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Back in business! Feltman’s of Coney Island returns to the People’s Playground - Brooklyn Paper

Back in business! Feltman’s of Coney Island returns to the People’s Playground

Top dog: Owner Michael Quinn aims to make Feltman’s of Coney Island the go-to Coney dog spot.
Photo by Jon Farina

It’s a taste of Coney Island history!

Feltman’s of Coney Island has returned to the People’s Playground, where the restaurant’s founder invented the hot dog 150 years ago. Hot dog aficionados trekked from across the borough and the city to sink their teeth into a frank from Feltman’s of Coney Island at the Surf Avenue restaurant’s grand opening on May 29. And it easily beat Nathan’s Famous for flavor, said one Feltman’s fan.

“It had a lot more flavor than the normal Nathan’s hot dog,” said Bay Ridgite Carl DeSciura, who shelled out $4.25 for a frank with sauerkraut and mustard. “It was just juicer, fatter. It has a nice flavor.”

Made from uncured beef, the 8-inch dog is seasoned with Feltman’s original secret spice mix from 1867, and the succulent sausage even comes in a smaller, skinless version for kids — to eliminate the choking hazard of a casing.

But frankly, even some grown-ups devoured the red hots with such relish that they may have risked a choking hazard of their own.

“I kind of inhaled it. It was delicious,” said Iris Bahr, who trekked to Coney for the first time from the distant isle of Manhattan just for a bite of the original hot dog. “I ate it so fast it’s hard for me to recall what exactly it tasted like.”

A century and a half ago, Coney Island vittles vendor Charles Feltman had the bright idea to wrap his sizzling sausage in a piece of bread so customers would easily hold it and nosh as they strolled the Boardwalk, thus creating one of the most iconic —and convenient — items of American cuisine.

In fact, it was Feltman who taught a young Nathan Handwerker everything he knew about franks and buns, but Feltman’s hot dogs never got quite as famous as those of his protégé, and the original Feltman’s restaurant closed in 1954.

Recently, a historian-turned-restaurateur, Michael Quinn, has revived Feltman’s 1867 recipe and dedicated himself to returning the original red hot to the People’s Playground.

“It’s really great to bring the hot dog back to where it all started,” said Quinn, who has another location in Manhattan. “I think sometimes you need to go back to square one — take the hot dog and bring it all the way back to Charles Feltman. It tastes way different.”

And the franks are healthy to boot, or as healthy as a hot dog can be, claims Quinn.

“It’s a completely clean hot dog, no nitrates or fillers,” said Quinn. “If there were a healthy hot dog it’d be Feltman’s.”

It has been a long haul, but this summer, Quinn’s resurrected Feltman’s of Coney Island replaces the shuttered Cyclone Cafe and White Castle at W. 10th Street and Surf Avenue, which is operated by Luna Park.

Besides slinging Feltman’s classic red hots, Quinn does more than imitate, and offers diversified dogs that play off of Feltman’s place in the rich history on Coney Island.

For example, Quinn offers the “Al Capone” — a hot dog smothered in Michael’s of Brooklyn vodka sauce and sprinkled with shredded Parmesan cheese in honor of the budding Brooklyn gangster who used to stop by Feltman’s for a frank before heading to work as a bouncer at Coney Island’s Harvard Inn, long before seeking his fortune in Chicago.

Feltman’s doesn’t need flashy frank gimmicks to sell dogs, but Quinn has joked with prolific Nathan’s hot dog eater Takeru Kobayashi about starting a Feltman’s hot-dog eating contest up against the Nathan’s Fourth of July tradition, in which competitors eat as slowly as possible — to savor the sausage.

“I joked with Kobayashi about doing the competition in reverse,” said Quinn. “We want to do our thing.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
The original: Carl and Gina DeSciura sunk their teeth into a Feltman’s of Coney Island dog at the Memorial Day grand opening of the business on Surf Avenue across from the Cyclone.
Photo by Jon Farina

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