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Let's face it: Michigan has a serious food tourism problem.
Whereas Boston has chowder, Philadelphia has hoagies/cheesesteaks and Baltimore has crab cakes, Detroit has a hot dog named after a place in another city that no tourist actually thinks of as a Michigan thing. And a bunch of dead, proprietary brands like Sanders and Bill Knapps.
So let's do something about that. Here are my suggestions. Please add your own:
-- Existing recipes. What does your grandma make that you think of as a Michigan thing? Can you verify that it's uniquely regional or add a twist to make it so?
-- KaBoblos - Part-venison, part-other-ingredient kabobs
-- Rougesalad - A salad involving fried mosquitos and tabouli
-- Something integrating Polish and mideast flavors, named after Hamtramck?
-- Cobobob - An octopus-and-cherry kabob
-- Cobobobob - An octopus-and-cherry-and-venison kabob
-- Ilitchobob - A Cobobobob wrapped in a small pizza and deep-fried
-- Cobobobobob - An octopus-and-cherry-and-venison-and-whitefish kabob
Add more! Be silly! Have fun!
A couple other notes:
A concerted effort should be made to change the name of the Coney Island to something that reflects MIchigan. Maybe call it the Belle Isle? (I thought about "Boblo Island," but Belle Isle has the advantage of still being open to the public and -- for all its failings -- still being a beautiful park.) This can happen gradually, with parenthesis below menu items for a decade or two (first with the new name in parenthesis, then with the old name in small type later on), so as not to make the too-much-too-soon mistake that New Coke and Bill Knapp's both famously made during their rebrandings.
Speaking of Bill Knapp's, my earlier critique has a caveat: We can still revive some of the dead brands in a more sustainable form. Somebody needs to get permission, then crowd-fund a Bill Knapps food cart that sells basic favorites outside of one of the big stadiums. Good bets are Michigan Stadium, Comerica Park, Spartan Stadium ... maybe even something a little smaller like the Whitecaps' park. People would totally go nuts over this, and it would build the brand without requiring any staffing during slow times. I would do this, but I'm up by Traverse City these days.
And let's not count out Pastie remixes with more Michigan-specific ingredients. Adding a bunch of cherries or taziki (to furrther regionalize and get rid of the dryness) and making a push to sell more of them in the Detroit area (maybe at that BK cart, among other places) could go a long way toward giving Detroit/Michigan a truly famous specialty food.
Anyhow, please add to the list above. I can't wait to see the fun ideas people come up with.
This article is several months old but gives a nice overview of the current project on I-25. I kind of laugh at the "July 2013" completion date as I'm not sure they even have a chance of completion before the end of the year - but miracles can happen, right?