The stone soul singer Mayer Hawthorne may have been born and raised in Ann Arbor, but he's Detroit through and through. He now lives and records in L.A., but whenever he's back in his native Michigan, he'll typically end his day with a couple of chili dogs from Lafayette Coney Island.
As much a local institution as Motown itself, Lafayette Coney Island has been serving up its chili dogs and other diner classics for nearly a century. "If I'm singing, DJing, record digging, or just hanging out in Detroit," Hawthorne tells 'Men's Journal,' "there's a very high probability that I will end up at Lafayette Coney Island."
Hawthorne, whose new album, 'Where Does This Door Go,' comes out July 16th, has been going there since he was a kid. After watching the Tigers play with his father, they'd stop at Lafayette Coney Island for a "loose burger" – "essentially a hamburger in a hot dog bun with chili on top," Hawthorne explains. "Nowadays I usually order two Coney dogs and some chili cheese fries – best in the world – which in Lafayette language is 'two up on one!'"
A purist, Hawthorne makes sure to warn visitors not to mistake the archrival American Coney Island, right next door, for the true authentic Detroit chili dog. (The second business opened after a feud erupted between the two immigrant brothers who founded the first.) The original place offers many advantages: Lafayette stays open until 4:30 a.m., for one, but the real secret to the joint's success is the "snap" of its natural-skin-casing hot dogs, which, combined with the spice of the chili, create a mouth-watering experience that is "absolutely magical," Hawthorne says.
"And if you're lucky, Faisal the waiter will mesmerize you with some more magic tricks while you eat." Clearly, it's really got a hold on him. [Lafayette Coney Island, 118 West Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI; 313-964-8198]