The return of Feltman’s: Coney Island’s first hot dog

Who created the first Coney Island hot dog? No, it wasn’t Nathan Handwerker of Nathan’s Famous.

According to historian Michael Quinn, the man widely believed to have invented the hot dog was Charles Feltman. In 1867, Feltman, a German immigrant, began serving sausages on pastry buns made at his bakery in Park Slope. He called them Coney Island Red Hots (not spicy, just hot in temperature and red in color!). Handwerker was actually his employee!

Quinn, a lover of history and Coney Island, says the time has come to set the record straight. Feltman’s of Coney Island makes its debut on May 28.

“We have so much history down here,” said Quinn, 39, who grew up near Coney and never left Brooklyn. “In the past couple of years, Coney Island has seen such a chance. This is the best its been in my lifetime… These days, when people order food, they like a story behind it.”

Feltman’s will first operate as a pop-up, starting at Sycamore in Ditmas Park. In the meantime, Quinn will search for a permanent location along Surf Avenue, where it all began.

Feltman’s will sell natural (no nitrate) all-beef hot dogs to start and will eventually also sell pork sausages. He will use potato rolls, not pastry rolls. Each dog will cost $2, compared to $4.15 at Nathan’s. According to Quinn, Handwerker undercut Feltman back when he first started Nathan’s in 1916, selling dogs for 5 cents compared to Feltman’s 10 cents.

Quinn said the idea to bring Feltman’s back has long been an interest to him. He is the editor of the local website TheConeyIslandBlog.com and also runs Coney Island Walking Tours. 

Quinn wants Coney to remain its weird self.

“Surf Avenue [where Feltman’s restaurant opened in 1871] is starting to be saturdated by franchises,” said Quinn, who is also a member of the #SaveNYC campaign, which seeks to support long-standing NYC businesses. “It looks like Times Square by the sea.”

The idea has created a lot of buzz, too.

“People who’ve been around Coney Island are fascinated by it,” he said.