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LunaTics Ice Cream

Opening Day at LunaTics Ice Cream on Surf Avenue. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Saturday, several new businesses and exhibits opened for the season, with some operators pulling all nighters in the race to be ready for the start of Memorial Day Weekend. Among them was LunaTics Ice Cream, located in the former Island Grocery on the south side of Surf Avenue. Dennis Corines, who operated Denny’s Ice Cream a few doors away on Surf from the 1970’s until he sold his building to Coney Island USA in 2011, is a consultant to store owner Shaukat Mian.

LunaTics Ice Cream Coney Island

Denny’s Banana Pistachio at LunaTics Ice Cream. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Saturday they offered us a banana pistachio which tasted exactly like the last one we had in the summer of 2012, when CIUSA operated Denny’s. That’s not so long ago, but since Denny’s was destroyed by Sandy and the building is now occupied by an antique shooting gallery, we never expected to taste it again. Delicious!

LunaTics Ice Cream

Dennis Corines former owner of Denny’s Ice Cream and Shaukat Mian former operator of Island Grocery. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Shaukat Mian owns the building at 1224 Surf and operated Island Grocery at the location for 13 years. His brand-new business offers a menu similar to Denny’s. There’s soft serve ice cream in vanilla, chocolate, banana and pistachio, as well as hard ice cream, Italian ices, shakes, and cotton candy, popcorn, jelly apples and funnel cake.

The Face of Steeplechase Coney Island History Project

Charles Denson with detail of “The Face of Steeplechase” exhibit at the Coney Island History Project. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

At the non-profit Coney Island History Project on West 12th Street, a new exhibit pays tribute to the ubiquitous symbol of Coney Island, George C. Tilyou’s “Funny Face.” Variations of the Face are used to promote a slew of Coney Island products and businesses today and inspired New Jersey’s “Tillie” but it was original to Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park (1897-1964). Curated by Coney Island historian Charles Denson and featuring rare photos from his archives, the exhibit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the closing of Steeplechase and the 100th anniversary of Tilyou’s death.

The Face of Steeplechase Park: Gams, Garters, and Stockings!

Photo of the Blowhole Theater from “The Face of Steeplechase Park: Gams, Garters, and Stockings!” at the Coney Island History Project

According to the exhibit notes and the photos, the Face was originally believed to be a caricature of Tilyou’s brother Edward and underwent many changes during the park’s lifetime. “Sometimes it was a gleeful, maniacal visage,” writes Denson. “At other times, it appeared as inscrutable as the Mona Lisa.” “The Face of Steeplechase Park: Gams, Garters, and Stockings!” opened on Saturday and is on view weekends and holidays through Labor Day. Admission is free of charge.

Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co.

Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co. In Thor Equities Building on Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island. May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co. opened on Saturday after getting their custom-made sign up on the building in the wee hours of the morning. It’s located on the Stillwell Avenue side of Thor Equities building in a space leased by Wampum last summer. Owned by Maya Haddad Miller and her brother Yaniv Haddad, the store will sell private label clothing. The spinoff of Brooklyn Beach Shop will be the fifth store owned by the Haddad family in Coney Island, where they have operated retail shops since 1996.

Surf & Stillwell partners Maya Haddad Miller and her brother Yaniv Haddad

Surf & Stillwell partners Maya Haddad Miller and her brother Yaniv Haddad

The new store is across the avenue from Nathan’s as well as the Coney Island Beach Shop, which Maya and Yaniv’s father Haim Haddad opened in 2002. Brooklyn Beach Shop has locations on the Boardwalk and inside Stillwell Terminal. Nathan’s Gift Shop on the Boardwalk is also operated by the Haddads, who have a licensing agreement with Nathan’s. Surf & Stillwell is the only new store so far this year in Thor’s retail building. Current tenants are It’Sugar, Brooklyn Rock, Rainbow Shops and the Brooklyn Nets.

Fred Kahl Scan-O-Rama

Fred Kahl at his Scan-O-Rama Booth. May 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Last summer, we wrote about Fred Kahl’s futuristic 3-D portrait studio in a former fortuneteller’s booth in Coney Island. After raising more than $16,000 via Kickstarter to fund the project, he kept the studio open year-round and it remains open Saturdays from 12 till 5pm during the spring and summer. Duplicates of the 3-D portraits are featured in a populated scale model of Thompson and Dundy’s Luna Park circa 1914 which debuted on Saturday at the Coney Island Museum.

