Sparrow’s Monica Pope has her Date with a Dog in October

One could call it the Pope’s Dogma. Beginning Oct. 1, James Coney Island, the 90-year-old Houston institution, will introduce Dog Five of its six-month, six-dog Houston Chefs and Show Dogs series with Sparrow Bar & Cookshop’s chef/owner Monica Pope’s ‘Date with a Dog.’ This dog will make a hot date at all 21 James Coney Island stores.

‘Date with a Dog’ is the creation of Chef Pope who becomes the fifth of six Houston top chefs to create a show dog for James Coney Island.

Chef Pope has created bountiful dog using a Texas T Kobe Beef hot dog stuffed with Frenchy’s Chorizo and Veldhuizen Red Neck Cheddar then wrapped in Nueskes Applewood Smoked Bacon. This monster is then shoe-horned into a Slow Dough Pretzel Bun, then dressed with datetomato jam and Chermoula Sauce. This date’s prom worthy! The ‘Bird Dog’ is available for $10.99 at all James Coney Island locations from Tuesday October 1-31. The next and last chef’s dog takes over November 1.

James Coney Island, the most famous hot dog maker in southeast Texas, has invited Houston’s top dog chefs – some of the best in the city – to create the most delicious, imaginative, signature hot dogs they can imagine. Chef Randy Evans of Haven kicked it off, followed by Chef Hori of Kata Robata and Mockingbird Bistro and Osteria Mazzantini Chef/Owner John Sheely. Coming up still is Hugo’s Hugo Ortega.

The rules for Chefs and Show Dogs are simple – there really aren’t any. The company invited six chefs to come up with their own personal, over-the-top hot dogs and then each month, for six months, one of the hot dogs will be sold in stores. There are no rules on the bread, the meat or the condiments other than market availability. Experts at James Coney Island will work with each chef to make sure the recipe is down pat before it goes on sale to the public.

For their trouble, James Coney Island will name each hot dog after its creator and donate $1,000 to his or her favorite charity. So far, checks have gone to Foodways Texas (Randy), the HFD Capt. William Dowling Family Fund (Hori), Music Doing Good Inc. (Matt) and The Arc of Greater Houston (John). Chef Pope is donating to the Recipe for Success Foundation.

For James Coney Island, it all started in 1923 with family-made Coneys and signature chili. Tom and James Papadakis came to Houston from Greece via New York and opened their first restaurant, flipping a coin to decide whose name went on the sign. Selling sandwiches, hot dogs and secret-recipe chili, the hot dog stand in downtown Houston became an instant hit, lining up the millionaires right next to the paper boys waiting for their “Coneys.” Forty years later, they opened their second location followed by additional stores and by 1988, it was a multi-million dollar operation, selling over 30,000 custom-made hot dogs each day.

In 1990, the family sold the business to a group of local investors who wished to keep the Papadakis’ traditions alive – even the buns are still made to the original specifications and hand-cut when ordered so what happens inside the bun, stays in the bun – while also keeping up with current trends. James Coney Island was fast casual before the term became an industry buzz. At its 21 Houston-area locations, the menu is fast food made to order – nothing starts cooking until you place the order – but look for the upgrades in service and presentation when you dine inside. Real plates and personal service means while the food is fast, the experience doesn’t have to be. Drive-thru ordering is a quick alternative when your dog’s gotta run.

James Coney Island marked its 88th year doing something else extraordinary. It now has its own line of signature gourmet burgers. On the menu at all stores are six, mouth-watering burgers, including a signature “Jucy Lucy,” (yes, they meant to spell it that way). It also added new salads and sandwiches, most recently, a new Italian Beef. It has Hebrew National hot dogs and bread from Slow Dough Bread Co.

The company also caters and has joined the legion of food trucks in the area with its customdesigned Coney Cruiser – the biggest food truck in Texas. For locations and information, visit


Information provided by Paula Murphy of Patterson and Murphy.

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