‘Sweet Spot’ With Mike Sugerman: The Original Coney Island Hot Dog

“Sweet Spot,” by Mike Sugerman

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The American Civil War had just ended when – at a place far, far away called Coney Island – someone ate a hot dog.

They had just been invented by a guy named Charles Feltman.

“He came up with this wacky notion of taking the frankfurter from his native Germany and putting them into these special elongated buns,” amateur historian Michael Quinn explains. “And in the summer of 1867, he sold 4,000 of what he called the Cony Island Red Hots.”

Quinn and I are standing where it all began, and I’m grilling him about the history of hot dogs.

“Eventually, Feltman’s Oceanside Pavilion was the largest restaurant in the world. In 1915, there was a Polish immigrant by the name of Nathan Handwerker, who got a job as a bread slicer with Feltman,” he says.

Remember that name, Nathan. It’s important in hot dogs. OK, you already know that. Nathan’s hot dogs are iconic.

Handwerker started his own stand selling cheaper hot dogs with cheaper ingredients – nickel dogs to Feltman’s 10 cents. It didn’t just take a bite out of Feltman’s business, it ate the whole thing. Feltman eventually went out of business.

“Me and my brother have decided to bring back the original hot dog,” Quinn says.

And they have. At the same spot on Surf Avenue in Coney Island where the first Feltman’s stood, there’s a new one.

You’ll find a hot dog made of quality meat, a lamb skin, and the original German spices Feltman used. And it sells for the comparable price of a Nathan’s.

I tried it. I liked it.

The woman next to me wasn’t so enthralled.

“It’s gross,” she said when I asked her if she liked it. “I hope it’s not your recipe. I don’t like it at all.”

It’s not for everyone in the dog-eating-dog business.

But the Quinns are hungry for success and hope the future is bright, as they go into the past.

Find more from the “Sweet Spot” here.

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