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Lloyd Handwerker

Famous Nathan: A Family Saga of Coney Island, the American Dream, and the Search for the Perfect Hot Dog
Sponsored by Joanne Singer

You’ll love it if:  You love hot dogs, Coney Island and a great success story – our mouths are already watering

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.

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.


Lloyd Handwerker is a filmmaker, writer, and director of the documentary Famous Nathan, which serves as a companion piece to the book. As a descendant of Nathan Handwerker, Lloyd had access to hundreds of valuable resources to provide a thorough retelling of his family’s story.