New York City is known for its hot dogs. While you can find a good dog at food carts and different standalone places around the city, the original wieners are over in Brooklyn, at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island.
Nathan’s Famous started off at a nickel hot dog stand in Coney Island back in 1916. Ida Handwerker, the wife of co-founder Nathan Handwerker, created the hot dog recipe, while her grandmother came up with the secret spice recipe.
Nathan and Ida put their life savings of $300 towards starting the business. Something I learned in my research is that back in the day, hot dogs weren’t viewed as a very “safe” food to eat. People didn’t know what was in them, so many were afraid to order a dog. A fast food book even details how Nathan made sure that men in surgeon’s outfits were seen eating the dogs, I guess as a way to calm others down – surely a doctor would never eat something dangerous, right?
Speaking of eating hot dogs, most people know Nathan’s for its annual 4th of July hot dog eating contest. The contest is held at the original Nathan’s, where participants have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs (and buns) as possible. The current record is 72, which is all levels of amazing and disgusting.
Throughout the years, Nathan’s has expanded to include more than 1,000 stores throughout the United States and around the world. I remember visiting the branch in Oceanside (which has since closed and moved a few miles away) when I was little, even though I preferred the nearby Burger King, simply because I didn’t like hot dogs.
Today, Nathan’s serves up a menu of weenies, cheesesteaks, chicken sandwiches/tenders, burgers, fish, and French fries. Nathan’s in Coney Island is open 365 days a year, even when the rest of the boardwalk attractions are closed.
During the summer, Nathan’s is slammed. There are many different lines to hop on, so just be patient and grab a spot.
After hopping off the subway, my first stop was Nathan’s on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues. I went with the original – a hot dog and the crinkle cut fries. Nathan’s is packed, but there are places to stand to eat.
The hot dog was, of course, amazing. There’s a reason that Nathan’s has been around for more than 100 years, and it’s because their recipe really does stand the test of time. I enjoyed the dog way more than I did my meal at Gray’s Papaya a few nights before, and I would absolutely come back the next time I visit Coney Island. I definitely recommend ordering the fries as well. I’m not a huge crinkle cut fan, but these were amazing. Maybe it’s just the fact that beach food tastes better, but Nathan’s Famous should be on any New Yorker’s bucket list!