My search for the best hot dogs in New York continues….

I knew I had to go out to Nathan’s sooner or later on this hot dog journey but, the truth is, I was sort of dreading it. I’d need to ride the train for a good hour (no matter where I was in Manhattan) each way. And then when I got to Coney Island (the very last stop), I’d have to deal with crowds, heat, lines, etc. And while the thought of hitting this place up on July 4th (when they host their annual hot dog eating competition) sounded very American and festive, I’m not a glutton for punishment.

I usually go to Coney Island once a year just for the novelty, but I have never even remotely considered getting in line at the chaotic hot room they call Nathan’s. The one time I had a hot dog on Coney Island, I went to the more manageable boardwalk location. The masses stop immediately at the large signs and flashing lights just outside the subway station – at the original location which has been there since 1916 when Nathan Handwerker left his job at Feltman’s to surpass the popularity of his former employer.

I had to go to the original location at least once – crowds and riff raff be damned! I figured out a way to make the experience as pleasant as possible for myself. Sure, I ventured out here in the middle of summer, but it was an overcast Wednesday afternoon when I knew I could potentially get my hot dog, eat it, and be back on the train in less than an hour.

Without all the crowds, this place looks like any other generic fast food chain (or Nathan’s) across the country. I almost never find myself eating from these kinds of places, but this was most likely the ultimate New York hot dog, no?

I’ve had Nathan’s hot dogs in the past (when I was a kid, we’d always visit the location in Long Island) in many states across the country, but they never really struck me as being anything special.

Well, maybe it’s the smell of the ocean, ghosts of summer’s past, or the nearby boardwalk, but this hot dog was pretty darn good. I had the guy add complimentary sauerkraut and onions to make it as authentically New York as possible.

The onion sauce wasn’t nearly as sweet or spicy as others in the city. It’s definitely toned down, but still delicious and had larger pieces of onions mixed in with the pepper and smoky tomato sauce. The kraut added a nice bite and crunchy texture, but was nothing special on its own.

Under the toppings, the natural casing of the dog popped in my mouth. While the first bite is usually explosive, this sausage kept it’s crisp firm snap throughout. The dog was thin, but full of salty, rich flavor. The experience was intense – from the commute to the strong hot dog – and exciting.

I guarantee you can’t have this experience at the Nathan’s in your suburban shopping mall. Sometimes the trip out to Coney Island is just worth it. I might have a different opinion if I attempted this on a sunny Saturday in July, but I’m guessing the hot dog would still be as good.

Does Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog have the best hot dogs in NY? Probably. It’s stood the test of time and even though some of it’s national locations are no longer up to par, the original gets a 9 out of 10 since they know how to grill their all-beef dogs.

NATHAN’S FAMOUS
1310 Surf Avenue (at Stillwell Avenue),
Coney Island, Brooklyn
(718) 946-2202
nathansfamous.com
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Category: Hot Dogs

About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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