Casey Harrison · SF Mcglone · Sydney Naseef · Zimo Wang

The Coney Challenge: Differentiating Those Midwestern Diners & Dives

Picture this: You’re eating a hot dog. But not any hot dog – it’s covered in chili, mustard and onions. That’s a coney dog. You can find these delicious delicacies (well, to some) prepared at many different hot spots, but one place they’ll always be served is your local Coney Island.

Here in East Lansing, we’re lucky enough to have three diners for the choosing. So…how do people decide which location will be getting their business, regardless of what they order? What are the deciding factors? Figuring that out was our assignment this week in our media entrepreneurship class at Michigan State. So let’s dive into it with a deeper look at our three local Coney Islands.

Hannah’s Koney Island


Hours of Operation: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Price for a Coney (if you’re so inclined): $3.50
Restaurant Size: Small. Roughly 15 tables plus a bar area.
Vibe: Quiet. Not too rowdy, only a few servers.
Crowd: Mostly younger people out to grab a quick bite. Mostly tables for two. A few families strolled in with younger kids.
Busiest Time: 10 a.m. on the weekends.

Hannah’s Koney Island is a small diner located on Hagadorn Road. With cheap meal options, a small space and an early closing time, you’re sure to experience a bit of a wait if you find yourself walking through the doors for breakfast or brunch on a Sunday morning. When you walk inside, you are greeted by brightly colored walls and large paintings covering the plaster showcasing exotic locals. Look in the corner and you’ll see a fake flamingo sitting comfortably above you. Unlike your typical Coney Island, this one seems to have a “vacation” theme.


It’s a drivable distance from anywhere on campus, but one of its drawbacks is that, from most places, you will be unable to walk over if you’re interested in grabbing some breakfast or indulging in a famous coney dog.

Hannah’s Koney Island dubs their breakfast, “The Best Breakfast in Town,” and they do have tons of options from decadent cinnamon french toast to make-your-own omelettes. With breakfast specials and healthy alternatives, this diner is above the curve in making sure it can serve its vast East Lansing population.

And that coney dog…classic.


But that’s just one of the three spots in town. Let’s take a look at the rest.

Sparty’s Coney Island


Hours of Operation: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Price for a Coney (if you’re so inclined): $2.89
Restaurant Size: Small, but a bit larger than Hannah’s. More tables, but also more crowded together.
Vibe: Classic diner. A little more of a dive than Hannah’s. Tile floors, nostalgic decorations, retro posters and photos line the wall. Crowded.
Crowd: An older generation. Comfortable family breakfast and lunch location.
Busiest Time: 10 a.m. on the weekends.

Sparty’s Coney Island is located on N. Clippert St. in the Frandor Shopping Center. Definitely not a walkable distance for any college student, but it seems they are vying for the older crowd. The diner screams “classic.” A sense of nostalgia is felt when you walk in the doors to the crowded, bustling restaurant. Sparty’s has been dubbed the “Best in Lansing, Michigan” and claims to have the “Best Coney in Lansing”.


With cheaper prices than Hannah’s Coney Island, Sparty’s may have it best in the pricing department. Especially when it comes to their famous coney, for which they have two unique options, “Detroit-Soupy & Spicy” or “Flint-Meaty.” Channeling some classic Michigan elements with its meal options, Sparty’s is hoping to attract an older generation with the classic look, feel and cuisine.

This is a spot that’s definitely known for its coney dog.


So…what’s our last coney island?

Leo’s Coney Island


Hours of Operation: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Price for a Coney (if you’re so inclined): $2.49
Restaurant Size: Medium. Mostly large booths allowing for larger groups of friends to enjoy a meal together.
Vibe: Hustle and bustle. More action than Hannah’s. Cozier feel.
Crowd: Mostly young people…the morning after. If you catch my drift.
Busiest Time: 10 a.m. on the weekends.

Leo’s Coney Island sits comfortably on the corner of Albert Avenue and M.A.C., in a prime, walkable location for off-campus students. For that reason, hop over to Leo’s on any given morning, and your likely to get a crowd of young people enjoying eggs and toast as they recover from their college night.

With a decent size, the wait is never too long, and most of it’s tables are booths allowing for a comfortable squeeze with a group of friends. If you head to Leo’s in the evening, you’ll have no problem finding a place to sit. It is one of the few coney islands you’ll find anywhere that stays open late.

In terms of pricing, their coney dogs in particular are slightly cheaper than they are over at Hannah’s Koney Island or Sparty’s. Not to mention, Leo’s makes its OWN famous chili, differentiating them from their competitors. With additional specials to make your coney a little more unique, Leo’s is definitely embracing the famous coney dog.


However, most people who waltz into Leo’s opt for chicken tenders or a grilled cheese. Young people don’t tend to have the same love for the classic coney. With more booths than tables and low-lighting, Leo’s might take the cake when it comes to comfort and coziness, but in general it ties for price with Sparty’s.

When deciding where to go: 

Take price, vibe, crowd, hours and comfort into consideration. These competitors all have a similar style of cuisine, service and comfort, but each have their own specialties. Eventually, it all becomes personal preference. I can walk there? Well then that’s where I’ll go so I don’t waste gas. Not to mention its open late (Leo’s). It has a classic, nostalgic feel? That’s what I’m going for (Sparty’s). It offers healthy breakfast alternatives and more modernized dining options?  That’s where I’m headed (Hannah’s).

Go ahead, try all three! Undoubtably, you’ll find the place for you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s