Frankly Speaking: The Tale Of America’s Hot Dog King

PHILLY DOTCOM – TAKE ONE helping of moxie, add some street smarts born of desperation and a hefty dash of unstoppable Polish work ethic – slap it all between a freshly toasted, American-made bun, and you have Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, a Coney Island icon since 1916.

The story of this business, and the man who founded it is the subject of “Famous Nathan,” a documentary about Coney Island’s frankfurter king screening Nov. 16 at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Nathan & Ida Handwerker

nathan and ida handwerker

Before it was world famous, Nathan’s was a mom-and-pop restaurant in Coney Island. Nathan Handwerker, a Polish-Jewish refugee, started it all on a dare at just 26 years old with a $300 loan from Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor, pre-fame, and grew it into one of the most successful businesses in Brooklyn.

Nathan’s work ethic was borne out of a tough childhood in Poland. He moved away from home at age 11 to work in a bakery in another town and help support his 13 brothers and sisters. He got up at midnight to bake bread, then hit the pavement to sell it daily. He left Poland with nothing as a teenager.

VIEW Famous Nathan, a documentary that chronicles the rise and fall of the beachside snack stand, with the humble hot dog joint standing in as a symbol for the American dream.

Famous Nathan

An institution for nearly 100 years, Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters has left an indelible imprint on the collective memory and palate of New York and its visitors. Director and grandson of ‘Famous’ Nathan himself, Lloyd Handwerker takes a look back at his family history, the immigrant experience, and Nathan’s pursuit of the American dream through this personal narrative gem. Broadening the scope of Nathan’s history is a colorful cast of family members and priceless characters from Coney Island. Featuring beautiful home movie footage, rare archival material, and a bold editing style, Famous Nathan will not disappoint New York history enthusiasts.