Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Franchise Restaurant Row

Franchise Restaurant Row in progress on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue: Checkers, Johnny Rockets, Applebee’s, Grimaldi’s, and more to come. Photo © Tricia Vita

In Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal, Magic Gyro, a Mom and Pop destroyed nearly three years ago by Hurricane Sandy, is about to reopen, and a Checkers hamburger franchise is set to debut. Magic Gyro owner Levent Demirgil told ATZ that he will be training employees this weekend and plans a soft opening next week.

“We suffered a lot from Sandy,” Demergil said in an oral history interview recorded in Turkish for the Coney Island History Project’s immigrant narratives series. “We didn’t have insurance. I took personal loans. By taking those we are trying to stay afloat, that’s why we could not open here for three years.” Formerly a gourmet shop with a corner kitchen, the new store will be a Mediterranean Grill featuring healthy fast food such as hummus, salads, and döner kebabs.

Magic Gyro Coney Island

Levent Demirgil in his soon-to-open Magic Gyro in Stillwell Terminal. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Meanwhile, construction has resumed on the north side of Surf’s Franchise Restaurant Row. Next door to Checkers, the Johnny Rockets “Coming Soon” banner is tattered, but the long stalled construction on the burger franchise, whose themed decor is based on retro diners, is once again underway. “They are laying the plumbing under the concrete floor and pouring the concrete next week,” says broker Joe Vitacco, who gave us an update on a lease deal that he closed nearly three years ago in December 2012.

“You ask why we don’t do Mom and Pops,” Vitacco added, referring to our ongoing conversation that began with ATZ’s 2012 post “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” He says that Mom and Pops wouldn’t be able to afford this, referring to the extraordinary delays and ballooning costs due to city and MTA red tape.

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On Surf Avenue across from Luna Park, construction on a 5,400 square-foot IHOP has finally begun eight months after construction was expected to begin. The franchisee is Bryan McKenzie, who is also the owner of an IHOP in New Jersey. The delay was due to bureaucratic snafus at the City’s Department of Buildings. At the beginning of this year, ATZ reported the construction had been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Johnny Rockets was waiting for approval of a storm surge resistant front. Construction had been stalled for so long that skeptical members of the Coney Island Rumor Mill doubted it would ever resume.

Vitacco says that at this point in time he believes IHOP will be open in March 2016, in time for the 2016 season. “This is a testimony to the undying commitment of Bryan McKenzie, the IHOP franchisee, who would not give up when faced by problems with approval by the building department that took 18 months to resolve.”

The one-story building at 1019 Surf is a longtime furniture store, which is not among the use groups permitted by the city’s zoning. The space is being subdivided into six storefronts by the landlord and the stores are getting new street numbers. IHOP will combine the three stores on the far left and the Subway Cafe has the one on the right. The two remaining storefronts totaling 3,000 square feet were in fact snapped up yesterday by a Mom and Pop for a kosher pizzeria and ice cream shop, which will also have a party room for kids’ birthday parties.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 29, 2015: Coney Island Openings & Closings: Power Surge, Arcade, Rainbow Shops, Vintage Shooting Gallery

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave.

March 11, 2015: In Coney Island, Two Stores and One NYC Landmark Mark 95th Year

February 13, 2015: Coney Island 2015: IHOP Franchisee Signs Lease for 5,400-Square-Foot Surf Ave Store

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Famous Nathan

Poster for Famous Nathan courtesy Film Movement. Photo of Nathan by Barton Silverman/ New York Times/Redux Pictures

Mazel tov! We’re happy to report that “Famous Nathan,” Lloyd Handwerker’s documentary about his grandfather, who founded Coney Island’s Nathan’s Famous nearly a century ago in 1916, is getting a theatrical run this summer. After premiering last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, the doc screened at film fests from Coney Island to Jerusalem. The film opens on July 17 for a one-week engagement at the Cinema Village in Manhattan, including some Q & A’s with the filmmaker, followed by a July 31-August 6 run at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. New York-based indie distributor Film Movement will release the Handwerker doc in North America across multiple VOD and digital platforms on August 4th, with a DVD release on September 29th.

