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Posts Tagged ‘Nathan’s’

Nathan and Ida Handwerker

Nathan Handwerker and Ida Handwerker at the 50th anniversary of Nathan’s, 1966. Photo By Daniel Farrell. Courtesy of Loquat Films

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 film premiered on Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be screened again on April 25 and 26.

The opening scene is a sweet first memory in a remarkably candid family memoir: Lloyd and his sister are children being fed loquats plucked from a tree by their grandfather. 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.”

Nathan says he could neither read nor write, but that he had common sense. His ingenuity is evident every step of the way, from sleeping with his money in his shoes during the voyage, to calling out customers’ orders one at a time at his first restaurant job since he didn’t know a word of English, to keeping the frankfurters from spoiling by storing them in a barrel between layers of ice. He courted his wife-to-be Ida when she opened a little stand next door to his own. Remember those vintage photos of Nathan’s in which the cars are double and triple parked out front? Well, no one ever got a ticket because the cops on the beat were paid $2 a day and all they could eat.

The other side of this successful immigrant’s story is that Nathan was a workaholic, who was by all accounts highly critical of the store’s managers including his sons Murray and Sol. “If he didn’t say anything, he wasn’t criticizing you,” says one of the former managers, who clearly idolized him nonetheless. When it came time to retire, Ida felt as if she were being punished instead of seeing it as a reward, says Lloyd’s uncle Murray. Nathan asked if he could sweep the street, and turned up at the store in Oceanside in a Cadillac and swept the parking lot, much to the surprise of workers who asked who he was.

At one point in the film, Lloyd asks his father Sol, who is now 88 and the only surviving child of Nathan, if he ever wanted him to go into the family business. Sol says he wanted him to have “a better life, a more interesting life.” Lloyd’s chosen career was cinematography and for the past 30 years he has been piecing together his family’s history.

“My grandfather died when I was 17. I knew him quite well,” the 57-year-old Brooklyn film-maker said in a previous interview with ATZ. His quest appears to have been propelled by the fact that Sol left the family business when Lloyd was 7. Growing up he’d only been to Coney Island a few times and he never worked at Nathan’s. “Why am I here? I guess I’m trying to recreate something of my grandfather,” he says into the camera, as a young man of 30, though he looks much younger, sitting in Nathan’s chair in his office. He has succeeded brilliantly.

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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

January 19, 2010: Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition

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1957 Chevy Bel Air

1957 Chevy Bel Air in front of the Original Nathan’s, Coney Island. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Saturday in Coney Island, two classic Chevrolets in front of the original Nathan’s Famous were the center of attention for tourists and locals alike. The 1957 Bel Air and the 1963 Impala were parked on Stillwell Avenue while their owners were inside ordering lunch.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Car show trophies won by 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air displayed in back seat. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The rolled down windows of the Bel Air afforded a glimpse of trophies from classic car shows and souvenirs. Tourists from France, Scotland and Manhattan took advantage of the photo op while we were there.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Chevy Bel Air in front of the Original Nathan’s, Coney Island. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The Bel Air was graced with a SATCHMO license plate, though a statue of Elvis Presley rested in the back seat. The Impala had a miniature version of itself in the back window…

1963 Chevy Impala

1963 Chevy Impala parked in front of Nathan’s. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Here’s another photo that shows both classic cars. One of our friends shot virtually the same photo in black and white, lending it the look of a photo taken back in the 1960s. The original Nathan’s opened at this location in 1916.

1963 Impala and 1957 Bel Air

1963 Impala and 1957 Bel Air in front of the Original Nathan’s, Coney Island. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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

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

March 14, 2013: “Notorious BOB” and Larell Marie Win Nathan’s Hot Dog Qualifier

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

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Famous Nathan by Lloyd Handwerker

Famous Nathan directed and written by Lloyd Handwerker. Photo Mike Zwerling/courtesy Loquat Film

The long-awaited documentary about Nathan’s Famous by Lloyd Handwerker, grandson of the hot dog emporium’s founders Nathan and Ida Handwerker, is set to premiere at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. Famous Nathan is among the films in the festival’s Viewpoints Section, which was announced yesterday. A screening date for the film has not yet been announced. The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 16 through 27. (Update: The film will premiere on April 17, with additional screenings on April 21, 25 and 26. Tickets are available, beginning with Amex presale, starting April 8. Read ATZ’s review of the film here.)

