I've long resisted participating in celebrity special dishes because I knew it could get weird.
And sure enough, it was awkward to hear my name recited as a June special at American Sardine Bar, as in, "we're featuring the Craig LaBan 2-on-1," and, "You want a Craig LaBan?" I agreed in this case because few local chefs relate to my deep craving for a true Detroit Coney chili dog like Scott Schroeder, a fellow native Detroiter.
And he went straight to the heart of the task, literally, by doctoring up genuine National Coney chili sauce (beanless, with subtle Greek spice) with a homemade beef-heart ragu and yellow mustard, two touches rumored to be part of Lafayette Coney Island's approach. Add the natural-casing snap of a Detroit-"imported" Dearborn Sausage dog, a mustard stripe on top with raw onion confetti, and I was practically back on Woodward Avenue. Only scorched-bun troubles took away from the reverie.
"So how's the LaBan?" my waiter asked.
Quibbling, as always. But my two (dogs)-on-one (plate) special had swiftly become a nostalgic none-on-one.
- Craig LaBan
Craig LaBan's "2-on-1" Coney Island chili dog special, $8, American Sardine Bar, 1800 Federal St., 215-334-2337.