You won’t have any trouble finding a bite to eat in Coney Island, where hot dog, gelato and even empanada vendors are accessible every few planks on the boardwalk. And if you prefer to eat sitting down (on a chair, not on the sand), there are plenty of options for that as well. Here are some of our favorites.
Original: 1310 Surf Ave., 718-333-2202
Boardwalk: 1205 Boardwalk, 718-714-7207
Ah, Nathan's: home to some of the world's favorite hot dogs and host of its most famous eating competition, the Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, during which superhuman competitors—who train and strategize relentlessly—try to eat as many as possible in 10 short minutes. Founded in 1916 by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker, Nathan's Famous is an enduring testament to New York City's multicultural tradition, its culinary prowess and its sense of fun. It’s not all about hot dogs, either—the french fries and clams are popular choices as well. You can even buy frog's legs at the Surf Avenue location, if you dare. Whatever you plan to get, save the meal for after you ride the Cyclone or Thunderbolt.
1318 Surf Ave., 718-372-0302
Searching for dessert after a Nathan’s hot dog? Williams Candy, located next door, is a popular choice. The second you step into the tiny shop, the smell of sugar practically punches you in the face (get near the popcorn machine and the scent begins to mingle with a more savory fragrance). The main attractions at the store are the chewy, sugary candied Granny Smith apples. Other offerings include fudge, ice cream and some much-ballyhooed caramel marshmallow sticks. Like the rest of Coney Island, this place caters more to your inner child than to any adult need for prudence or responsibility—but Williams Candy's satisfied customers don’t seem to be complaining. One man who can’t personally say how much he enjoys the candy? Owner Peter Agrapides. “I don't eat any of it,” he says. “I’m not a candy eater. But people love my candy.”
Ruby’s Bar & Grill
1213 Boardwalk, 718-975-7829
The atmosphere is lively at Ruby’s, a boisterous watering hole and eatery with a view of the sea. “No shirt, no shoes, no service” is decidedly not the rule here, where shirtless men and swimsuit-clad women frequently come straight in from the beach and make a beeline for the bar. Patrons seated at communal tables happily guzzle draft beers from plastic cups and gobble classic Coney fare like corn dogs, hot sausages and pizza. The institution has been around in some form or other since 1934, and its bar and ceiling are made partially out of old wood from the boardwalk; co-owner Michael Sarrel estimates they have 10,000 square feet of the stuff.
1524 Neptune Ave., 718-372-8606
Appealing to hard-core pizza fans, Totonno’s is a few blocks inland. Since 1924, it's been serving Neapolitan treats (by the pie only), which some New Yorkers call the best in the City. For more than 90 years, says owner Louise Ciminieri, “the place is the same and the pizza is the same.” It’s this consistency that led the James Beard Foundation to declare the place one of “America's Classics.”
1215 Surf Ave., 718-676-2630
Another acclaimed New York City pizzeria—best known for its location near the Brooklyn Bridge—also runs a branch on Surf Avenue, not far from the Cyclone.
Tom’s Coney Island
1229 Boardwalk, 718-942-4200
Tom’s—a Prospect Heights institution and a breakfast favorite for many Brooklynites—operates an outpost on the boardwalk, peddling not only its famous flavored pancakes but also, come summertime, some beach-appropriate seafood.
2911 W. 15th St., 718-266-4891
This classy joint’s majestic dining room features very high ceilings, fish tanks in the back and a relaxing classical soundtrack. The restaurant serves homemade Italian fare including seafood and pasta, and has been in Coney Island for more than 100 years.