Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs

I had a friend visiting from England this week and while he has been over on this side of the pond on several occasions he admitted that he had never tried a hot dog. This was a culinary omission that I felt needed immediate rectification. But were to go? I was not going to feed him a dirty water dog so that left but a few alternatives. Katz Deli and Gray's Papaya were the logical choices given their hot dog pedigree and proximity to Beef Aficionado world headquarters in Gramercy Park but I thought why not travel out to Coney Island and sample the prototypical New York hot dog at Nathans Famous?

When it turned out my mate is a huge fan of Walter Hill's seminal 1979 film The Warriors which climaxes on the Coney Island beach, well that sealed the deal. I cannot think of a more appropriate starting point for an exploration of the New York hot dog than Nathan's.

Nathan's is open year round but the rest of Coney Island waits until the Memorial Day weekend as the official start to the summer season.

Despite only firing on a couple of cylinders, a fraction of the multiple registers and grill tops were open when I visited, Nathan's still moves a prodigious number of hot dogs during the off season. The grill was restocked on a couple of occasions in the short time it took me to devour a couple of dogs and some fries. The amount of pups they go through during the summer peak must be staggeringly high.

Nathan's smokes their 100% beef hot dogs and then re-heats them on griddle tops. It is an impressive feat to witness the grill worker move and flip an entire row of hot dogs with long custom made tongs. The sausages are moved from left to right on the griddle top. When they have reached the end of the line a bun is placed on top of it and left to heat for a minute or two. One of the advantages of going during the off season is that the buns get a little toastier than during the height of the summer when there is simply no time to cook them much.

Some people find it odd but I am happy to eat my hot dogs completely naked, at least when it is as succulent as Nathan's juicy frankfurters.

Of course mustard and sour kraut make a delicious compliment to the smoky frank. Biting in to a Nathans frank is a wonderful experience. The soft compliance of the bun soon gives way to a crackling snap as you bite through the taught skin, a burst of juice and flavor follow. The beef has a a strong garlicky flavor and a robust and hearty texture. The dogs also tasted smokier than I remember them. This is a great hot dog.

While Nathan's offer burgers and chicken and even seafood I don't hold much other than the hot dogs in very high regard but the fries are worth mentioning. They are large, chunky crinkle cut and extremely crispy potatoes, similar in fact to good old English chips.

I may prefer certain other dogs, such as Rutt's Hut in New Jersey and Walter's in Mamaroneck but it is hard to argue that the frank at Nathan's is not the quintessential American hot dog. Nathan's is now a national chain with numerous outposts. I have not eaten at any of them in recent memory and while I am sure that they are a reasonably close facsimile of the original I am also sure that they won't taste quite as good, lacking the tinge of nostalgia and authenticity that the original imbues. My friend by the way absolutely loved the dogs. I am taking him to Peter Luger's next. I envy him, experiencing Nathan's and Luger's for the first time in the same week might just be a religious experience.

Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs
1310 Surf Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 946 2202


Brittany said...

This is my "death row" meal.

Leslie said...

I love love love Natahns

danny said...

This post totally makes me crave hot dogs... I actually have never tried Nathan's either. haha. And the sad part is this is my 8th year in NY. daaaaamn! Gotta get there pronto.

Terry B said...

A great post! I want a hot dog--right now. I haven't been to Nathan's, but whenever I'm in New York, I have to get to Gray's Papaya. I've also admired the nice snap of the Great Dane from F&B. But my favorite way to have hot dogs is in the form of chili dogs.

Julie said...

The one with sauerkraut and mustard has me drooling!

DocChuck said...

My wife and I have been exploring the great Northwest (Washington, Idaho and Montana), once again, for the last two weeks.

We didn't eat any hotdogs, but we did enjoy some magnificent beef steaks in Montana, particularly in Missoula.

The folks in Montana DO know how to raise some great American beef and then how to prepare it properly.

They are NOT into wagyu and kobe and all of that bullshit . . . they are simply devoted to raising and cooking great American beef.

And let me tell you . . . they do one hell of a job.

I thought about you, Nick, while I traversed the 2600 miles that my wife and I explored in search of magnificent scenery . . . and of magnificent beef.

We found both.

I sincerely hope that my post does not "pollute or hijack" your website as the idiot "chiff0nade" from the trailer park in Clearwater, Florida, would have you believe.

Barbara Krieg said...

