Downtown's Coney Island to celebrate 85 years in business
Coney Island owner Joe Economou stands in the window of his downtown restaurant Friday. The business will celebrate its 85th anniversary Monday. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/Tulsa World
Published: 1/8/2011 2:24 AM
Last Modified: 1/8/2011 6:13 AM
Jim Economou only tweaked the recipe of his father's Coney Island chili dogs once, cutting the salt content a few years after he took over in the 1970s.
No one seemed to notice until Economou decided to revert to the sodium-heavy recipe.
"That only lasted one day. They said their tongues were burning," recalled the 80-year-old owner of the Coney Island Hot Weiner Shop downtown.
The basics of the recipe have lasted through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and now the Great Recession. The iconic restaurant will mark 85 years in business Monday, still serving the Midwestern classic with a Tulsa twist.
The shop is celebrating with discounts on menu items. And while Coney Island retains an old-fashioned feel, it has started a Facebook page to promote the event. There will even be cake and chocolates, but Economou said it's just a small commemoration.
Coney Island got its start in 1926 when Economou's father, Greek immigrant Christ Economou, brought his unique version of the coney dog to Tulsa. The first restaurant was at the current site of the Tulsa World, and it moved a block away onto Fourth Street after World War II.
The classic coney is a small hot dog served on a flour bun with chili, onions, cheese and mustard. The Coney Island's chili is made without beans or tomatoes, a recipe concocted by Christ Economou.
Jim Economou took over in 1973, and the restaurant moved across the street to its current location in 1995.
time since the restaurant opened, downtown has gone from an oil-boom residential and retail district to a place that was typically deserted after 5 p.m. to what is now a vibrant daytime business center with an up-and-coming nightlife feel on many evenings.
The original restaurant served beer to patrons.
"That's just too complicated now," Economou said. "Food is just easier."
Daily operations of the restaurant are headed by Economou's sister and brother-in-law, Georgia and Costa Tsilekas.
There are no plans to change the recipes, but Economou said he wants to put more emphasis on the restaurant's famous chili and less on the hot dogs.
Another change in location is possible when the lease at Fourth Street and Cheyenne Avenue ends in November. A Los Angeles-based investor purchased the site in 2006, and the restaurant is the street-level property of a vacant hotel.
Economou said the property could be turned into a mixed-use hotel and condominium site.
But even if Coney Island is forced to move again, it will remain downtown.
"I've always felt this should be a part of Tulsa," Economou said. "We have an emotional tie to this city."
Coney Island Hot Weiner Shop history1926: Christ Economou opens Coney Island, serving 5-cent weiners at 311 S. Boulder Ave.
1946: Shop moves to 108 W. Fourth St. when Tulsa World expands.
1973: Jim Economou, a music teacher, takes over from his father.
1995: Coney Island moves to current location at 123 W. Fourth St.
Original Print Headline: 85 years of chili dogs
Downtown's Coney Island to celebrate 85 years in business | Tulsa World