Forget about kale, broccoli, locavore-mania, and artisanal eats because Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island is none of those things. Instead, this July Fourth tradition—which has been called the greatest hot dog eating contest in the world—is rooted in graceless gorging of frankfurters, but that's what makes it so fun.
There's hardly a more quintessential American food than hot dogs, so why not celebrate Independence Day by eating one—or 70? The famous event in Brooklyn is a blast to watch or participate in. But beware: Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is an international affair. The contest includes world-champion eaters who are selected beforehand via qualifying events, so attendees should not simply show up and expect to compete.
About the Competition
Nathan's Famous is the national hot dog chain behind this Major League Eating-sanctioned contest, which has taken place in Coney Island every Independence Day since 1916, legend has it. As the story goes, four immigrants gathered at the original Nathan's Famous hot dog stand in Coney Island over a century ago to show their patriotism with a bit of friendly competition.
These days, renowned competitive eaters such as world-record holders Joey "Jaws" Chestnut and Miki Sudo (both long-running Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest champs) participate in the event. In 2018, Chestnut—of San Jose, California—broke his own world record by eating 74 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and buns in 10 minutes during this competition. Sudo, from New York, has in the past consumed 41. The prize for eating that many franks is the coveted mustard-yellow belt and a cash payout of $10,000. The competition gives out a total of $40,000 in prize money.
The women's competition typically begins around 11 a.m. and the men's begins at 12 p.m. Both are broadcast on ESPN's television and social channels. The pre-festivities for observers include live music and other entertainment starting at 10 a.m.
How to Attend
Those who want to witness the spectacle in person should arrive no later than 10 a.m., when the shenanigans kick off. Tickets aren't required so the earliest birds are treated to the best vantage points. Be prepared for major crowds. In the past, the event has attracted 40,000 fans. If you get to the stage too late, you can always watch the contestants stuff their faces on the Jumbotron screen.
If you want to join the gawking crowds to watch this gastronomic chow-down, then head to the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island, Brooklyn. You can take the D, F, N, or Q subway to the Stillwell Avenue terminal, but note that public transportation in this direction is bound to be jam-packed with prospective onlookers like you.
If you don't want to be surrounded by 40,000 people, skip the crowds altogether and watch the competition from a nearby bar. Most local watering holes will be making a party of the televised event.