Food Odyssey: Taking The Subway Journey To Nathan’s Famous


This is my first summer as an official resident of New York City. It’s a status that I’ve longed for and want to take full advantage of. I’m on the hunt for that iconic “New York summer” and as a sucker for American nostalgia, I decided last week that a trip to Coney Island was priority No. 1.

Specifically, I wanted to take a subway voyage to Nathan’s Famous. I imagined that it would be just like when Jerry Seinfeld made the odyssey on his show. As I planned my Nathan’s visit, my thoughts spiraled in a new direction. I wondered about how a classic hot dog might compare to the up-scale, cheffed-up dogs I’ve seen on menus in Brooklyn.

My trip morphed into a battle royale with my tastebuds as the playing field. Which dog would win: the modern riff or the traditional take on a classic?

Before we get too far, I must confess: I’m not particularly excited about hot dogs at all. The “mystery meat” factor has always bothered me, even when chefs assure me that “good” hot dogs are 100 percent beef. That said, chasing the quintessential NYC summer quickly overruled my discomfort. If Jerry Seinfeld was willing to take a subway all the way from Manhattan and befriend a nudist [arguably the least-Sienfeld-eque thing he ever did on the show. -ed] just to get to Nathan’s, it was obviously worthy of my time. And if I was going to eat one hot dog, there’s no reason not to eat a second — all for the sake of a very scientific comparison study, of course.

Let the battle begin!


I started my food odyssey close to home, in my Crown Heights neighborhood. Franklin Park is a chill, social bar with outdoor seating that serves as the backyard for a burger restaurant called Dutch Boy Burger. The menu featured a Bahn Mi Dog, served with Korean-style slaw on top of a locally made frank. I don’t know how a hot dog could be any trendier or modern, so I gave that hipster dog a go (in addition to sweet potato fries and a milkshake spiked with root beer schnapps).

I love a good Korean slaw, and I went in with high hopes because I was definitely in the mood for something light and tangy. As far as the slaw goes, Franklin Park is by no means a Korean restaurant, but this was yummy enough to satisfy me. I’ve had better bahn mi, and I’ve definitely had better hot dogs, but I wouldn’t say I left disappointed. I’d gone looking for a trendy take on a slaw dog, and I’d found one.

Part one of my odyssey was complete.

The next morning, I headed to the subway to take “the Seinfeld route” to Coney Island. I made the trip in about half an hour. Exiting the equally iconic subway station, Nathan’s Famous stood in front of me in all of its old-school glory. Compared to the new stores surrounding it, Nathan’s was a vision from a bygone era (one which New York City has been swiftly rejecting). Just seeing it yanked all of my nostalgia-loving heartstrings. I couldn’t wait to walk over and taste a part of history.


Standing at the counter, I asked what the most classic Nathan’s Famous order was and I was told “hot dog, fries, and a lemonade” — a simple, un-muddled contrast to the meal I’d had the night before, albeit booze-free.


So, how was this “famous” hot dog?

In short, it was awesome. It absolutely lived up to the hype and the history. In addition to being a better color — darker and redder — than the Bahn Mi dog, it had more flavor and that very necessary and glorious snap that a well-grilled hot dog ought to have. It came on a toasted bun, no less, and I’m a sucker for a toasted bun.

It helps that Nathan’s really does specialize in hot dogs and has done so since 1916. The history isn’t just for show. Good food benefits from practice. These days, the food scene is clearly headed in all sorts of innovative, adventurous, and creative places — but if my trip proves anything, it’s that there’s clearly still room for a tried-and-true, simple classic.

That’s why Nathan’s Famous has endured and hopefully why it will keep thriving for years to come.