ST PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — St. Pete’s oldest business is celebrating its 90th anniversary, and WFLA News Channel 8’s Lila Gross is getting the secret details about their famous chili dogs.
The celebration will take place on Saturday, November 19, complete with a hot dog eating contest. All of the proceeds from the contest will go to Toys for Tots.
The restaurant was opened in 1926 by Peter H. Barlas. Peter came over from Greece, traveled through New York, New Jersey area and eventually made his was to our very own Tampa Bay.
When Peter H. Barlas passed away, his two sons George and Hank Barlas took over the business. The two brothers worked side by side for many years, until 2005 when George Barlas passed away.
Since his brother passed away Hank hasn’t had it in his heart to work on the grill but he continues to come in daily and have his chili dog.
The Coney Island Sandwich Shop does not serve french fries because there was a grease fire when the original owner, Peter H. Barlas, was running the business. After the fire, Peter took out the fryer and threw it away. At that point, he decided he would never bring a fryer back in, and his son’s obliged.
Ten years ago, the shop celebrated their 80th anniversary . It was right after George passed away. On that day, the shop raised money for the American Lung Association in memory of George Barlas and Peter H. Barlas.
Peter H. Barlas started charging $0.05 to add ketchup to a chili dog or chili burger in 1926, but it’s not for the reason you would expect. The shop’s chili has no tomato products, so as a penalty for ruining the chili, they charge $0.05 per item to keep the tradition alive.
The staff said they may not all be related but they feel like a family. Most of the staff has worked at the shop for over 10 years.
The shop said all walks of life come in to eat the shop’s famous chili dogs. They have families, which will have 4 or 5 generations eating chili dogs all at the same time. The shop said the snowbirds come in as soon as they arrive back in town and come back again right before they leave town.
Coney Island Sandwich Shop is located at 250 Doctor M.L.K. Jr Street North.
For more interesting stories from around Tampa Bay, stay with WFLA News Channel 8’s Lila Gross.