Antonio’s Coney Island occupies a small space in an Ypsilanti shopping plaza and serves up a great version of the iconic Detroit hot dog topped with chili, onions, and yellow mustard.
Just not a lot them, maybe one or two a day.
That’s because the main attractions include pupusas — typical of Honduras and El Salvador — bajadas (fried green plantains), and other Central American and Mexican favorites.
Owners Irene Serrano and Miguel Martinez opened Antonio’s in early 2015 as a regular Coney Island with plans to have specials featuring food from their native Mexico. However a clause in their lease prevented the couple from serving strictly Mexican food as there was already a taqueria in the same strip mall. Serrano’s best friend, who hails from Honduras, convinced Serrano and Martinez to try serving Central American food as there were many locals from the region but very few restaurants to cater to them. The friend shared family recipes and the rest is history.
With a general lack of Central American eateries in southeast Michigan, many diners in the region may be unfamiliar with the nuances of the food that Antonio’s serves. The Honduran enchilada catracha, for example, is unlike the Mexican enchilada, which is comprised of a rolled corn tortilla stuffed with meat, beans, and/or cheese, and dipped in either a red or green salsa. Instead, the Honduran version is more like a tostada with a flat, crispy tortilla base topped with meat, Honduran cabbage slaw, tomato, avocado, boiled egg, and parmesan cheese.
“I have customers from Guatemala, El Salvador, Columbia…all the tropical countries,” says Serrano. “A customer from Trinidad and Tobago said our food reminds them of their mother’s and grandmother’s food.”
As for those unfamiliar with the region’s food? Serrano adds, “At first people may think it’s weird because they don’t know. But they see the fried chicken and try it the next time they’re here. Then next time, they try something else.”
That fried chicken is a very popular dish at Antonio’s — a fried leg quarter topped with cabbage slaw and Honduran mustard over tajadas (fried green bananas). Another beloved dish is the baleada — a flour tortilla with beans, cheese, cream, scrambled eggs, and avocado — which Serrano describes as a perfect breakfast or snack.
Shortly after opening, Serrano and Martinez received their first piece of positive press that lauded Antonio’s for providing diners with a taste of home. But the couple was still new in the industry and had much to learn.
“When we started we didn’t think that people [would] show... We weren’t ready, but now we’re strong,” says Serrano. “I cook with the heart. People say to cook with your brain and cook to make money. No, I cook the way I like to eat.”
Antonio’s Coney Island is at 2896 Washtenaw Ave in Ypsilanti. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Limited seating is available.