Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is just around the corner (the competition will go on this Fourth of July, minus the crowds), and so is the opening of Miami’s first Nathan’s Famous restaurant location.
The 2,500-square-foot restaurant will open later this summer on Bird Road — just a five-minute stroll west of local institution Arbetter's Hot Dogs.
Nathan’s, founded in 1916 in Coney Island by Polish immigrants Nathan and Ida Handwerker, now operates worldwide. That includes kiosks at Miami International Airport, but not a standalone location — until now.
James Walker, senior vice president of restaurants for Nathan’s Famous, says expanding in South Florida has long been a goal for the New York-based brand.
“It’s where New Yorkers go for vacation, go for the winter, and go to retire, and South Florida is probably the single largest area with visitors from the tri-state area, so the demand for the brand is very, very high in that market,” Walker tells New Times.
Walker says the Miami restaurant will be the first Nathan’s to open with the chain’s new menu. The revamped selection includes a New York cheesesteak by Pat LaFrieda, a new slate of milkshakes, double Angus-beef burgers, and hand-dipped chicken sandwiches.
Arbetter’s owner Dave Arbetter hopes Nathan’s will have a “Starbucks effect” on the Westchester neighborhood, serving to boost real estate values and give a boost to local businesses. In this case, that would include Miami institutions such as Frankie's Pizza, El Palacio de los Jugos, La Carreta — and, of course, Arbetter's, which has been serving up hot dogs in Miami since 1959.
“To me, you can’t have enough good businesses in Westchester," Arbetter says. "The more good businesses in Westchester, the better off we all are."
Arbetter concedes that he wishes Nathan’s Famous had chosen a location a little further down the road, the competition has inspired him. He has known for the past couple of years that Nathan’s would be open nearby, and he has used the time to upgrade his equipment, expanded his hot dog selection — and nearly triple his business.
“We put a new counter in, new tables, new ceiling, new roof, new air conditioners, new equipment. We’re really ready for anybody,” Arbetter says. “But they don’t have to do badly for us to do well. I truly wish them the best.”
Arbetter says he met with the Bird Road franchisee, Jose Graibe, and they’ve had some good conversations. Graibe, a Miami local, already owns the shopping center where Nathan's will be located in. He decided to open the franchise at the center after attending a conference.
As for that hot-dog-eating contest this weekend? James Walker predicts this year’s competition will be one for the ages.
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Rather than drawing the customary crowd to the original Nathan’s Famous, the contest will take place indoors in a private air-conditioned setting — which 12-time champion Joey Chestnut says may give the competitive eaters an advantage.
“I will not be surprised if we see a world record be set at this contest,” Walker says.
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest airs live on ESPN on Saturday, July 4. Coverage kicks off at noon.