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Famous Nathan

A Family Saga of Coney Island, the American Dream, and the Search for the Perfect Hot Dog

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


From a Nickel to an Empire

Before the gut-busting eating contests and franchise stores across the country, there was a single man, Nathan Handwerker. An Eastern European Jewish immigrant who left the small provincial world he knew for a fresh start in America, Nathan arrived at Ellis Island speaking not a word of English, unable to read or write, and with twenty-five dollars hidden in his shoes. He had a simple goal: work hard and carve out a piece of the American dream. But history had bigger plans for Nathan.

Beginning in 1916, with just five feet of counter space on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue, Nathan sells his frankfurters for five cents. As New York booms, bringing trains and patrons to the seashore, so too does Nathan’s humble frankfurter stand. Soon Nathan’s Famous takes over the whole block, and Nathan gathers around him a dedicated core of workers (many who stay for decades) who help launch the hot dog as an American food staple.

Even as the business soars, Nathan remains fiercely loyal to what matters most: his customers, workers, and family. There’s Ida, the wife he fell in love with because no one could peel an onion faster; Sammy, the counterman who could serve an astonishing sixty franks per minute; and then there are the heirs to the empire, Murray and Sol, whose differing visions for the future lead to clashes with their eternally demanding father. Success brings difficulties, and as the two sons vie over control of the family business, a universal story of success and ambition plays out, mirroring the corporatization of the American food industry.

Written by Nathan’s own grandson, and at once a portrait of a man, a family, and the changing face of a nation through a century of promise and progress, Famous Nathan is a dog's tale that snaps and satisfies with every page.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 29, 2016 – The story of the Nathan hot dog establishment is a nostalgic, truly American journey from impoverished immigrant to the eponymous owner of one of the country's most iconic restaurants, Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs here told by Nathan Handwerker's grandson, documentary filmmaker Handwerker. Nathan was born nearly penniless in prewar Poland and emigrated to the U.S. in 1912, at the age of 19. After years of hard work and saving, Nathan opened a hot dog stand which, through his formula of "speed of service, quality of food, and low price," rose within decades to do the "heaviest retail business in the entire world." Handwerker relates every knowable detail about Nathan's Famous: employee tensions, how the potatoes were sourced, even who painted the signs. He also nestles his grandfather's story in the greater context of family struggles, Coney Island, the history of hot dogs, and the evolving American landscape. The writing is fluid and mostly unsentimental as Handwerker breaks down long-standing myths about the restaurant. He leaves the reader feeling that, even though Nathan is gone and his business has been corporatized, his commitment and character still live on in the heart of the American dream.
Famous Nathan
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  • $2.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Jun 21, 2016
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Seller: Macmillan
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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