When the weather’s nice, nothing beats a trip to our city’s shores. Whether taking in the waning historic charm of a bygone era at Coney Island or parking yourself on a dune in The Rockaways, both beachside neighborhoods offer a heady mixture of fun and food. Here are the 10 best spots to indulge while enjoying these essential New York boardwalks.
10. Tom’s Coney Island, 1229 Boardwalk West, Brooklyn; 718-942-4200 Located along the boardwalk at the corner of Stillwell Avenue, the interior of this offshoot of 78-year-old classic Prospect Heights diner Tom’s Restaurant is understandably more modern looking than the original, but the same menu of tasty, grease-fueled Americana persists. Spend a morning peacocking shirtless on the beach and then enjoy a heady pork sausage omelet, or treat yourself to some totally-worth-it ocean cramps after downing one of the city’s great egg creams and a breaded chicken cutlet sandwich laced with rich brown gravy.
9. Ruby’s Bar & Grill, 1213 Boardwalk West, Brooklyn; 718-975-7829 Like certain retirement community lotharios, this sprightly 80-year-old is the life of the party. Pouring a frothy, frosty signature ale and serving up fried goodies from an attached snack stand, the boardwalk fixture now features wrought ceiling sculpture made from repurposed antique boardwalk planks. The menu’s an edible time warp of state fair-style grub, but fried seafood is crisp and well-seasoned, and slushies, ices, and funnel cakes all hit the spot.
8. Williams Candy, 1318 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-372-0302 Sharing a small seating area with Nathan’s, this is your go-to boardwalk candy shop, in business for over 75 years. Owner Peter Agrapides has overseen the operation for the past three decades, ensuring that his own fond memories of the shop — which he visited as a child — remain intact. Best-in-show are the rows and rows of candy apples, which are dipped in everything from jelly and sprinkles to chocolate and caramel. [
7. Rockaway Beach Surf Club, 302 Beach 87th Street, Queens A beacon of hope and community (re)building during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, this events space, bar, and restaurant now boasts a stationary, on-site food trailer called The Cookout from the Lodge and Urban Rustic folks. The immobile operation serves a mosaic of Brooklyn barbecue, from ginger and chili-spiked beer boiled peanuts to sriracha-glazed smoked chicken wings and a shrimp po-boy with tamarind tartar sauce.
6. Gargiulo’s, 2911 West 15th Street, Brooklyn; 718-266-4891 A few blocks away from the Coney Island boardwalk, this grand restaurant, banquet hall, and events space has been catering to locals since 1907 — and on any given night, you’re likely to encounter all manner of engagement and birthday parties. With all of Coney Island’s development issues, it’s nice to celebrate tried-and-true Brooklyn old timers like this one. For the sheer amount of people the place serves on a nightly basis, warhorse dishes like beef braciola, shrimp scampi, and the eponymous fettucine verdi al Gargiulo satisfy both hunger and nostalgia pangs.
5. Plaza Mexico Doña Zita, at Bowery Street and Henderson Walk, Brooklyn; 347-713-6427 In the shadow of the Wonder Wheel, this colorful stand serves a menu of overstuffed tacos, tortas, cemitas, and other regional Mexican snacks. Chorizo and carne asada tacos come loaded with fresh herbs, but for group dining, try a picadita, Veracruz’s answer to the sope, curled at the sides to form a masa shell bowl. If you manage to spice things up with too much salsa verde or rojo, cool down with fresh watermelon juice (crema comes in a squeeze bottle, too, but we don’t recommend drinking it).
4. Nathan’s Famous, 1310 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-946-2202 This is, perhaps, Coney Island’s most famous food purveyor, and it’s been serving snappy franks and bulbous, golden-brown, crinkle-cut french fries for almost a century. Although now best known for the national brand’s hot dog eating contest, the flagship’s post-Sandy rebuild included the addition of a raw bar — an initial feature of the restaurant that was axed in the 1950s. [
3. Rippers/Rockaway Taco, 98-1 Shorefront Parkway, Queens; 718-634-3034 / 95-19 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Queens; 347-213-7466 A collaboration between Brooklyn brand-torch carriers Roberta’s and Meat Hook, lively Rippers cooks up tremendous cheeseburgers, breakfast burritos, grilled fish tortas, and other beach-ready snacks. Also be on the lookout for cultish west coast ice cream treat It’s It. The wood hut that houses five-year-old Rockaway Taco stands a block away from the boardwalk, dealing in hella righteous California-inspired tacos (Baja-style fish is a necessity). Fresh watermelon and pineapple-mint juices make for perfect warm weather refreshment.
2. Totonno Pizzeria Napolitano, 1524 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-372-8606 One of New York’s great, historic pizzerias, Totonno’s was founded by ex-Lombardi’s employee Antonio Pero in 1924. Thanks to what may be the city’s most seasoned coal-fired ovens, the iconic shop — which has survived a fire and extensive Hurricane Sandy damage — continues to serve up a true heritage product, with puffy, charred crusts supporting bright sauce and dabs of fresh mozzarella. This is one institution that makes us go all Girl, Interrupted.
1. Thai Rock, 375 Beach 92nd Street, Queens; 718-945-5111 Robert and Metta Kaskel’s seaside Thai restaurant is truly unique, with views of Jamaica Bay, live music, and the option to rent water sports equipment. But were there no waves in sight, the food would be a draw on its own. The kitchen delivers pungent khao soi and fried tiger shrimp with ground chicken. There’s also enough som tum, larb, and spongy Thai sausage to satisfy Isaan-heads aplenty.