“I’ve been working on it for almost 30 years, off and on,” the 57-year-old Brooklyn film-maker said in an interview this morning with ATZ. “My grandfather died when I was 17. I knew him quite well.” According to Lloyd’s research into his family’s history, “In 1912, Nathan, age 19, one of 13 brothers and sisters from a poor Jewish family, left Jaroslaw, Poland and arrived in New York City. He was unable to read, write or speak a word of English. By the 1930’s, he’d created one of the most loved places to eat anywhere in the world, in Coney Island, Brooklyn.”

Though Lloyd has never worked at Nathan’s, as a cinematographer he felt compelled to piece together his family’s history. His father Sol, who will be 89 in October, was first taken in to work in the kitchen as a young child, piling up rolls on a roll board and cutting frankfurters, according to one of our favorite interviews in the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive. The former Vice President of Nathan’s Famous, who is the only surviving child of Nathan and Ida, will attend the premiere with his wife Minnie.

People who worked at Nathan’s for decades, some for more than 40 years, also shared their memories with the film-maker. “There are elderly workers who are still alive and hopefully they’ll be able to get to the premiere,” said Lloyd. “I offer this personal, long-in-the-making film to my parents, grandparents, the Nathan’s workers and to lovers of our great city everywhere.”

Lloyd Handwerker

Lloyd Handwerker with Steeplechase Horse at the Coney Island History Project. Photo © Coney Island History Project

Famous Nathan
Directed and written by Lloyd Handwerker
(USA) – World Premiere, Documentary

Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters, a New York City icon, has left a lasting imprint on the collective memory and palate of Coney Island. Director and grandson of ‘Famous’ Nathan himself, Lloyd Handwerker, takes a look back at the immigrant experience and almost 100 years of family and New York history in this personal documentary gem. Featuring a strong score, colorful and endearing characters, rare archival material, and a nuanced editing style, Famous Nathan will not disappoint New York history enthusiasts.

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

February 23, 2014: Sunday Matinee: Under the Roller Coaster (2005)

October 21, 2013: Traveler: Osteria Ai Pioppi’s Homemade Amusement Rides

July 26, 2012: Film Trailer: Zipper, Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride

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Bob Shoudt AKA Notorious BOB

Bob Shoudt AKA Notorious BOB at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier, Coney Island. March 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Saturday in Coney Island, Nathan’s Famous celebrated the reopening of their Boardwalk eatery and Coney Island’s Opening Weekend with the first hot dog eating qualifying round of the season. The winners were Bob Shoudt AKA “Notorious B.O.B.,” who ate 36 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, and Larell Marie AKA The Real Deal, who ate 17. They will return to Coney to compete on July Fourth, when separate men’s and women’s hot dog eating contests are held in front of the original Nathan’s at Surf and Stillwell, which is being rebuilt after Sandy.

Compared to the hugely attended and tightly choreographed July 4th event televised on ESPN, the qualifier had a refreshingly impromptu air. A couple of “Bunettes,” the ladies who flip the cards indicating the number of franks consumed, had to be recruited from the audience, which consisted of a few hundred people. The event was the first-ever hot dog qualifier held in Coney Island, according to contest organizer and emcee extraordinaire George Shea.

Larell Marie AKA The Real Deal

Larell Marie AKA The Real Deal on her 3rd hot dog at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier, Coney Island. March 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

It was the first qualifier we’ve attended in more than a dozen years. In 2001, we followed Ed “Cookie” Jarvis, Don “Moses” Lerman and “Krazy” Kevin Lipsitz on the hot dog eating circuit, starting with the season’s first qualifier at the Meadowlands, on assignment for a travel magazine. It turned out to be the year that Kobayashi stunned everyone by eating 50 hot dogs and buns on the Fourth of July, doubling the record of the previous year. The article was called “Bet on the Thin Guy.”

After winning yesterday’s qualifier, Shoudt tweeted: “Since 7/4/07 only one man besides myself has won the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest at Coney Island, just sayin’,” He’s referring to current champ and record holder Joey Chestnut, who ate 68 hot dogs and buns in last year’s contest.

