There are few better places to enjoy a hot dog than at Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island, where even as snow lands on the beach and your fingers ache with cold, a grilled dog with crinkle-cut fries can make you love New York a little harder. But the chain’s flagship, open for nearly a century, has been dark and shuttered since Hurricane Sandy crushed the neighborhood.
Earlier this year, Nathan’s announced its plans to reopen in the same spot this spring and five days ago, demolition inside the restaurant began. The structure was severely damaged by water, and a demo team moved back and forth with garbage cans full of debris. One worker said about a month of cleanup was likely ahead before the rebuild could start.
Here’s a heartbreaking look inside Nathan’s right now:
Nathan’s was founded in by Nathan Handwerker, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who sold all-beef hot dogs at his Coney Island stand for a nickel a piece (when the going rate was a dime). His son, Murray Handwerker, helped grow the business into a large chain, but sold his stake in 1987.
It may not be a little family-run counter anymore, but Nathan’s is still an essential part of Coney Island culture, and the sign that hangs outside today is a relief: “After 100 years, no hurricane will get us down. We are rebuilding.”