Coney Island Oddities: Fried Frog Legs At Nathan’s

Frog legs have been on the menu at Nathan's original Coney Island location since 1958.
Frog legs have been on the menu at Nathan’s original Coney Island location since 1958. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

There are more than a few oddities waiting to be found in Coney Island. Many of them are stubborn holdouts from an earlier era, before national franchises like Applebee’s and the soon-to-open Checkers started encroaching on the area’s distinct carnival atmosphere.

One of those peculiarities is surely the fried frog legs at the original Nathan’s on Surf Avenue. While some would seek out an upscale French eatery or highly-praised Creole restaurant for their first dive into amphibian cuisine, others might argue there’s no better place for adventurous eating than in wondrous Coney Island. Plus, you can test your swimming legs after finishing your meal.

Frog legs have been on the Nathan’s menu since 1958, according to Grub Street, and are still a draw for customers, said shift manager Paul Harris, who estimated the business sells almost 1,000 of them every month.

“People actually come here and look for the frog legs,” he said.

Shift Manager Paul Harris holding a plate of frog legs
Shift Manager Paul Harris holding a plate of frog legs. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

They’re served in pairs, and you can order a plate of four for $7.99 or six for $10.99. Harris said most people, including himself, agree they taste like chicken. Indeed, after popping the legs apart, like separating a wishbone, the breaded and deep-fried extremity does resemble a slender drumstick.

However, with my first bite I was immediately transported back to a nearly forgotten childhood memory — eating fried rainbow trout with my dad, which we had hauled out of the Pacific ocean earlier that day. The fact that lemon and tarter sauce comes with the plate suggests someone in the Nathan’s management agrees the amphibian hindquarters taste more like fish than bird.

Nathan’s Famous, 1310 Surf Avenue, between Stillwell Avenue and West 15th Street, 718-333-2202. Open 9am until 1am daily.

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  1. I am glad this story was written. I used to eat the frog’s legs at Nathan’s decades ago, when I was a student at Kingsboro. I had thought they were dropped from the menu. As soon as the cooler weather sets in and the crowds thin, I shall return.

  2. I used to love them. Then I heard that the way one gets frogs legs is by chopping the legs off a live frog – they don’t bother to kill it first – and then throwing the rest of the poor critter into whatever refuse container is used where the poor bugger dies a lot slower than it would if they were humane enough to chop off its head first. I have no idea if this is true but it certainly doesn’t sound unlikely to me which is why I stopped eating them. We eat animals – I accept that. We don’t have to be inhumane to them though.

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