Thursday, April 1, 2010

Coney Island Boardwalk in Bailey

Coming back down 285 after a recent trip to the mountains my wife and I stopped to eat at Coney Island Boardwalk outside of Bailey. For those of you that don't know, Coney Island is a giant hot dog with a restaurant inside. It used to sit off the highway in Conifer, and several years ago was bought, sold and moved down the road to its new (and better) location outside of Bailey, right on the North fork of the South Platte. It really is a lovely setting for this semi-historic and wholly iconic piece of Americana. It seemed out of place in its former location, surrounded by strip malls and parking lots. Now, thanks to high rent and a bank that essentially forced it out, this giant artificial hot dog sits in all its splendor under a wooded hill over a lovely river; the irony couldn't be more idyllic.

You don't have to be a hot dog lover to have a wonderfully fun time first peering in the window of a giant hot dog, opening the door to a giant hot dog and then, of course, eating a hot dog inside of a giant hot dog.  Another part of its popular appeal may be its blatant and universal sexuality. The dog itself  is at first glance outwardly phallic, but upon closer inspection simultaneously and obviously feminine. It is, I would say, uncomfortably erotic.

Left side? Right side? Switch hitter? 

Of course, that day, possibly half the citizens of Park county were there along with every single person we saw snowshoeing on Kenosha pass earlier that morning. What I mean to say is that the wait was long. Painfully long, but what do you expect for a chance to order and eat food from a hot dog? I mean, you expect a line when you go to Disney Land. How is this any different?

Luckily we beat out the group of hikers we saw on the trail, and a couple of exasperated locals left the line complaining about the weekend crowds, so we actually didn't have to wait all that long to get inside. Once in, we didn't mind the following 20 minute wait we had because we could begin (and then finish and wait some more) absorbing the nostalgic and cramped atmosphere. I also saw this sign on the counter, and I'm originally from Chicago, where we get excited about signs like this.

Also very Chicago-style was the attitude here. I liked it. It was friendly, in a no-bullshit kind of way. The way that a nice person is when they are a little sick of making hot dogs non-stop for hours on end. Do they take credit cards you may wonder when it is your turn to order? Only the ones pasted on the door. That you stood in front of for like 15 minutes before coming in. Yes, they do take them.

The cooking process is also surprisingly long for what is essentially a pre-cooked meat. We probably waited another 15 minutes for our order to come up, watching the red-haired girl behind the counter slave away over the single flat-top, listening to the sound of the deep fryer bubbling and processed meat sizzling along with the occasional inspired words from the cook herself, like, "What kind of crappy music is this?" or, "When can I work the register?"

Of course, going to a place like Coney Island, which could serve dog shit on a bun and still have a line of clueless tourists out the door, you don't necessarily expect the food to be all that great. I mean, the fun is eating inside of a hot dog; good food would just be a bonus. Great food would mean that my hot dog carbon footprint would necessarily increase making the 50 mile drive to Bailey for lunch every week. Not to worry, the fact is the hot dog served here is entirely average.

I was pleased to see that my Chicago-style dog did come with rather Chicago-style toppings including mustard, onions, tomatoes, relish, pepperocinis, a dill spear and a dash of celery salt. It also came, of course, without ketchup, you know, that red stuff that really ought not to ever find its way onto a hot dog. Still it was very average, but nevertheless, there I was eating it inside a giant hot dog, so it wasn't all that bad.

My wife had a dog with sauerkraut, which we also agreed was nothing special. The vanilla shake we shared, however, was classic diner-style: sweet, thick and rich. It was delicious. Then there were the chili cheese fries. Remember that part I wrote earlier about how this place could get away with serving dog shit? This is probably as close as they could come to that and still pass a health inspection. OK, it didn't taste that bad, and I did appreciate the choice of American cheese or Nacho cheese (which reminded me of the Blues Brothers scene where the country music bar owners claims to have both kinds of music, country and western), but look at this picture.

It tasted pretty much how it looked, and for some reason the un-melted American cheese did not add much to the dish either. It was way too salty and, well, just bad. I did eat the whole thing, so I guess it wasn't that bad, but next time I will get just plain fries, which by themselves were good enough.

And that brings up an interesting point. Despite the fact that we waited a really long time for an average meal, somehow I know I will be back. I drive down 285 too many times all summer and winter to not be tempted back into the dog again. Maybe it is the picturesque setting, maybe it is that arousing side view, but mostly it is the fact that it is just plain fun to eat hot dogs inside of a giant hot dog. I hope it is there for years to come.

Coney Island Colorado on Urbanspoon


  1. We/I don't drive 285 all that often, and half the time, it is pretty early in morning, en route from Boulder to Durango where my son lives. I agree with you about the not-so-new-anymore location being better than the old, and it's on the list -- but not on a weekend! Anyway, love this post, pix and all.

  2. Enjoyed your review and pix. I'm in Coney Island, Brooklyn, but was reading about Colorado's hot dog diner because I found out it's for sale! Do you think Coloradans will rally round to save it?



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