per se, tho, do we? One day it’s the last day of our very short winter, and the next morning we’re into the “hot season.” It’s upon us, 90 degree days, and 70 degree nights. Gee, I guess that IS Spring compared to what the temps will be a few months from now.
So I told myself, “Self, what better way to celebrate than to go on a drive across this beautiful state or ours, and grab a hot dog or two on the road.”
I set out for Monroe, a city that had, heretofore, not witnessed my presence. Prior to arriving at my Northern Louisiana destination, I had a wonderful day on the backgrounds of Louisiana, grabbing a burger in Baton Rouge, and making my way up thru the northeastern edge of Acadiana, where the primary crop that they grow is military installations.
I had chosen Monroe for only one reason: to find out why this Louisiana burg of 50,000 had eight dining establishments with the name “Coney Island” as part of their signage. “An influx of Greeks?” I mused. (A preponderance of ‘chili dog parlors’ I have visited in my life seemed to be owned by Greeks). “Some local infatuation with the meal on a bun?” “A shortage of other culinary curiousities?”
It’s an answer that eluded me, prior, during, and after my visit. Seems the fine folks of Monroe may know the secret, but they ain’t talking.
Example: I stopped in a Monroe gas station to ask if the attendant knew where the nearest “Coney Island” was? He didn’t – but explained that he wasn’t from around here. I asked where he was from. “Well, I’m from West Monroe.” So that explained everything. He didn’t get “way over here” very much.
A customer, on the other hand, was very helpful. I asked if he knew where a “Coney Island” restaurant was, and he responded “Are you looking for a crawfish boil?” No, I explained, a hot dog. He was able to supply directions to the Riverside Coney Island, but since his speech patterns quite resembled “Boomhauer” on “King of the Hill,” I found it more by luck, than by instruction.
Upon arriving, I had a revelation about the reason for the crawfish question. As everyone knows, it’s the start of crawfish season in Louisiana, and it seems Monroe-ites are crazy about their crawfish. So crazy, they are willing to pay about four times what we pay in Southern Louisiana. And the hot dog diner was awash with crawfish cravers, they even had built special tables for the occasion, which were round, somewhat resembled giant ashtrays, and had a hole in the center, where the table was perched (somewhat precariously) upon a garbage can where you could dump your shells, plates, napkins, and all. Clever.
The waitress found me, and said “Crawfish, hon?” But she didn’t bat a false eyelash when I said, “No, I came for a coney.” I ordered three, along with a root beer, and drooled in anticipation of what would surely be a nirvana dining experience – after all, why would they have so many Coney shops, if these little puppies weren’t pure “eden on a bun.”.
Yes, folks, get ready ……….. me, who seldom is heard to say a discouraging word……..states that these coneys were nuttin’ special. Nor were they here or at any of the other five places in Monroe.
Riverside Coney Island Review