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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Bitetzakis’

Steve Bitetzakis

Steve Bitetzakis in front of his restaurant on the Coney Island Boardwalk. November 6, 2010. Photo © Jim Kiernan via jamienyc/flickr

Coney Island lost one of its own last night. Steve Bitetzakis, 54, the owner of Steve’s Grill House located on the Coney Island Boardwalk from 1993 until 2011, passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Decorative flags, flowerpots, hand-painted signage and ample seating gave Steve’s Grill House a homey ambiance. Friends remembered him as a nice guy who knew all of his customers and would help out people who were hungry. “He’d say, you can pay me when you have the money, but I’m sure they never did,” said retired arcade operator Stanley Fox. “But he was that kind of guy.”

Door of the Grill House. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

Handpainted Sign on Door of the Grill House. August 1, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i

The restaurateur was the last hold out of the “Coney Island 8” evicted from the Boardwalk by Zamperla. In February 2012, he called off plans to have his modular building moved down Stillwell and instead took a buyout. Steve invested in a state-of-the-art concession trailer which opened for Easter of last year on Thor Equities’ Stillwell Avenue lot leased to the BK Festival.

Unfortunately, he lost his location to Cha Cha’s Club Atlantis and had to move to another lot leased by the festival where he was not able to open for business. The BK Festival’s plan for satellite locations on Surf Avenue called for opening the fencing during business hours but it turned out that city regulations did not permit it. Steve’s shuttered trailer remained parked on the Surf Avenue lot until a few weeks ago when all of the vehicles on the lot were towed away to a City pound.

Steve's Grill House

Steve's New Grill House concession trailer at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

It was sad to see Steve’s Grill House leave Coney Island since we knew he was ill and his restaurant was not likely to be coming back. There was no spot for him to lease in the new Coney Island, even though there are still empty lots.

Steve’s family has a long history of operating food concessions in Coney Island. His father Gregory Bitetzakis was the co-owner of Gregory & Paul’s, which opened more than 50 years ago. After Gregory retired in 2009, the restaurant changed its name to Paul’s Daughter. Steve first got sand in his shoes working for his father in the G & P’s on West 10th Street opposite the Cyclone. “He wanted to be in Coney Island more than anything,” said an old friend.

A wake will be held at the Dahill Funeral Home, 2525 65th Street, Brooklyn, on Tuesday, May 21st from 5 until 9 pm.

Grill House coney Island Boardwalk

Steve’s Grill House, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Steve's Grill House

Steve's New Grill House at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On Easter Sunday, Steve Bitetzakis opened his new Grill House at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue next to Scream Zone. The menu is the same as his previous spot on the Boardwalk– hamburgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, shish-ke-bab, chicken wings, french fries and knishes. Old friends and longtime customers were happy to see him back in business. The eatery is housed in a newly purchased concession trailer. The decorative flags, hand-painted signage and seating that gave the Boardwalk eatery a homey ambiance appear to be the next order of business.

Steve’s was among several food stands and trailers opening for Easter on Thor Equities’ Stillwell East lot leased to the BK Festival. On Memorial Day Weekend, rides and attractions are expected to fill the festival lot and it will be called “Steeplechase Amusement Park.”

Located on the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, Bitetzakis was one of the “Coney Island 8” evicted by Zamperla. In February he called off plans to have his modular building moved down Stillwell and instead sold it to Zamperla, which is remodeling it and the adjoining Beer Island to create their own beach bar on the Boardwalk.

Steve's Grill House

Steve Bitetzakis, the owner of Steve’s Grill House on the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, with his son at their new location. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Steve’s family has a long history of operating food concessions in Coney Island. His father Gregory Bitetzakis was the co-owner of Gregory & Paul’s and operated the G & P’s on West 10th Street opposite the Cyclone until his retirement in 2009.

As ATZ reported over the weekend, the majority of the original “Coney Island 8″ eateries are coming back this season. The relocated Cha Cha’s, the Grill House’s neighbor on the Boardwalk, also opened on Sunday. When we stopped by the new bar and restaurant on the north side of Surf across from Nathan’s Famous, John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia was holding court at a front table and regulars were dropping by for their first drinks of the season. Cha Cha’s new address is 1315 Surf Avenue, the space formerly occupied by Surf N Turf Grill.

Steve's Grill House

Steve's New Grill House at the BK Festival on Stillwell Avenue. April 8, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE June 25, 2012:

We’re sorry to report that Steve’s is temporarily closed. After losing his spot on Stillwell when the BK Festival closed to make way for the new Steeplechase Park, Steve’s trailer was relocated to Thor Equities’ Surf Avenue lot at West 12th Street. While Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park finally managed to open on Mermaid Parade Day after a four week delay, the satellite locations on Surf remain closed for now. In addition, Steve’s new location has literally left his trailer up against a fence. The original plans for the new Steeplechase park and the other two locations called for opening the fencing during business hours. It turns out that city regulations will not permit it.

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Grill House coney Island Boardwalk

Steve's Grill House, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Steve Bitetzakis, the owner of Steve’s Grill House on the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1993, called off plans to have his modular building jacked up and moved down Stillwell Avenue. The move had been postponed till this week, but was called off after the restaurant owner made a deal to sell the building to Zamperla for an undisclosed sum. On Monday, workers were removing restaurant equipment and cleaning the place out.

Bitetzakis plans to relocate his grill house in Coney Island, possibly with a state-of-the-art concession trailer. Steve’s Grill House was the last holdout of the Coney Island 8, a group of Boardwalk Mom and Pops who banded together to fight their eviction by Zamperla in 2010. Late last year, Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter were offered eight-year leases on the Boardwalk, but Steve’s was left out in the cold. The above photo, taken at sunset on the last day of the 2010 season, is one of our favorites.

The Grill House building is on land that the City bought from Thor Equities in 2009 and leased to Zamperla. It’s the site of the soon-to-be-constructed Speed Zone, where Go Karts and a Sky Coaster are part of the amusement operator’s plans for this season. Will the Grill House be transformed into a trattoria by the sea or an upscale redo of its former neighbor Beer Island? Stay tuned. Coney Island’s opening day is just six weeks away.

Steve's Grill House, Coney Island Boardwalk. Last day of season, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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