by Kevin Walsh

One constant in the Coney Island scene at Surf and Stillwell Avenues since 1916 has been Nathan’s Famous,

Charles  Feltman was 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 enterprise. 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 foods were added to the menu and Nathan’s became the familiar institution it is today.

Nathan’s branches around town haven’t fared quite so well. The Bay Ridge outlet at 7th Avenue and 86th recently closed. Meanwhile, a long-shuttered Nathan’s sign can be spotted at the Queens Boulevard 63rd Drive subway exit on the south side of the boulevard, under an awning belonging to the abandoned Wiggles strip club.

Photo: Bob Mulero

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



Peter April 15, 2019 - 2:30 pm

If you look at their website, or a package of the tubesteaks, you would think that Nathan himself started it all. There’s no mention of Charles Feltman.

kateOwlNebula9 April 16, 2019 - 7:06 pm

That Wiggles spot is where you can deliver food scraps for the Queens Botanical Garden on Monday mornings. See the above link for Rego and other area spots’ schedules.
The Rego Park tour was great. Lost Battalion has great exercise machines and classes (esp Mondays 6 pm Dance Exercise), and a senior center. Central Asian restaurants, Rego Center shops, a Revolutionary War cemetery, Our Lady of Angelus Catholic Church, the Jewish Center, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Georgian, DinerBar, Thai and Peruvian dining.
Queens Botanical Gardens have indigo and other dyeing workshops, ethnic walks and music, and social opportunities in Flushing. Take New York back further through ceremonial timing – imagining yourself in another time – and you can see the milky way bright overhead. Now see the planets and birthplaces of stars by gazing through the Amateur Astronomers Association’s telescope observations at Lincoln Center, High Line, etc. or taking cosmology and other classes with them. Blessings

George Cassidy April 17, 2019 - 10:09 am

Would make a pit stop at the one in Oceanside, NY on the way back from the beach. I think that one is still in business.

Phil May 2, 2019 - 9:29 pm

Yes, the Nathan’s in Oceanside still is there although in a much smaller footprint than the prior structure. Unfortunately, the Nathan’s that was in Westbury on Old Country Road has closed.

Anonymous October 9, 2019 - 12:38 pm

Having grown up in Rego Park, I have fond memories of both Nathans…. and Wiggles 🙂


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