If you’re interested in competing in a Nathan’s Famous qualifier, visit Major League Eating to register. Contests are being held in 12 cities, including Savannah, Miami, Las Vegas, St. Paul, Pittsburgh and Boston, before heading back to the New York metro area for qualifiers in Queens and the Meadowlands.

George Shea

George Shea at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier, Coney Island. March 23, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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March 17, 2013: Photo Album: Coney Island Getting Ready for Opening Day

March 13, 2013: Coney Island 2013: New Ghouls Mingle with Old in Rebuilt Spook-A-Rama

March 4, 2013: Nathan’s on Coney Island Boardwalk to Open Mid-March, Surf Ave by May

January 18, 2013: Coney Island 2013: “Water Mania” Spin Ride to Debut at Luna Park

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Nathan's Coney Island

First Food Shipment to Nathan’s in Coney Island since Sandy. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Last week, ATZ spotted this huge semi parked on Coney Island’s West 12th Street adjacent to Nathan’s Boardwalk restaurant. It was the first food delivery to Nathan’s since Sandy struck nearly five months ago. On Monday, March 18th, you’ll finally be able to get a Nathan’s hot dog again in Coney Island when the Boardwalk location reopens. Everyone in Coney is busy, busy, busy getting ready for Opening Day – March 24th — which is now just 7 days away. The amount of activity far exceeds anything we’ve seen in past years because of the extra added work of recovering and rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy. Even though Palm Sunday, Coney’s traditional opening day, is early this year, the great majority of the rides, games and eateries are ready to open. More photos from the flickr set are here.

 Place to BEach

Zamperla’s New Place to BEach Bar & Grill, Coney Island. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Under construction since last summer, Place to BEach Bar & Grill — the capital “E” is not a typo– is about to make its debut. The revamped structure’s most distinctive feature is a mini-lighthouse with a weathervane that says “Every Wind Leads to PTB Bar.” Last week was the first time we saw the Boardwalk spot with its shutters open. Workers at the site told ATZ they expect to be able to open for counter service on March 24th.

Located on the former site of Steve’s Grill House and Beer Island, the new addition to Coney’s skyline is adjacent to Scream Zone’s Skycoaster and Go Karts. It is operated by CAI Foods, LLC, the relatively new food division of Zamperla’s Central Amusements International. French food service giant Sodexo, which Luna Park had partnered with since 2010, is now said to be out of the picture in Coney Island. That’s something to cheer about. Word on the street is that PTB’s menu will be Tex-Mex. Neighboring businesses on the Boardwalk including Tom’s Coney Island and Brooklyn Beach Shop are already open daily and the rest plan to open on the weekend of March 23rd.

Zenobio

Scream Zone’s Zenobio Goes for Test Spin. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Coney’s amusement area Mom & Pops affected by the storm are busy rebuilding too. Bowery eateries Plaza Mexico Dona Zita, Gyro Corner and Bernard’s and Williams Candy on Surf are remodeling. Jimmy Balloons, who operates the popular balloon dart game on the Bowery, is building a new booth on Jones Walk under the Wonder Wheel’s neon sign. The lease on his longtime location across the way was held by Manny Cohen of Coney Island Arcade, who was evicted after 22 years and is moving to Vegas with Target the Coney Island Cat.

Under Construction: Jimmy Balloons New Balloon Dart. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Other veteran businesses that will not return this season are the 50-year-old McCullough’s Kiddie Park, at Bowery and W 12th Street, which could not come to lease terms with Thor Equities. Cha Cha’s of Surf Avenue announced after Sandy that it was closing forever. Denny’s Ice Cream, which was sold to Coney Island USA, was badly damaged by the storm and will be replaced with a 1940s shooting gallery from Wonder Wheel Park. The New York Aquarium, Coney Island USA, and Nathan’s on Surf Avenue are still rebuilding and expect to reopen by Memorial Day Weekend. The new Steeplechase Plaza with the restored B & B Carousell is slated to open that weekend as well.

