It’s a family tradition. My Dad grew up going to the James Coney Island in downtown Houston as a boy. He took us as boys to the one in Town ‘n Country Village. So it stands to reason that I must take my sons to it as well. In the world of family traditions, it’s not all that glamourous, but it tastes great.
Anyone who has ever had a hotdog, or the more racy chili dog, from James Coney Island know how good they are. It is why the franchise has lasted in Houston since 1923. It was started by two brothers, James and Tom Papadakis, two immigrants from Greece. The store is named after the older brother and the family had success with it until they sold it to private investors in 1990. The private investors have tried to expand around the state, but for some reason, have only been truly successful in Houston. Maybe it’s the humidity.
I have a lot of memories visiting the one in Town ‘n Country Village. On one trip as a sophomore, after getting my driver’s license, and being sent by my mother for a box full of hotdogs, I came out of the line only to spot the beautiful and gorgeous Holly Cameron. I had known her since I was in second grade, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to talk to her. In my dreamy experience, I decided to hold the box of chili dogs like a book. Only after returning home did I realized that the chili ran all over all the non-chili dogs. You just can’t hold the box that way.
But nonetheless, the chili dogs were still as good as always, even though a bit messy. I also took quite a bit of teasing from one of my friends who worked in the line and spotted me holding the dogs that way. He must have been jealous that I was had the opportunity to talk to the beautiful and gorgeous Holly Cameron, and he didn’t. I don’t think Holly noticed, which was the only thing important to me at the moment.
Although I did get to eat there once in the last 12 years. Flying into Houston, my wife and I met my brother Gene, aka Scooter, at the one of the Gulf Freeway for lunch. He eats there every time he flies into Hobby Airport. Nothing like Southwest Airlines followed up by a James Coney Island chili dog. It takes the sting out of traveling and hunger all in one trip.
It was there that Scooter told my wife that he doesn’t have to listen to me because I’m a pastor, but since she was the “pastor’s wife,” everyone had to listen to what she said.
Scooter is the one that has made sure to keep the tradition alive by passing it on to his children. And you know once something becomes a family tradition, you can’t pass it up.
In fact, when my sister took her children there several weeks ago, Madison started saying she wanted something other than a hotdog, to which my sister said, “Shut up Madison. You’re getting a hotdog. It’s tradition.”
Hopefully my boys will grow to love Coney Islands as well and take their children there when they have them… many years from now. But until then, I will have to wait for the day that Andy learns the greatness of the chili dog. Right now, he only eats hotdogs with ketchup on them. And Joey won’t eat them at all. He does like their corn dogs, which I didn’t know they served there until this pass week when my father took us there. If fact, they have an entire menu besides hotdogs to choose from.
However, it’s just not tradition to eat anything other than the chili dogs. It’s a family tradition.