As many have already pointed out, the imminent redevelopment of Coney Island may very well turn out to be a garish Disneyfied nightmare, complete with a Vegas-style hotel or two. A multi-million dollar food court, and a string of expensive restaurants can’t be far behind. Neptune Avenue in winter may resemble one fifteen block-long auto repair shop, with gas fumes and broken glass in the streets, but for us it’s the old Coney Island takeout over whatever neon-encrusted dining room the developers will throw at us. Here are four reasons why:
1) “I’ll make something for you Russian style,” says the woman from the work kitchen of A & S Homestyle Catering, an uninviting pink cinderblock building with bars on the windows next to a tire shop on Neptune Avenue. As described in Robert Sietsima’s review, the narrow waiting area of this cheap eats place is stacked with all kinds of boxes; a large aluminum stockpot filled with raw potatoes literally takes up 30% of the dining area. “Tomatoes, Lettuce, Mayo. I got it,” the woman in the kitchen says. “Come back in ten minutes.” Gothamist takes a quick walk up Cropsey Island to the Coney Island Creek, hoping to catch a glimpse of the abandoned yellow submarine, but we’re not close enough to the Dreier-Offerman Park side to see it. When we got back to A&S Homestyle Catering, we’re handed a brown paper bag containing a pint of borsch full of meat and potatoes, and a huge roast pork sandwich with a fried egg between two thick slices of Russian black bread. Final cost? $5.50. A & S also offers an unbeatable $6.99 lunch special. Can’t find it? Look for the empty pickle buckets out by the road. Find them and you’re there.
2) The original, unflappable Nathan’s on Surf Avenue is open all year round, and it’s no surprise that it remains busy throughout the winter. A huge countdown clock over Stillwell Avenue advertises the annual July 4th hot dog eating contest (current record- Japan’s Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi, who put away 53 and ¾ dogs and buns last year in 12 minutes). The rolldown security windows may be closed over half of the summer concession space, but the white tiled no-frills dining area fills up all day long with digital camera toting tourists, city workers on break, and the occasional couple on a romantic date. On the rare occasion when there’s nobody in the place, you can hear the heating elements in the overhead units crack. In addition to “yes we have them” fried frog’s legs, Nathan’s also serves a tolerable clam chowder. A pint of Coney Island Clam Chowder (aka Manhattan anywhere else), while a little sodium heavy, goes for the bargain basement price of $2.29. For dogs, go toward the end of the lunch rush. It’s almost counterintuitive, but dogs that sit for a minute or so more than they need to on the grill actually get toasted buns- and that’s not something you can get in the summer, unless you’re on the beach (sorry). Print this coupon and get two for the price of one.
3) The sign next to the entrance of Totonno’s pizza warns “NO SLICES.” The “oldest continuously operating pizzeria by the same family in the United States” needs little introduction aside from this fact. From their take on proper pie composition (cheese before sauce), to the surprisingly good sit-down fancier entrees, Totonno’s is a must visit for any self-respecting pizza lover. That’s all. Closed Monday and Tuesday, and again, NO SLICES.
4) The Coney Island Soup Shop is a new addition to Neptune Avenue. Operated by a French Culinary Institute-trained chef, this spot, with its framed serving-suggestion portraits of egg sandwiches and a front window display cluttered with a distinct Linens ‘n Things aesthetic, serves hearty soups and straight-forward, delicious sandwiches. Gothamist tried the generically named Seafood Chowder ($6) and found an honest, cream-based soup brimming with pieces of lobster, shrimp, and carrots. Creamy Chicken ($5) was also good. The Coney Island Soup Shop offers a selection of sweet and savory empanadas; the guava and cream cheese is particularly good. The shop’s website occasionally updates a list of new flavors, and labels them into categories, like S for spicy and DF for dairy free. Check out this Chowhound review of the place for more information.
A & S Homestyle Catering
1711 Neptune Ave
1310 Surf Ave
1524 Neptune Avenue
Coney Island Soup Shop
1415 Neptune Avenue