Feltman’s Returns to Coney Island

Say the words “Coney Island” and chances are that Nathan’s Hot Dogs—or perhaps competitive eaters Takaru Kobayashi or Joey Chestnut at the annual contest on July 4—comes to mind. 

But the real man behind the beloved hot dog is Mr. Charles Feltman, a German immigrant who started selling sausages from his pie cart on Surf Avenue in 1870. Realizing how big of a hit they were, he stopped selling pies altogether; Feltman’s became one of the most popular restaurants, serving some five million customers by the 1920s. After the encouragement of some friends, a Feltman’s employee left to open his own stand a few blocks away. The result—Nathan’s—caused Feltman’s to cease operations in 1954.

The original location in all of it's glory on Surf Avenue. Photo courtesy of Feltman's of Coney Island.

Now, Nathan’s is getting a run for it’s money as the original has finally returned to it’s rightful home, replacing the Cyclone Cafe next to the eponymous roller coaster. Current owner Michael Quinn is the man you can thank, who worked with Luna Park to bring the iconic hot dog stand back to life. 

“People think I'm a hot dog expert—I’m really not,” Quinn says, who also owns a Feltman’s outpost in Manhattan on St. Mark’s Place. “I’m an admirer of historic figures who were innovators. My favorite Coney Island figure was Captain Paul Boyton, a famed aquatic stuntman who swam the English Channel backwards, and was greeted by the Queen of England. He opened the first amusement park in history, the Sea Lion Park at Coney Island in 1895. Instead of replicating the world's first amusement park, I found it easier to replicate the world's first hot dog.” 

And replicate he did; Quinn uses a recipe similar to the original. All hot dogs are made with 85% lean beef, Frankfurter sausage spice blend and a natural lamb casing. “That’s the snap you get!” exclaims Quinn. The menu exudes simplicity as well; hot dogs include the basics like chili and cheese, as well as The Original (onions, sauerkraut, and spicy German mustard) and the Al Capone, with vodka sauce and grated Parmesan. And don't fret should the lines be too long, another Feltman’s kiosk awaits you within eye-shot of the Surf Avenue location.

Though the new space may look a bit more modern than the one of yesteryear, Quinn has grand plans to rebuild the original marquee in the future. Also in the works: a hot dog featuring a Jack Daniel’s onion sauce. 

“We strive for the best,” Quinn says. 

There’s no time like the present to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the hot dog. Feltman’s is now open for business at 1000 Surf Avenue, seven days a week. 

Want to learn more about wine? Follow Robert Parker's Wine Advocate on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or go to robertparker.com.

More articles from this author