LUNA DOGS, Coney Island

by Kevin Walsh

A ride at the new Luna Park in Coney Island features Coney Island scenes from days of old, including Charles Feltman’s Surf Avenue restaurant. Feltman, the purported inventor of the hot dog (it was originally a sausage served on a roll; the roll’s distinctive shape and the hot dog’s mild recipe evolved later on) operated a food wagon in Coney Island beginning in 1867, and by 1874 the profits from his hot dogs enabled him to build his Ocean Pavilion. By 1946, when the restaurant finally closed, billions of frankfurters (also called since the sausage on roll treat had also arisen in Frankfurt, Germany as early as the 1500s) had been sold.

In 1916 a Feltman’s employee, Nathan Handwerker, struck out on his own, renting a shack at Surf and Stillwell Avenues and started selling hot dogs by the nickel. In the early years business was slow. Handwerker hit on the gimmick of dressing some local layabouts in white smocks, set them up behind the counter selling franks, and advertising his hot dogs approved by “doctors.” With the arrival of the BMT subway in 1920, his location proved advantageous and he was soon selling thousands, then millions, of hot dogs. Seafood items and other food were added to the menu and Nathan’s became the familiar institution it is today.

From Coney Island Food and Dining by Jeffrey Stanton



Joe Del Broccolo July 6, 2013 - 9:54 am

Nice history lesson! Grew up going to Coney, brings back some wonderful memories!

Andy July 11, 2013 - 11:10 pm

There is another cute story about the derivation of the term “hot dog”, also with a New York City twist. In the early 1900s the Harry M. Stevens Company was the food concessionaire at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan, the home of the New York Giants. Stevens’s vendors began selling boiled sausages in rolls and called them “dachshund sausages,” after the small dog whose long and low body shape looks like a sausage. A newspaper cartoonist drew a caricature of vendors selling the sausages, that showed a dachshund in a roll. Trouble was, he could not spell “dachshund”, so he renamed them “hot dogs” and the name stuck. The Stevens company was the food vendor at the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, and Ebbets Field for many years, and also handled food vending at Shea Stadium for a long time as well.

The dachshund is today a very popular dog breed that lives up to the “hot dog” name because despite its small size it is very outgoing and entertaining pet. One was part of my household for 13 years till his death a year ago, and he gave us never-ending entertainment and affection.


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