Pieced together over a 30-year period, the film was a labor of love for the filmmaker, who was 17 when his grandfather died. It is also a remarkably candid family memoir. As we wrote last year after seeing the film at Tribeca: Nathan Handwerker, the founder of Nathan’s Famous hot dog empire, is a mythic figure in Coney Island history. The story of the young Polish immigrant working at Feltman’s and saving his salary to open a competing restaurant where hot dogs sold for a nickel instead of a dime is the stuff of legend. His grandson Lloyd Handwerker’s documentary “Famous Nathan” humanizes him and at the same time makes us see that he truly was larger than life.

The documentary is told through home movies, archival photos and footage, the filmmaker’s interviews with a colorful cast of characters including family members and former Nathan’s workers, and the voice of Famous Nathan himself. A 16-minute oral history, condensed from nearly four hours taped by Lloyd’s cousin David Sternshein when their grandfather was 82 is central to the narrative. The cadence of Nathan’s voice and his story reverberate in the imagination even after the film is over: “I want to go to America. I was dreaming about it.”

Famous Nathan directed by Lloyd Handwerker, July 17-23 at Cinema Village, 22 East 12th St, New York, NY. Q & A’s with the filmmaker will be held at the 7pm shows every night, plus the 9pm shows on July 17, 18 and 23, and at the 5pm show on Sunday, July 19.

Related posts on ATZ…

April 22, 2014: ATZ Review: ‘Famous Nathan,’ A Documentary by Lloyd Handwerker

April 8, 2014: Photo Album: Classic Chevrolets at Nathan’s Coney Island

March 6, 2014: Tribeca Film Fest to Premiere ‘Famous Nathan’ Doc by Grandson Lloyd Handwerker

March 24, 2013: “Notorious BOB” and Larell Marie Win Nathan’s Hot Dog Qualifier

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Arancini Bros

Arancini Bros. Rice Balls now available during Brooklyn Cyclones games at MCU Park. Photo via Arancini Bros.

Italian street food is popping up this summer in Coney Island’s amusement area. Bushwick’s Arancini Bros– whose motto is “We’ve got balls!”– is serving their Sicilian rice balls during Brooklyn Cyclones’ games at MCU Park. On the Bowery at Stillwell, Luzzo’s, which has an old-school pizzeria with a coal-burning oven in the East Village, is making wood-fired pizza from a mobile cart with a tiny oven.

We first tried Arancini Bros basil pesto ball at San Gennaro and went back for seconds, thinking all the while: this would be perfect for Coney Island. The business is owned by David Campaniello and his cousin Giulia Della Gatta, who says of the new Coney Island venture, “Arancini Bros. is honored to bring the best of Brooklyn, for the best of Brooklyn!”

Six varieties are offered at MCU Park, priced at three for $6 or six for $10. There’s Classic Ragu (saffron risotto with tomato meat sauce peace and mozzarella); Bianco Verde (Basil Pesto w Mozzarella); Buffalo Ball (Spicy Chicken with Gorgonzola Cheese); Philly Cheese-Steak (grilled rib-eye, caramelized onions, provolone cheese); Bucatini Fritti (Italian-style mac & cheese) and Nutella (Cinnamon risotto with chocolate hazelnut, rolled in cinnamon sugar).

We only wish they sold the rice balls outside the ball park too!

Luzzo's Pizza

Luzzo’s Pizza Cart on the Bowery at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. July 4, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Luzzo Group headed by Neapolitan pizzaiolo Michele Iuliano operate a quintet of restaurants as well as pizza carts in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Their cart in Coney Island debuted over the July 4th weekend and is set to stay the summer, according to its manager Anisa. Luzzo’s is located on Thor Equities property on the Bowery, across from the Brooklyn Nets Shop and the yet-to-open Wahlburgers, and has a roped-off seating area. The personal-size pizza comes in two varieties: the Margherita, with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella ($6.00), and the Diavola with spicy salami ($8.00). Also on the menu for $2 each are Rice Balls (rice, meat, fresh Mozzarella) and Potato Croquettes.

