Don’t let the name fool you: New Paltz’s newest hot dog shop — Noshi’s Coney Island — owes a little something to Detroit. The natural casing dogs, topped with chili, onions and mustard, have long been a culinary staple in Southeastern Michigan.
Nosh Margilaj, 30, the restaurant’s owner was born outside of Detroit in the early 1980s. All around Motor City, in surrounding towns like Flint and Jackson, there’s an untold slew of “coney islands” — Greek-style diners that serve coney dogs along with burgers, Greek salad and gyros.
While the name references that famous section of ocean-front Brooklyn, the tradition of coneys is pure Michigan. It has nothing to do with Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. Named as an homage to the birthplace of hot dogs, the restaurants first started in the Detroit Metro area during World War I. They’ve spread throughout the state and the Midwest since.
The Margilaj family moved to the Hudson Valley in the late ’80s, but Nosh couldn’t forget those hot dogs.
“I remember in high school, we’d drive to Michigan at least twice a year, because both my uncles live out there — we’ve got a lot of family in Michigan. Every time we went, I’d have to go to a coney and get a coney dog,” he said.
Turns out, it was a shared craving.
“I remember me and my father joking around a couple times when I was younger, saying we should open a coney island in New York. There’s nothing like that over here, you know?” Nosh said.
When his dad retired in 2006, they got planning. They opened up the first Noshi’s Coney Island near The Dubliner Irish Pub on Main Street in Poughkeepsie a year later.
“So we found this location in Poughkeepsie — small place, cheap rent. I thought it was a pretty good start off, a good place, because I’d never owned a restaurant,” he said.
In Poughkeepsie, his closest competitor was Soul Dog Café. But Nosh saw his style as being different than them. He thought of his offerings as a complement to the gluten-free options they offered. Nosh scaled back the offerings to appeal to a more limited crowd.
“I didn’t really want to do it like Michigan, though. I didn’t want a full diner. I didn’t want a full menu like that,” he said. “What my sisters and I did was incorporate like a Brooklyn-style restaurant to a Michigan-style coney — and kind of fuse them together. And Noshi’s Coney Island was born.”
Pretty much ever since 2007, he’d looked to bring Noshi’s Coney Island to New Paltz. He found a spot after Slash Root Café cleared out, and they opened up in early April.
“The attention we got and the welcome we got from the town was astonishing. The college kids really took to us. The town really took to us,” Nosh said. “We were unexpectedly busy — really busy. Actually, our first week — we opened on a Tuesday — that Saturday I had to shut down for two days. We had run out of food. Our equipment was breaking.”
The crew got used to the demand and the high visibility of the Main Street location. Like most New Paltz businesses, Noshi’s noticed the seasonal slowdown after the undergrads left for the summer. The hot dog place is adjusting to the new pace.
“It’s been a great ride so far,” he said.
Inside the restaurant at 62 Main Street in New Paltz, Noshi’s is sparsely decorated in a minimalist style — complete with a limited color palette of white, red, black and blue. The brave or foolhardy can attempt to answer the “Riddle of Day” — either for a discount on food or just for a hug.
Noshi’s also serves gourmet burgers, sandwiches, homemade fries and milkshakes. The hours are 11 a.m. till 9 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays; 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. on the other days.