100 years of hot dogs and counting at Coney Island’s Nathan’s

Keep your appetites high and your excitement higher as this year marks the 100th anniversary of Brooklyn-born hot dog spot Nathan’s.

The 100th anniversary will be rung in with five cent hot dogs this Saturday, May 28. This will commemorate the original hot dog stand’s prices from 1916.

A little over a month later, on July 4, at the annual hot dog eating contest, a seltzer bottle containing the teeth of the alleged original contest winner, Jim Mullen, will lead a procession of the contestants prior to the contest. According to legend, the first hot dog eating contest took place on July 4, 1916 with four immigrants who were trying to see who was the most patriotic. The winner was Jim Mullen.

However, it turned out that the story of the first hot dog eating contest was a publicity stunt coordinated by promoter Mortimer Matz and Max Rosey fabricated in the early ’70s.

That said, the real excitement this year, according to hot dog contest Master of Ceremonies George Shea, is the “major grudge match between Matt Stonie and Joey Chestnut.” Chestnut, the champion for eight years in a row following his victory over the previous champion Kobayashi, was dethroned last year by Stonie. This year is sure to be a nail biter and according to Shea, bring larger crowds than ever to the seaside gorge-fest.

Nathan’s was first opened in 1916 by a Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker and his wife Ida as a five-cent hot dog stand in Coney Island, who used their life savings of $300 to launch the business. The Surf Avenue restaurant stands on the same spot as the original stand, and has never closed since its opening except in 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy. Otherwise, the century-old establishment is open 365 days a year.

Currently, Nathan’s has over 300 locations in nine different countries including Kuwait, Russia and Egypt. On top of that, Nathan’s brand hot dogs are sold in all 50 states in 40,000 different retail locations.

But, it’s still a New York favorite, first and foremost. “No man can hope to be elected in this state without being photographed eating a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous,” stated Nelson Rockefeller, former governor of New York.

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