While new is news and street food is convenient, if you’re looking for an Italian sit-down restaurant in Coney Island, you should keep in mind two of the City’s and the neighborhood’s oldest and most revered: Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana on Neptune Avenue since 1924 and Gargiulo’s on West 15th Street since 1907. As ATZ previously reported, the Russo Brothers, owners of Gargiulo’s, which is Coney Island’s bastion of fine dining, are planning to open a fast food Italian restaurant on the north side of Surf.

Luzzo's Pizza

Seating area at Luzzo’s Pizza Cart on the Bowery at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. July 4, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

May 19, 2015: Gargiulo’s Russo Brothers to Open Italian Fast Food on Surf Avenue

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

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Magic Gyro

Magic Gyro to Reopen in Stillwell Terminal. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

A trio of big name businesses originally hoping to open in Coney Island by Mermaid Parade Day, which marks the start of summer, have now set their sights on July and in one case August. Wahlburgers, IHOP, and Boston Beer Corp’s Coney Island Brewery have held job screenings but remain under construction.

Amid the influx of new businesses, there is one that is returning to its Stillwell Terminal store more than 2-1/2 years after being devastated by Hurricane Sandy! Coney Island Gourmet, a Mom & Pop owned by Turkish Americans, is being renovated and expected to reopen as Magic Gyro in July. When ATZ reviewed the store in August 2012, it had a corner kitchen and a “Magic Gyro” sign on the Stillwell Avenue facade. In addition to chicken and veal sandwiches and entrees served with rice and salad, the menu offered falafel, hummus, babganoush, haydari (yogurt flavored with garlic, herbs and olive oil) and stuffed vine leaves, all very reasonably priced. The store will no longer feature a food shop and is being renovated as a restaurant.

Coney Island Brewery

Coney Island Brewery on Surf Ave in MCU Park Building

At 1904 Surf Avenue, the Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, hopes to officially open its doors in mid-July. The brewery is located in a retail space on the outside of MCU Park adjacent to Peggy O’Neill’s. “We’re excited about the opportunity,” Kathleen Barnes of the Coney Island Brewing Company told ATZ earlier this year. She said they’re planning to have a tasting room, retail space, a community center, and tours of the brewing process. Draft beers will be sold in growlers. Retail items include Coney beer-themed tap handles, coolers, beach towels, T-shirts and trucker hats. The line of Coney Island beers was relaunched in 2013 after being sold to Alchemy & Science, a division of Boston’s Samuel Adams.

Further east on Surf Avenue, across from Luna Park, the construction of IHOP in a 5,400-square-foot store has been delayed by the slow approval process for building department permits. “While waiting patiently the franchisee is going forward with his soft core work. He should be open late August,” says Joe Vitacco, who leased the space to the pancake franchise in February.


Under Construction: Wahlburgers in Coney Island. June 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Meanwhile, in Thor Equities “Retail Ride of A Lifetime” building on Stillwell, a quick peek inside Wahlburger’s Coney Island shows the 6,800 square foot Wahlburgers franchise to be far from finished. Asked when the celebrity restaurant would open a worker said, “Next month, by the Fourth of July.” The latest post on the eatery’s Facebook page says “The family is coming to town,” referring to actors Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and Chef Paul Wahlberg. The most recent photo is a snapshot of the view from their rooftop dining area. Can the A&E crew be far behind? Season 4 of Wahlburgers premieres on July 15.

UPDATE June 17, 2015:

The reality show comes to Coney! Wahlburgers Coney Island sent out an invite from the Wahlberg family to a private VIP Preview and Ribbon Cutting on June 23rd.


