Nathan’s might be synonymous with hot dogs in Brooklyn, but it was a German immigrant named Charles Feltman who introduced them to Coney Island in the first place.
Feltman came to the United States in 1856 at the age of 15 and was soon selling pies from a pushcart at the beach. Eventually, he started hawking frankfurters inserted into a long bun. This new handheld meal, known as a “red hot,” became popular enough that he was able to open a full restaurant to sell them in 1871.
Feltman employed a young roll slicer named Nathan Handwerker. Handwerker would later quit and open his own hot-dog joint down the street, selling his dogs for half the price of Feltman’s (at five cents instead of 10). “Nathan’s Famous” would flourish, while Feltman’s would close by 1954 after being sold outside the family.
The original Charles Feltman, like many prominent New Yorkers, was buried in a grand mausoleum in Green-Wood Cemetery. The top of the cupola bears a statue of the Archangel Michael, with a sword in his hand.
Visiting Feltman’s tomb isn’t the only way to pay tribute to the fast-food entrepreneur. You can also still taste his historic hot dog. In 2015, two brothers opened a hot-dog business using Feltman’s recipe. Though not part of the Feltman family, the brothers named their business “Feltmans,” and it now has outlets in Coney Island and Manhattan’s East Village.