In 1916, Polish immigrants Nathan and Ida Handwerker opened a hot dog stand in Coney Island with $300 and Ida’s secret spice recipe.
That hot dog, and Nathan’s, became the most famous hot dog in the world with restaurants across the globe, products in every supermarket in America and millions of fans.
Have you been to Nathan’s in Coney Island? Celebrities sure have!
From politicians to movie stars, here are some of Nathan’s famous moments and star-studded history.
According to The New York Times, “Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor, then singing waiters at Coney Island, lent Nathan the money to open his hot dog stand. They also complained that a dime was a lot of money for a frankfurter.” So when Nathan’s opened in 1916, they convinced him to sell his “Coney Island red hots” for five cents each. After all, the era was known as the Nickel Empire because it only cost five cents to ride the train or one of the amusement rides at Coney Island at the time.
Actor Walter Matthau asked that Nathan’s hot dogs be served at his funeral and they were.
A young red-headed Brooklynite named Clara Bowtinelli worked at Nathan’s as a server. During this time she was “discovered” and Clara Bow, the “It Girl” of silent movies, was born.
In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt served Nathan’s hot dogs to King George and Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain.
A young British man named Archibald Leach used to work at Nathan’s as a fry cook. You probably know him as Cary Grant.
In 1918, legendary gangster, Al Capone stopped by Nathan’s for a taste of a Nathan’s hot dog. They say he always stopped by when he was back visiting his hometown of Brooklyn.
Jacqueline Kennedy loved Nathan’s hot dogs so much that she served them at The White House.
In 2003 NFL star William “The Refrigerator” Perry competed in the world famous hot dog contest. He won the qualifying event by eating 12 dogs, but only ate 4 during the contest and quit after 5 minutes.
Mayor Ed Koch bemoaned the loss of the 5-cent hot dog to which Nathan Handwerker replied by doing the same about the nickel subway ride.
Nelson Rockefeller once said, “No man can hope to be elected in his state without being photographed eating a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous.” And here he is with Richard Nixon’s VP pick, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., and New York Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz.
As you can see, Nathan’s isn’t just a hot dog. It’s a part of American culture!