Did a Jew Invent the Hot Dog?


Where do hot dogs come from?

We aren’t asking about what’s inside the super-processed meat–that’s a question for another time–but, rather, where the food developed. Historically, hot dogs are descendents of German meat products like frankfurters (traditionally made of pork) and wieners (traditionally a mixture of pork and beef). According to one Chicago foodie, the all-beef hot dog was the creation of Jewish street vendors who might not have abided by all the traditional laws of kashrut, but wanted to offer their clients a pork-free meal.

One of these vendors was Charles Feltman, a German Jew who emigrated to Brooklyn, and began selling food on the Coney Island boardwalk in 1870. According to some stories, he was the first to stick a hot dog inside a roll, so that people could walk around eating their lunch. Others credit another (non-Jewish) German immigrant, Antonoine Feuchtwanger, for inventing the hot-dog sandwich. He used to give his customers disposable gloves so they wouldn’t burn their hands on his hot dogs, then switched to using buns instead.

In 1916, one of Feltman’s employees, Nathan Handwerker, left Feltman’s stand to start his own. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs soon became a national franchise, spreading the all-beef frank–and the neatly-compartmented hot dog–way beyond Coney Island.

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