Wonder Wheel Car

Wonder Wheel Car Being Rolled Out of Storage. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The cars of the Wonder Wheel were rolled out of storage last week and put back up on the Wheel on Saturday afternoon. The annual ritual is considered the first sign of spring in Coney Island. The rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Luna Park and Scream Zone, 12th Street Amusements (Update: they’re still working and expect to open on Easter) and the Eldorado Bumper Cars are being tested and inspected and will go for their first official spin of the year on March 24th. The Cyclone opens at 12 noon with the first 100 fans on line riding for free. Construction at Luna Park includes a new pinwheel gate on the Boardwalk and ticket booths and entrance at the Cyclone.

New Zoltar

New Zoltar Under Wraps at Wonder Wheel Park. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

At Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, the annual Blessing of the Rides ceremony starts at 11 am on the Boardwalk. This year, to celebrate Coney’s comeback from Sandy, rides on the landmark Wonder Wheel are free for everyone on Opening Day. The rebuilt Spook-A-Rama dark ride is expected to make its debut along with a ghost-themed shooting gallery and a brand-new Zoltar. The Coney Island History Project’s free exhibit center under the Wheel will be open, along with its neighbors “Coney Island Always,” a window showcasing a miniature animated amusement park, and “Miss Coney Island” the dancing doll.

Coney Island Beach

Post-Sandy Sand Dunes Bulldozed, Coney Island Beach. March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The temporary sand dunes in Coney Island’s amusement area were bulldozed and we have a beach again. During Sandy recovery, the Army Corps of Engineers established a “temporary storage site,” or TSS, at West 15th Street after moving an estimated 32,000 cubic yards of sand, the equivalent of roughly 12 Olympic-size swimming pools, out of Coney Island neighborhoods. The sand was eventually sifted and moved back to the beach, which officially reopens for swimming on Saturday, May 25. Repairs to Steeplechase Pier and sections of the Boardwalk are also underway.

Boardwalk Repairs

Boardwalk Repairs, Coney Island March 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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March 15, 2013: Coney Island Cyclone Getting New Ticket Booths

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Nathan's Surf Avenue

Post-Sandy Reconstruction: Nathan’s Famous on Surf Avenue. March 2, 2013. Photo © Jim McDonnell

The first Nathan’s hot dogs and french fries to be served in Coney Island since Sandy struck more than four months ago are on the horizon. In two weeks, the famous franks will be back on the Boardwalk! Nathan’s Boardwalk location, which expanded last season and suffered less damage from Sandy than the Surf Avenue store, is set to open in mid-March. One source tells ATZ the Nathan’s Boardwalk store will open on March 16, a Saturday, while another says March 18. Either way, we’ll let you know ASAP. UPDATE 1:35pm: ATZ confirmed with Nathan’s Corporate Office that the official opening date of their Boardwalk restaurant will be Monday, March 18th.

Over the weekend, the gut rehab at Nathan’s Famous original location on Surf Avenue continued with workers ripping out the counter and steel shutters, as seen in the above photo by Jim McDonnell. The interior as well as electrical and plumbing were ruined by the flood water and sewage that surged into the store during Superstorm Sandy. Sources tell ATZ the target date for completing the work and reopening Nathan’s main store at Surf and Stillwell Avenues is Memorial Day Weekend.

Ahead of March 24’s Opening Day for Coney Island’s amusement rides, some of Nathan’s neighbors on the Boardwalk such as Brooklyn Beach Shop, Nathan’s Gift Shop, and Ruby’s Bar and Grill have already been open “by chance” and expect to open on the weekend of March 16th. Lola Star Boutique and Paul’s Daughter are set to open on Palm Sunday Weekend. Tom’s Restaurant, which has been serving breakfast and lunch all winter, was exceptionally crowded over the weekend. Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy, who eats there every Sunday said, “Today we got the last table and they were holding people at the door.” Spring is in the wings and the crowds are coming back to Coney!

UPDATE March 7, 2013:

Nathan’s and Major League Eating announced they will hold the first qualifier for the 2013 Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest on Saturday, March 23, at 1 pm, at the Boardwalk restaurant as part of opening-weekend celebrations for Coney Island.

