The Causeway is reserved for seafood, in my mind. There used to be Argiro’s muffulettas, but as long as I can remember if you didn’t have at least a shrimp dish or two, you were not expected to make it. If there’s a place that can make it without the ocean’s bounty, it has to be Gulf Coast Coney.
Headed east on Battleship Parkway (locals call it the Causeway), Gulf Coast Coney is one of the last signs of life on the left-hand side — save for a bait shop — until you climb the hill to Spanish Fort proper. It’s only been open a few months but folks have begged me to review it.
With Boar’s Head meat products (including hot dogs) and Hershey’s ice cream, it’s easy to become a fan, but the allure is much more than product choice. The menu is a bit different from anything else around there. The coneys come several different ways, as expected, but don’t stop at New York, Chicago and Detroit style. The preparation can get a little wild. The sandwiches can be just as startling.
They also offer an assortment of local(ish) favorites like Zapp’s chips, and a star-studded wall in the back corner with a rack and cooler covered in offerings from Priester’s Pecans. With pies, mini pies and pralines at the ready, ice cream isn’t the only thing to satisfy a sweet tooth. Gourmet kettle corn holds court near the entrance.
For this review I thought it was a great idea to take world traveler, real estate agent and Oakleigh Garden District hot dog champion Catherine Mackey. Those three things may not sound connected, but you don’t know hot dogs until you’ve had them in New Zealand, India, Southeast Asia and Africa. Outside of the States, those places create the unlikely quadrumvirate of hot dog styles. Those of you who know Miss Mackey should ask her about it. I don’t have enough room to explain it all.
We met at Gulf Coast Coney for a quick lunch last Friday and were greeted by more than one “Welcome to Gulf Coast Coney.” I could tell Miss Mackey was taken by the picture menu that adorns the wall, and we were steered in a direction by our helpful apron-clad employee who asked, “Do you like spicy things?” After our unison, “Yes,” she suggested the Toronator ($4.99).
Named after the Spanish Fort Toros, this is a monster of a different breed. The best way to describe it is that it’s similar to chili. Beans with a dollop of sour cream and tortilla chips were a nice appetizer, but it should come with a warning label. When these people say hot they mean business. For the tender-tongued folks out there, this place may not hold enough ice cream to put out the flames. Thankfully Miss Mackey and I share the same sentiments on face-melting foods. This will be a dish to remember.
Our hot dog hero was not here to play around and without hesitation ordered the Alabama Dog combo ($9). This is a Boar’s Head hot dog with pulled pork and mustard. Yes, pulled pork is on the hot dog. I did not ask for a sample, but she had no problem destroying the dog along with the Voodoo-flavored Zapp’s and a bottle of water that came with the combo. Impressive.
I was looking for something a little more on the mild side and opted for the Tuna Melt combo ($9). The word “mild” is the wrong adjective for this sandwich. But I will use the word “delicious.” Boasting smoked yellow fin tuna, this sandwich also has halved cherry tomatoes on the inside, but the bread is what makes this sandwich so good. The buttery crust is dusted with some kind of herbs that made this one more than pleasant. The combo price supplemented my sandwich with regular-flavored Zapp’s and my favorite Vernor’s ginger ale.
Why stop there? You cannot go here without trying the ice cream ($3.45 per scoop). I was told the Creole praline was one of their strongest flavors. It was very good. Miss Mackey had a taste of blueberry cheesecake flavor and couldn’t resist a full scoop. We were at the end of a well-rounded, balanced meal.
Remember that Priester’s section I mentioned earlier? I couldn’t leave without a bag of praline pecans ($8.50). That may sound steep for an 8-ounce bag, but I’d pay more. I love pralines, but I have a tendency to overindulge. These pecan pieces are individually coated with praline mixture and are the perfect fix for smaller sweet cravings.
I’m not done with Gulf Coast Coney. There are plenty of items with my name on them. The signature ice cream dishes are enticing, but buyer, beware! They are gigantic. This isn’t that cheap of a place to dine, but even for hot dogs and ice cream it’s worth it.
This may be a non-seafood restaurant braving the Causeway, but it could be just what the doctor ordered. Closed Monday, catch them from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sunday, for ice cream only, from 1:30 until 6 p.m.
Gulf Coast Coney
5395 Battleship Parkway
Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527