By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Mom may tell you to wait 30 minutes after eating before you can take a swim, but does that apply to those of us on a liquid diet, too? Aquatic expert Katie Kime, a 22-year-old lifeguard from New Jersey, sounds positively appalled at the very notion. "Drinking?!," she scolds. "It's never good to put yourself in the water where you are not 100 percent in control." How Red Cross–certified of Katie. Nevertheless, while the blissful combination of sun, surf, and Sauza tequila may seem an enviable one, do yourself (and those nubile lifeguards) a favor and wait till your dip is done before hitting up the drinking joints we found along New York City's sandy bits.
For a city shore, South Beach is relatively pristine—Great Kills and Wolfe's Pond, two beaches a little further south are filthy. (Did we expect anything named "Great Kills" would be clean? We're just thankful it's not blood-drenched.) Yet its position on the Lower New York Bay doesn't let sunbathers forget where they are: The Verrazano Bridge looms large and the whimsical spires of Coney Island gleam in the distance.
Seeing as how Staten Island is nearer the Jersey Shore than most of New York, it ought to know a thing or two about throwing a good beach party. Yes, the newish construction on South Beach is a boardwalk in the sense that it's a place to walk and it's made of boards. It's named after FDR, but Roosevelt liked a bit of fun as much as the next polio-stricken, wartime pres. Were he here to see it, he might bemoan his namesake's grievous lack of beer, corn dogs, and unwinnable ring tosses. The sole drinking establishment on the boardwalk is South Fin Grill (300 Father Capodanno Boulevard, 718-447-7679), a seafood restaurant that shares a front porch with a catering hall popular with the Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation crowd. A man in top hat and tails will direct you to the correct entrance and settle you in the lounge section where you can perch fruity drink on one of the checkered, sand-strewn chairs. On Fridays and Saturdays, the outdoor deck becomes a "tiki bar" with live music, cocktails in the $8 to $11 range, and perfect views.
One block from the Stillwell Avenue subway station—a sprawling depot meant to evoke Europe's massive train halls—stands a crumbling façade at the corner of Surf Avenue and West 12th Street. The windows of the two-story structure are plastered over with newspaper, and penny pinchers pick aluminum cans out of the trash in front. Under a plain black awning, it's easy to miss the glowing "Open" sign and the doorway leading to the Coney Island Museum, where, for 99 cents, visitors can glimpse historic ephemera from the beach's heyday. By Memorial Day, the building will boast a ground-floor Freak Bar expanded from eight stools to 20, plus ice-cream-parlor-style tables, a vintage jukebox, a Coney Island pinball machine, and an upright piano. For now, enter on West 12th, and grab a bottle of Coney Island Lager before watching the fire eater and sword swallower at the upstairs freak show.
With the threat of its demise, there's lots of talk about what makes Coney Island such a great place. Mermaids and indie-music shows aside, there's no better pleasure than walking in the sun on a city block with a beer in your hand. Better yet, make that a $4 pint. Better yet, make it a two-foot-tall piña colada in a plastic cup shaped like a naked man's body—available at the beachside refreshment stands.
Your anthropomorphic beverage should last you long enough to cruise over Brighton Beach. Hang a left at Coney Island Avenue, and stop in for a game or two at Club Boardwalk (3200 Coney Island Avenue, 718-934-7777). The five ping-pong tables are hard to snag, but ten 42-inch TVs, 20 billiard tables, four Russian-pyramid tables, and two snooker tables make this one of the best-equipped halls serving South Brooklyn. Boardwalk carries bottled beers (all $4), and games start at $4.50 per person per hour. As you stroll back to the subway, grab a snack on Brighton Beach Avenue, a thoroughfare dotted with Slavic grocery stores and restaurants.