Related posts on ATZ…

May 28, 2015: Coney Island Openings & Closings: Power Surge, Arcade, Rainbow Shops, Vintage Shooting Gallery

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave

April 27, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Update on Wahlburgers, Temporary Fair at Thor’s Vacant Lots

April 10, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Power Surge and Enterprise-Style Ride Set for Comeback

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Chinese-style cotton candy

Rocky makes Chinese-style, flower-shaped cotton candy in a booth on Coney Island’s Bowery. May 30, 2015

Chinese-style cotton candy has come to Coney Island’s Bowery, where a friendly vendor nicknamed Rocky spins and shapes the flossy threads into a multi-colored pastel flower. In the video that we shot it takes him just one minute and several seconds to create the amazing confection. Rocky says this style of cotton candy is popular in southern China and that he learned the technique by watching videos on the web. Videos shot in China of street vendors making the flower-shaped cotton candy are prolific on YouTube but it’s our first sighting of the phenom in New York City.

The quintessential carnival food debuted as “fairy floss” at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where it was served in a wooden box and took in more than $17,000 over the fair’s six-month run. The new booth on the Bowery at West 12th street has also introduced frozen yogurt with toppings sold by the ounce to Coney Island. It is owned by 5D Cinema proprietor Terry Zheng and located next-door to his theater.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 28, 2015: Coney Island Openings & Closings: Power Surge, Arcade, Rainbow Shops, Vintage Shooting Gallery

May 19, 2015: Gargiulo’s Russo Brothers to Open Italian Fast Food on Surf Avenue

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave

May 5, 2015: New Owner of Surf Ave Lot Across from Coney Island Cyclone Seeks Ideas for Seasonal Use

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1315 Surf Avenue

Vacant since Sandy, 1315 Surf Avenue will be the site of an Italian fast food restaurant. The Shore Theater building next door, owned by the Bullard family, has been vacant for 40 years. May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

What’s new on the north side of Surf, the mecca for franchises in Coney Island? At 1315, where Cha Cha’s relocated from the Boardwalk until calling it quits after being devastated by Sandy, a permit has been taken out for interior renovations. A new eatery is going there and thankfully it won’t be another franchise or chain.

The Russo Brothers, owners of Gargiulo’s, which is Coney Island’s bastion of fine dining, are planning to open a fast food Italian restaurant, according to Anthony Russo. Pizza, veal parm and fried calamari will be among the offerings Russo told ATZ. No opening date has been set, but construction is expected to get underway as soon as permits have been approved.

Gargiulo's Way

Gargiulo’s Way, West 15th St between Surf and Mermaid Avenues, Coney Island. November 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Russo brothers own the building as well as the adjacent one where tenants include Piece of Velvet Bakery and Rita’s Italian Ice on the corner of 15th Street. In 2007, West 15th Street between Surf and Mermaid Avenues was designated Gargiulo’s Way to mark the 100th anniversary of Gargiulo’s Restaurant. Founded by Gus Gargiulo and owned by the Russo family since 1965, the Coney Island landmark at 2911 West 15th offers classic Neapolitan cuisine.

According to broker Joe Vitacco, who leased the storefronts to Rita’s and Piece of Velvet, there are very few remaining vacant spaces for lease on the north side of Surf. At 1223 Surf Avenue, he has 2,100 square feet on the first floor and 5,000 square feet plus 1,900 square foot terrace on the second floor and 4,000 square feet rooftop dinning for $45-$50 per square foot.

The first floor of that address next to Stillwell Terminal was also leased to a Johnny Rockets (6000 sf) and Red Mango (2.000 sf) franchisee in 2012, but construction has been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Among the stores Vitacco is offering are 1,450 square feet at 1019 Surf Avenue next to the new Subway Cafe and across the street from Luna Park.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?


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candy apples

First candy apples of the season at Deno’s Sweet Shoppe, Coney Island. April 5, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

At the Sweet Shoppe in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park on Easter Sunday. Take your pick- plain, or rolled in coconut or nuts. Your first candy apple of the season is always the most delicious!

Related posts on ATZ...

February 18, 2015: Photo of the Day: Hello Kitty and Honey Bear at Nathan’s Famous

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

March 25, 2013: Photo of the Day: Palms on Palm Sunday in Coney Island

June 9, 2011: Photo of the Day: Mango Vendor in Coney Island

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