No longer a restaurant but rather a brand, immediately recognizable by the old-timey green logo, Nathan's Famous has been popping up for a few years now in places like the back of Home Depots in the Midwest and food courts in the Middle East. But that's something of a loss, since the flavor of those crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside all-beef hot dogs is only part the true Nathan's experience: The rest is that ineffable mixtures of salty sea air, spilled beer and crowd sweat that is a summer afternoon on the Coney Island boardwalk. Luckily, New Yorkers are still able to get the real deal in the original Surf Avenue location. What started out as a simple hot dog stand in 1916 is now a block-long 12-station grease factory, with express lines for hot dogs, separate ordering areas for hamburgers and seafood, and outdoor seating for several hundred people. Shredded bacon and beef-heavy chili toppings enhance the classic frankfurters. Beer and wine coolers come in soda cups for maximum, if not particularly legal, portability. — Keach Hagey
Every July 4th, Nathan's holds its famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest on the boardwalk, attracting worldwide competitive eaters and their fans.
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