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Mama Burger Paul's Daughter

Wet paint! Mama and Papa Burger on the roof of Paul’s Daughter on the Coney Island Boardwalk

Happy news for Memorial Day Weekend! Mama Burger is back on her feet and has been reunited with Papa Burger on the roof of Coney Boardwalk eatery Paul’s Daughter! The lovingly restored and freshly painted figures were seen in close proximity the other day ahead of being returned to their regular spots at either end of the rooftop.

While Papa Burger, an A & W Root Beer figure from the 1960s, has steadily anchored the western side of the building’s roof, Mama Burger had been flat on her back since Superstorm Sandy. The eight-foot-tall fiberglass figure got knocked over — at first she was thought to be missing— and her hamburger and beer mug blew away.

What else is new this season at Paul’s Daughter? The popular clam bar now serves oysters as well and has a roomy new outdoor seating area. The best lobster roll in Coney Island – delectable chunks of Maine lobster packed into a toasted bun – is being served again starting this weekend. Since the Mama Burger figure never got her lost burger back, maybe she should hold a lobster roll instead?

Paul’s Daughter is Tina Georgoulakos, whose father Paul aka “The Chief” co-founded the restaurant formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s in 1962 and still supervises its clam bar. The renovated building was originally one of hot dog inventor Charles Feltman’s restaurants and remains a masterpiece of vernacular signage.

Here’s Coney historian Charles Denson lunching on a lobster roll at Paul’s Daughter…

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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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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.

Wahburger's

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.

Wahlburgers

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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The Red Doors Bar & Grill

The Red Doors Bar & Grill, 1205 Surf Avenue, Coney Island. May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s new Red Doors Bar & Grill opened its doors for drinks for the first time on Wednesday. ATZ sampled a raspberry lemonade (minus the vodka) from their cocktail menu. Restaurant consultant Gina Weinstein has put together a new menu and “cool, tattooish” decor mixing industrial design with posters of old Coney Island for this space on Surf Avenue near West 12th Street. Unlike many of the recently opened or soon-to-open eateries in Coney Island, it’s neither a chain nor a franchise! Red Doors’ owner Oleg says he expects the restaurant will open Memorial Day weekend.

The Red Doors Bar & Grill

Industrial design and posters of old Coney Island at The Red Doors Bar & Grill, May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Menu selections include fresh baked pretzels with spicy beer mustard, pulled pork sliders, chicken quesadilla, buffalo chicken spring rolls, Caesar salad, a variety of burgers, fries, beer battered onion rings, and donuts made to order.

For vegetarians, there’s veggies and hummus: “Balsamic grilled asparagus, red pepper, portobello, carrots, purple cabbage, roasted red pepper hummus. served with warm tortillas.”

Raspberry lemonade

Raspberry lemonade at Red Doors Bar & Grill, May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The new Mom & Pop joins Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, Applebee’s, Subway Cafe, Dunkin Donuts and Surf 12 Nightclub on the north side of Surf. IHOP, Checkers and Johnny Rockets franchises are under construction.

This location at 1205 Surf Avenue was formerly Bratva Bar and Coney Island Bar & Grill, which closed last year.

Red Doors Bar & Grill

Red Doors Bar & Grill logo features the famous Steeplechase Funny Face and the Wonder Wheel

Related posts on ATZ…

April 30, 2015: Thor Equities Recruits Jeffrey Deitch, Dan Biederman & Smorgasburg to Dress Up Vacant Coney Lot

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

April 21, 2015: Coney Island 2015: New York Air Show Set For August 29-30

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

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Wahlburgers

Slated to open this summer, Wahlburgers will have a rooftop overlooking Thor’s Stillwell lots. April 18, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last week, Wahlburgers released details of the 6,800 square foot franchise restaurant currently under construction in Coney Island and slated to open this summer. Eater dubbed it “a massive indoor/outdoor extravaganza.” Rooftop patio dining with a retractable glass roof sounds spectacular but it’s a stretch to say Wahlburgers “will overlook Coney Island’s famous boardwalk and beach” as the pr copy claims.

Located in Thor Equities’ retail building on Stillwell Avenue across from Nathan’s, the celebrity burger palace overlooks the Bowery and Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s long-vacant lots. That’s why we’re betting the rumors that began in November and continued this year about attractions coming to those lots for the summer are indeed true.

Wahlburgers

Architectural Rendering of Wahlburgers in Coney Island

Sources have told ATZ that Thor’s lots will host food and merch in 20 trailers. Rides and other attractions are now said to be part of the mix. Ironically there was an entire amusement park including bumper boats and a miniature golf course there before Joe Sitt bought the property in 2006 and promptly turned it into “Thor Equities Corridors of Blight.” The last time a carnival was here was 2012. The lots remained vacant in 2014 as well as in 2010 and 2013, when the City issued a stop-work order on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

MegaWhirl

Prototype MegaWhirl ride, abandoned after the 2012 season and damaged by Hurricane Sandy, is finally being demolished. April 25, 2015. Photo © anonymouse via AmusingtheZillion

While the DOB has yet to issue permits for a “temporary fair,” the property is being prepped in earnest. Last week, the MegaWhirl ride, abandoned after it debuted here in 2012 and was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, was being demolished and tossed in a dumpster. Underground electric utilities were installed last month and the Bowery was cleared of concession trailers adjacent to the lot.

