The Edmond Sun

September 21, 2012

Tulsa eatery a guilty pleasure

Elaine Warner
The Edmond Sun

TULSA — Guilty pleasures — as a travel writer, my life is full of them. I’ve reached that place in life where people tack the phrase “at her age” onto comments about me.

I’m trying for a number of more good years, so I’ve upped my exercise and I watch what I eat. But every now and then — well, here is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. It has a long history and tradition behind it — I think you get to subtract calories for that!  

The roots of Coney Island Hot Weiners in Tulsa go back to 1919 when a Greek immigrant, Christ Economou, opened his first hot dog shop in McKeesport, Pa. Economou served his dogs on a steamed bun and topped them with Greek-style chili and chopped onions.

He was a man on the move. He sold the shop and moved to another city where he did the same thing. In 1926, he arrived in Tulsa. He loved the town and finally settled down — and so did the Coney Island 5 Cent Hot Weiner Shop.

Through the Depression, the inexpensive edibles became a staple of downtown workers’ diets. Now second, third and fourth generations of original customers make pilgrimages to the tiny diner.

Though the shop has always been downtown, it hasn’t always been in its current location. It started out near Third and Boulder but moved to 108 W. Fourth Street in 1946. In ’95, it relocated to the lobby of a motel across the street. Over the years, the motel fell on hard times and was scheduled for demolition. The Weiner Shop was forced to move — but not far. It’s now back in its pre-1995 location — 108 W. Fourth.

A few things have changed — the old grill and steamers have been replaced — but the important things have stayed the same. Customers still sit in old-fashioned school chairs with the built-in desk arms. The wieners are still shorter than the average dog and served on the softest buns in the world (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but they are really soft!). You can have them topped with chili, onions and cheese and you can add mustard if you like. Just don’t even think about asking for catsup.

They cost more than a nickel now. The last time I was there, a couple of months ago, a regular coney was $1.40 — for nine cents more, you got cheese. The best deal was three coneys and a soft drink for $5. The shop is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Hot dogs are the crown jewels of the limited menu but they do offer plain chili, tamale chili, three-way spaghetti and Frito pie. I’m sure they’re all good.  But a true pilgrim communes with the original Coney Island Hot Weiner.

What are your guilty pleasures (culinary only, please!)? If you go to www.edmond and put “Elaine Warner” and “guilty pleasures” in the search box, you should find the online version of this column. There’s a place at the bottom for comments. I’d welcome yours.

ELAINE WARNER is an Edmond resident.