Freaks And Eats

shutterstock_134886560It’s crucial to keep your belly full when soaking in Brooklyn’s Coney Island. Tooling around the boardwalk can be exhausting and that 12th ride on the Cyclone is sure to stir anyone’s hunger pangs—but the food found around Surf Avenue goes beyond historic hot dogs and delivers options as colorful as the peninsula’s vibrant attractions.

But first, a stop at Nathan’s Famous for one or five of those iconic weenies is a must. Now in its 100th year, Nathan’s still beckons to the throngs of visitors with it’s loud marquee sign screaming “frankfurters,” “clam bar,” “fresh cut fries” and more. Eaters adorn their dogs with whatever toppings they crave, be that mustard, sauerkraut, chili, cheese or even ketchup—there are no judgments on Coney Island.

For the adventurous eater, Nathan’s hides a few oddities including its fried frogs legs, which have been on the menu since 1958. With a flavor reminiscent of an aquatic chicken, these amphibian hindquarters are served in pairs and are a fun to eat finger food. Also be sure to grab a soft shell crab sandwich at Nathan’s.

For a slice of heaven—hot, crusty, cheesy heaven—some of the city’s finest pizza is found in and around the Coney Island neighborhood. Totonno’s, 1524 Neptune Ave., is an 80-year-old pizzeria serving thin-crust whole pies (sorry, no slices), and some contend that it is indeed New York’s best pizza. Rather than argue that point, enjoy a piping-hot pie and then move on to more slices at Grimaldi’s (1215 Surf Ave.), On The Run Pizza (1627 Mermaid Ave.) and the euphoria-inducing L&B Spumoni Gardens (2725 86th St.).

For a decidedly more south of the border flavor profile, check out Dona Zita at 1221 Bowery St. Taco options include chicken, fried pulled pork, steak, Mexican sausage and vegetarian. Beyond tacos, Dona Zita offers tortas, gorditas, quesadillas, flautas and cemitas, which is a Mexican sandwich with various taco fillings on a tender toasted sesame-seed bun.

When you’re looking to cool down and get away from the rides, fire-eating, bearded ladies and other assorted freaks, it is time for beer. Boston has Cheers and Coney Island has Ruby’s—a divey, beach bar at 1213 Riegelmann Boardwalk. History flows through this watering hole, with original boardwalk wood from the 1920s used to make the tables, bar, walls and ceiling. Grab a Ruby’s Amber Ale or any number of full bar options or settle down in the friendly confines for some beach bar fare.

The Coney Island Brewing Co. is another option for sun-soaked suds at 1904 Surf Ave. Gaining in popularity and increasingly visible in local grocery stores, Coney Island Brewing offers an array of fantastical brews, including Overpass IPA, Irish Goodbye Imperial Potato Porter, Double Header Double IPA and Cotton Candy Kolsch. The brewery recently released its summer hours and is now open for tastings, tours and growler refills—check out www.coneyislandbeer.com.

And for some of the sweet stuff, dessert options at Coney Island are seemingly unlimited, with ice cream and more dotting the boardwalk. For a fancier treat, stop at Coney’s Cones for some decadent handmade Italian gelato.

Summer has only just began—get to Coney Island and let your food freak flag fly.

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Steve Mosco
Steve Mosco, the former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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