Spending the day in Coney Island is a Brooklyn rite of passage and while you're there, stopping at Nathan's Famous is practically the law. While Nathan's are found throughout New York City (and Nathan's hot dogs are found throughout grocery stores), there's something about going to the iconic Coney Island location that makes a person feel so nostalgic for something they may have never experienced before. A hot dog by the boardwalk is a truly authentic moment, and Nathan's Famous has been procuring memories for decades now.


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Even if you're not from New York and have never been to Coney Island before, you've likely heard of Nathan's simply because of its legendary reputation. As far as New Yorkers are concerned, there's no better hot dog than the ones that come from this beachside stand. Around the rest of the country, if Nathan's can be found in the grocery store, there's simply no competition because of its New York reputation. So, what else should the world know about this New York favorite? We've got some deets.

Dogs Were Originally Less Than Ten Cents And Came From A Sentimental Place

As with all things that got their start early on, Nathan's Famous sold its hot dogs for an unbelievably affordable price by today's standards. When the first stand opened on Coney Island, there was a bit of competition involved.

Nathan Handwerker, the Nathan, worked at Feltman's Restaurant before leaving to open his own food stand. This stand was opened with only a $300 loan, which was actually quite a lot in 1912, and it was there that the original five-cent hot dogs were sold. The competition part of this was the fact that these hot dogs were half the price of Feltman's!

It Took Five Decades To Expand And During That Time, Parking Was Ridiculous

Eventually, Nathan's Famous gained so much attention that it did, indeed, become quite locally famous. Anyone who has been to New York City, specifically Coney Island, is probably well aware of the parking situation (or lack thereof). Back then, with an island that was even less developed than it is now, the stand caused many a traffic jam. However, in true New York fashion, the police rarely stepped in because Nathan's Famous had them, theoretically, in their back pocket. That's right - they were paid to keep from handing out tickets so that customers were free to fight for a spot to get their favorite hot dogs.

It wasn't until 1968 when Nathan's son, Murray, took over Nathan's Famous and decided to expand it past Coney Island that the company actually grew. The expansion now encompasses 300 restaurants plus the grocery store line of hot dogs, making them widely available to almost anyone in the U.S.

Everyone Loves Hot Dogs... Including Criminals And Presidents

Believe it or not, Al Capone was a huge supporter of Nathan's Famous. There's something about these hot dogs that bring people together and even long lines couldn't stop criminals from lining up. Additionally, Franklin D. Roosevelt was known to be a longtime fan of Nathan's Famous, and even served the brand's hot dogs to the King and Queen of England in 1939, according to Mental FlossSupposedly, the late president also served them to Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill.

Nathan's Famous Almost Didn't Make It Out Of The 80s

Despite the incredible fame that met Nathan's Famous, the 1980s did not give the brand an easy run. Nathan's saw tremendous popularity during the 1970s, however, that same popularity dropped dramatically in the following decade.

Murry Handwerker made a bold choice to keep on keepin' on, and, eventually, the interest in hot dogs eventually saw an upswing. However, the company was sold to Equicorp in 1986. Today, the popularity surrounding Nathan's Famous is supported by both its devoted fans as well as its nostalgic reputation.

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The 'Origin Story' Of The Hot Dog Eating Contest Is Actually Fabricated

While many people take up an interest in the hot dog eating competition held by Nathan's Famous year after year, it's unclear where the tradition actually began thanks to a fairly convoluted origin story. Supposedly - and this is also backed by Nathan's Famous - the very first competition was on July 4th, 1916.

The story tells a tale of two men who were trying to be more patriotic than the other, which was, fittingly, settled with a hot dog-eating contest. While the story has been debunked, it still holds true as the origin of the competition despite the fact that the very first official contest started in 1972.

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