Day 856

Nathan’s Famous

May 4th, 2014

In 1916, Nathan Handwerker opened a frankfurter stand here at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island. From that point on, for over 96 years, this flagship Nathan's reportedly opened for business every single day until it was finally forced to close by Hurricane Sandy. (Damage from the storm kept the place shuttered for several months.)

From a previous post about Charles Feltman, the purported inventor of the hot dog:

Feltman died in 1910, but his restaurant stayed in business, and it was a few years later that a young Polish immigrant named Nathan Handwerker found work there slicing rolls. Supposedly with some encouragement and borrowed money from his then-unknown co-workers Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante, Nathan opened his own hot dog joint in 1916 at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, where he and his wife served up frankfurters for just a nickel apiece, half the price his former employer charged.

According to legend (and Nathan's grandson), with some variations from one telling to another, people were initially skeptical about the quality and contents of a wiener that could be sold for a mere five cents. To alleviate these concerns, Nathan hired people to dress as doctors and eat hot dogs in front of his stand, giving the impression that medical professionals considered his food perfectly healthy. Before long, with the arrival of the subway in Coney Island (and with the terminal station located right across the street), the dogs started selling like crazy, and now, almost a century later, Nathan's Famous remains a household name.

Leave a Reply