Phillip’s Original Coney Island – Columbus Hot Dog Heritage
Posted by cmh gourmand on February 3, 2010
I was on my way to Columbus Police Headquarters to complete a parade application for BeerCamp….really. That is not a punchline it really happened. I took a wrong turn and almost drove by Phillip’s. I am not normally downtown at lunchtime and when I am on Broad Street I am programmed to go to Tommy’s Diner since Tommy is a family friend. However, it was late in the afternoon and I needed a fast meal so I turned into the Phillip’s driveway at the last second.
As I walked through the door I instantly knew I made the right choice and I was mad at myself for allowing a decade or more to pass since my last visit. Phillip’s is the quintessential old school hot dog shop and lunch stop. There is a sense of home when you seat yourself that is rare in most restaurants. The servers are fast, friendly and efficient while in constant motion, often working as a team with each table and booth. The terms honey and sweetie are loosely and frequently applied to everyone. Many of the customers are regulars known by name, order or both. In the course of my meal, I was greeted by three servers and the owner so it was very clear that this place cares about their customers and they want you to come back.
There have been several Phillip’s Coney Island restaurants in Columbus since the first location opened in 1912. It can get a little confusing figuring out which is which (two remain but only one is the “Original” and owned by the same family that started the business so long ago). There is a history and family tree on the back of each menu to help you get your bearings on who owned what when. The great grandson, Nick Manus, is the current owner. He is clearly connected to his business; in the entrance there is a photo of Nick, his bride and their wedding party in front of the restaurant.
The coney’s are done right. The buns are steamed. The hot dogs are lightly grilled. The whole package is served with homemade coney sauce (sold by the pint), mustard, onions and cheese on request. That is a classic coney. Other items on the menu fall into the realm of Ohio lunchtime diner fare – bologna sandwich, hamburgers, chili, bean soup and more. A stand out is the Phillips Combination sandwich: fried ham with a fried egg. In the old country that is known as doyenne style. Another item of significant note, they serve Der Dutchman pies.
Ohio Hot Dog historians can appreciate that the family roots are from Greece. Greek immigrants have a long and proud history of establishing renown hot doggeries (especially in Cincinnati) as well as distinctive coney sauces. Phillip’s is the oldest food purveying family in town and in honor of that, Phillips was the first restaurant to be inspected using the new Columbus Health Department guidelines. There is a photo with Mayor Coleman to mark that occasion. If you check out the web site, there is a countdown to 100 years of Phillips which will be in January 2012.
There is a lot to appreciate about Phillip’s. The food is secondary to the experience. The history and the connection the owners and staff have with their community is a slice of life that can not be created by a committee, focus group or consultant, it either happens or it does not. If four generations of a family can maintain a business – they get it.
Phillips Original Coney Island
450 West Broad Street
Franklinton (Sweeneytown to some of us)
Phillip’s web site