3D Luna Park by Fred Kahl

Fred Kahl’s 3D Luna Park Installation at Coney Island Museum. Photo via TheGreatFredini.com

“Luna Park has a special place in history, a witness to the society being transformed by technology. These are the themes that are relevant to us today as our world undergoes the third industrial revolution,” says Kahl whose impressive installation is the first phase of a work in progress. “Big sigh of relief, now I need to get printing the rest of Luna Park.” The exhibit is on view during museum hours, which are currently Friday through Sunday. Admission is $5.00.

Luna Park's White Castle Trailer

Luna Park’s White Castle Trailer on Wonder Wheel Way at Stillwell Avenue, May 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

White Castle Express opened in Luna Park on Saturday at both the Cyclone Cafe and in the former Luna BBQ trailer on Wonder Wheel Way. After breaking the news on Friday (“White Castle Sliders Coming to Coney Island,” ATZ May 23, 2014) we’re still baffled by the divergence of friends’ reactions–from mmmm to ugh. From comments on twitter, it’s clear WC has quite a following, probably because they’ve been in biz since 1921 and in New York since 1930. That puts them in a different category than chains like Johnny Rockets (“The Original Hamburger,” founded in 1986!) and other newbies. We tried some fries and the price was right for a quick snack. Only $2.19 for medium fries including tax.

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April 25, 2014: Under Construction: New Mom & Pops Coming to Coney Island’s Surf Ave

December 31, 2013: Amusing the Zillion’s Coney Island 2013 Year in Review

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

March 14, 2012: Coney Entrepreneurs to Open 1st Ever Nathan’s Gift Shop

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Frozen Custard from Photographs of New York by Reginald Marsh. ca. 1938-1945, printed 1976. Reginald Marsh. Courtesy AntiquePhotographics.com

When Reginald Marsh photographed Coney Island as the subject for his artwork in the late 1930s and the ’40s, one could still buy frozen custard for a nickel. The dessert made its debut in 1919 when the Kohr brothers, Archie and Elton, opened a stand on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The nickel treat was a sensation, selling 18,460 cones on the first weekend! Kohr’s Frozen Custard is still in business on the Boardwalks at Seaside Heights and Casino Pier on the Jersey Shore. According to the history page of the company’s website, “After many experiments with the formula, Archie and Elton discovered that by adding eggs to the mix, they got a much more stiff, velvety and creamy product which would melt more slowly.”

Today, Coney Island’s ice cream offerings include Denny’s soft serve and Coney’s Cones gelato, but the frozen custard stands of yesteryear are long gone. You have to go to Shake Shack in Manhattan. Or all the way to Utah, where Coneys Custard and Gourmet Dogs won the “Best of State Award” last year. Their signature custard is named after the Cyclone roller coaster.

Like the Whip ride and the game of Fascination, frozen custard is another delight that first saw the light of day in Coney Island, but can’t be found here anymore. Last year, ATZ proclaimed “Bring Back the Whip!” This year we add: “Bring Back Fascination and Frozen Custard!”

UPDATE, January 30, 2012…

Comments on Facebook and twitter in response to this post have inspired this update: What’s the difference between soft serve and frozen custard?

Wikipedia says: “True frozen custard is a very dense dessert. Soft serve ice creams may have an overrun as large as 100%, meaning half of the final product is composed of air. Frozen custard, when made in a proper continuous freezer will have an overrun of 15-30% depending on the machine manufacturer. Air is not pumped into the mix, nor is it added as an “ingredient” but gets into the frozen state by the agitation of liquid similar to whisking a meringue. The high percentage of butterfat and egg yolk gives frozen custard a thick, creamy texture and a smoother consistency than ice cream. Frozen custard can be served at –8°C (18°F), warmer than the –12°C (10°F) at which ice cream is served, in order to make a soft serve product.”

According to FDA requirements, frozen custard must have at least 10 percent milkfat and 1.4 percent egg yolk solids, but some brands have more. If it has fewer egg yolk solids, it is considered ice cream. Frozen custard has less fat and sugar than ice cream.

UPDATE January 4, 2014:

Rita’s Italian Ice, a national franchise whose tag line is “Ice, Custard and Happiness” will open a store on Surf Avenue at West 15th street in Coney Island.

Frozen Custard, Etching by Reginald Marsh. 1939. Photo via The Old Print Shop

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Related posts on ATZ…

January 13, 2012: Rare & Vintage: Reginald Marsh Photos of Coney Island

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

February 1, 2011: Bring Back the Whip! A Birthday Gift for William F Mangels

October 6, 2010: Traveler: Where You Can Play Fascination Year Round

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