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Ruby Jacobs Walk

Ruby Jacobs Walk at Coney Island Boardwalk. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Wednesday in Coney Island, we saw waves of sand on the newly sculpted beach adjacent to Ruby Jacobs Walk. Waves of workers in Parks Department jumpsuits walked by after getting off the job around sunset. On the Boardwalk, a holiday banner at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park announced the news that rides on the Wonder Wheel will be free on Coney Island’s opening day — March 24, 2013. That’s only 107 days away!

Deno's Wonder Wheel

Holiday Banner at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island Boardwalk. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

At the original Nathan’s Famous at Surf and Stillwell, a banner says “After 100 Years, No Hurricane Will Get Us Down!” and directs visitors to Nathan’s Bay Ridge location while they are rebuilding. A generator was chugging away on the Bowery side of the store. Nathan’s Boardwalk location, which was expanded last summer and is open seasonally, also had its electrical system knocked out by the storm.

Nathan's Coney Island

Coney Island Post-Sandy: The original Nathan’s at Surf and Stillwell is Closed Till Spring. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Mermaid Avenue, a few more Mom and Pop businesses including Chinese and Spanish restaurants have managed to open. We saw a cell phone shop and barber shop under renovation. At Our Lady of Solace Church parking lot, it was the first day of Chase’s new mobile branch. Along with ATM machines, there’s a tent staffed by community bankers. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm, and on Saturdays from 9am till 3pm. The location will be open until December 17 when a trailer will open at the branch, one of the bankers told ATZ. A few blocks away, a sign on the boarded up Chase branch said: “We apologize that this branch is temporarily closed. We are committed to helping our community after Hurricane Sandy. We will re-open as soon as possible.”

Chase Mobile Branch

Chase Mobile Branch, Our Lady of Solace Church Parking Lot. Mermaid Avenue, Coney Island. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

An aquamarine and pink notice was posted on the Place To Beach Bar, which is under construction on the Boardwalk adjacent to Scream Zone. The Department of Buildings notice says that it had been “Inspected – No Apparent Structural Hazard.” The bar’s mini- lighthouse appeared to have weathered the storm, too.

Inspected

Inspected – No Apparent Structural Hazard. Building on Coney Island Boardwalk. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

At the front office of the Brooklyn Cyclones at 1904 Surf Avenue, a sign warned “Do Not Enter STOP Testing in Progress. This Building is Closed to ALL During the Testing Process.” A few doors away, a crew was cleaning up Peggy O’Neill’s Bar.

Testing in Progress

This Building is Closed to ALL During the Testing Process. 1904 Surf Avenue, Coney Island. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Posted on telephone pole on Mermaid Avenue: A flyer for a December 1st presentation on post-Sandy mold clean-up at Our Lady of Solace Church. “How to identify it. How to treat it. How to protect yourself and family and remove mold safely. What mold remediation services are available.”

Nold Clean-Up

Flyer for Mold Clean-Up Presentation. Mermaid Avenue, Coney Island. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Tom’s Restaurant on the Boardwalk, which is open daily, invites visitors to donate a toy to the Aquarium’s toy drive and receive on ticket to the Bronx Zoo. The event was relocated from the Aquarium, which is closed till June due to storm damage.

Toy Drive

Tom’s on the Boardwalk, Coney Island. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On the south side of Surf Avenue, Popeye’s and Island Grocery are open. Popeye’s is a true survivor. The restaurant’s owner had been in business year-round in Coney Island for 27 years when he lost his lease in the now-demolished Henderson Building at the corner of Surf and Stillwell in 2010. He rebuilt his business in the Popper Building last year. On the north side, the franchises in Stillwell Terminal–Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway, usually open 24 hours, remain closed. The Bank of America in the terminal has been cleaned and new walls and ATMs were installed but it’s not yet open. Workers were hauling debris out of the police station.

Surf Avenue

Open for Business: Popeye’s and Island Grocery, Surf Avenue. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Also on the north side of Surf, The Coney Island Bar and Grill, formerly Bratva Bar, is open from 5pm with live music on Saturday by FRWG–Fried Rice and The White Guys.

Coney Island Bar & Grill

Open for Business: Coney Island Bar & Grill, Surf Avenue at 12th Street. December 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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November 24, 2012: Coney Island Post-Sandy: A Few Stores Reopen, Most Delayed by Damage

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November 9, 2012: Update on Coney Island’s Amusement Area After Sandy

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