ATZ’s first post back in December about the celebrity burger franchise opening in Coney Island and subsequent updates continue to be as popular as posts about Friday night fireworks! That makes us think it’s going to be a magnet for some of Mark Wahlberg’s 15+ million Facebook fans. The Wahlburgers restaurants are the backdrop for the A&E TV reality series about Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg’s adventures in the burger business. This summer’s opening of the Coney Island location is being scripted into the show. The original opening date of early May has been pushed back to June.

Wahlburgers

Signage on Wahlburgers currently under construction in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

UPDATE May 6, 2015:

Thor Equities has recruited Jeffrey Deitch, art advisor and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, and food vendors from Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg to help activate one of their long vacant lots in Coney Island. Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV), the consulting firm run by Bryant Park’s Dan Biederman, was hired by Thor to develop events and programming for and manage the lot as well as the one on the east side of Stillwell There will also be a music stage with live performances throughout the summer. (Thor Equities Recruits Jeffrey Deitch, Dan Biederman & Smorgasburg to Dress Up Vacant Coney Lot, ATZ, April 30, 2015).

Biederman will also manage a second long-vacant lot, on the east side of Stillwell Avenue, across from Coney Walls. “Our programming is still in flux, though we hope to announce some exciting things next week,” Ben Donsky, BRV’s senior project manager, told ATZ. “There will probably be performances on both lots. Gordon Lee of El Dorado is going to be putting up midway games along the Bowery.”

Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

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

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

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IhopAfter weeks of rumors and negotiations, it’s finally official: the lease for a 5,400 square foot IHOP at 1019 Surf Avenue in Coney Island was signed on Thursday, broker Joe Vitacco told ATZ. The franchisee who will be operating the restaurant is Bryan McKenzie, who owns an IHOP in New Jersey. Construction is expected to take about four months after the landlord completes the vanilla shell.

The one-story building at 1019 across the street from Luna Park is a longtime furniture store, which is not among the use groups permitted by the zoning. The space is being subdivided into six storefronts by the landlord and the stores are in the process of getting new street numbers. IHOP will combine the three stores on the far left and the soon-to-open Subway Cafe has the one on the right. Two remaining storefronts totalling 3,000 square feet are expected to be snapped up by another franchisee.

Why is Surf Avenue becoming a mecca for franchises? “The franchise is a preference of the landlords in Coney Island,” says Vitacco, who has leased space on Surf Avenue to Johnny Rockets, Subway Cafe and Rita’s Italian Ice, as well as to Brooklyn-based bakery Piece of Velvet for their third store. On Mermaid Avenue, he has leased to such Mom & Pops as a fish store and a Chinese bakery, as well as a Jamaican patty store franchisee.

Surf Avenue

1209 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Store with shuttered gates is the future home of IHOP. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“First of all, the franchisees are better funded. They are required to have half a million to two million in assets. They are trained and helped by the franchise company and have a high chance of success.” Many also own multiple businesses, which enables them to spread the risk. The Johnny Rockets franchisee owns several other franchise restaurants, Vitacco says.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, many of the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. Amid the influx of already opened national chains and franchises such as It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, there have also been a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe, which have no connection to Luna Park.

The relatively large size of the stores is also a factor. The average price per square foot on the north side of Surf is $50.00 per square foot, Vitacco tells ATZ. On Mermaid Avenue it is $45 per square foot. “The difference in price from space to space depends upon the amount of landlord work. A space can be rented in ‘as is condition,’ as a Vanilla Box or as built to suit. The conditions will affect the rent.”

Asked why we aren’t seeing more a diversity of businesses instead of all restaurants and food? Is it too expensive? Vitacco says, “Because food pays the highest per square foot. Remember on Surf Avenue we are limited by the Coney Island C7 special zoning.”

Sky Rapids Ride

Sky Rapids Ride at 1223 Surf Avenue and Arcade at 1217 Surf Ave. Coney Island. January 1, 1979. Photo by Abe Feinstein via Coney Island History Project

According to the rezoning of 2009, permitted uses include:

–Open and enclosed amusements with limited accessory retail. Amusement uses would also include virtual reality and simulated gaming, dark rides, recreational sports facilities and water parks.

–Restaurants of any size, including those with entertainment and dancing. It would also include other complementary uses to amusements uses such as performance venues, bathhouses, breweries, tattoo parlors or wedding chapels.

–Retail and service uses complementary to amusement uses and beach activities such as arts and crafts production and sales, bicycle sales and repair, gift shops, and beach furniture stores. These uses would be limited in size and frontage.

Related posts on ATZ…

October 2, 2015: Coney Eats: Magic Gyro & Checkers to Open, Kosher Pizza Signs Lease, Johnny Rockets & IHOP Underway

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

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

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

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