Not sure what all THAT had to do with Nathan's.... He isn't blogging about steak or Montana here. Can you say "rabbit trail?"

On topic: Everyone who loves hotdogs should get to Nathan's @ Coney Island at least once in their life. I know they sell their dogs in stores, but it's just not the same. The atmosphere helps make the hot dog so memorable.

Shame that they are ruining Coney Island, though.

On some nice sunny day, take the Q or B train to Brighton Beach and then walk down the boardwalk to Coney Island. You'll be hungry enough for a few Nathan's Famous by then. Relax for a while and then set back down the boardwalk to Brighton Beach and grab some pretty decent Russian food there before you head home.

BrotherChiffonade said...

I can say "rabbit trail" and I am not even developmentally challenged.

However, my sister Chiffy has been drinking again and posting as Barbara Krieg . . . where does she get all of these aliases?

When she was at the collection agency (where she works part time) yesterday, I logged onto her rented computer and found that she has 82, YES EIGHTY-TWO registered email addresses.

NYC Food Guy said...

NO Chili Cheese Dogs? Beef Afficianado, I'm disappointed in you.

Unlike the painful Nathan's chili cheese dogs served at Shea Stadium, the ones at Coney Island Nathan's are ridiculously delicious.

Betty said...

There goes DocChuck (Charles Treuter) posting as BrotherChiffonade and ruining your blog.

Yours will be just one in a long line of blogs he's trashed.

Take a gander:

I also suggest emailing Jaden from Jaden's Steamy Kitchen. She'll have lots to say about him.

Here's her public email:

Good Luck with this weirdo.

DocChuck said...

YES, "Betty" and if you contact Mrs. Jaden Hair, as I have, the following reply from the Steamy Kitchen star was as follows:
Charles and Louise,

Louise, you are simply an attention hungry woman who I think actually enjoys the taunting of DocChuck. If you think for one moment that I like or respect one ounce of you, please take a moment to whack yourself in the head with a sledge hammer dipped in concrete. Do you think there might be a reason that I have not responded to any of your emails? Do you think I asked for your phone number because I might just call you and chat? Seriously? I have your phone number in the event I need to hand it over to the police because you live close to me.

In case you are curious, to the 2 bloggers who have contact(ed) me, I’ve said that yes, DocChuck is a racist ass, but more importantly, Chiffonade is the one who is egging DocChuck on because she desperately needs him to.

Louise, If you don’t like DocChuck, change your fucking nickname to something else and just ignore him. How many times have I told you to just leave DC alone – you don’t feed the beast. Louise, I don’t know what kind of daddy issues you have, but be clear on this - don’t you dare ever mention my name again to try to save you from other bloggers. Because I’m not.


So, "Betty", exactly what is it that you and your MANY alter-egos, such as "barbara krieg" about.

What I truly encourage is that this blog operator and any of his readers IMMEDIATELY contact "Mrs. Jaden Hair" - and once and for all, put to rest your BULLSHIT, Louise ("chiff0nade").

DocChuck's profile and legitimate email is readily available to THIS blog operator and to all other blog operators.

Crawl back into your pathetic hole, Louise (I'm sorry, "Betty").

FortuneCity Foodie said...

Wow. Just. Wow. I'd heard about him but never seen crazy like this.

I'm a fan of Gray's Papaya, plus it's less of a schlep.

Nineteena said...

I try to stay out of my mother's ("chiffonade", "barbara krieg", "betty" and scores of other screen names) business , but when the police come knocking on my boyfriend's door asking for information about her activities, I get a little upset.

Louise (chiffOnade) has harassed (according to the police) Sandra Lee, DocChuck, Steamy Kitchen, and many other people.

If these people have had to call the police, I will once again resume my estrangement from Louise (chiffOnade), as I have for the past three years.

I do NOT need this crap!

Sunny said...

It warms my heart to see the "Doc" admitting he is a racist ass. The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Anonymous said...

i use nathans dogs at my hot dog concession trailer...."LUCYS HOT DOGS"
and people just love them....and so do i

Anonymous said...

i use nathans dogs at my hot dog concession trailer...."LUCYS HOT DOGS"
and people just love them....and so do i

Anonymous said...

I love a good coney island hotdog - with onions, mustard and hamburger base chili - not the tomatoe kind, it's more of a gravy sauce...yum. Used to eat them in Detroit all the time as kid.