Let a Coney Island native guide your day trip along the boardwalk

Born-and-raised Coney Islander Glenn Harris takes us back to his home borough with the best of what to see and do in Brooklyn's own theme park.
Nathan’s Famous hot dogs are meant to be enjoyed, not just scarfed down in eating contests. Credit: Mattia Panciroli, flickr

 

Nathan’s Famous hot dogs are meant to be enjoyed, not just scarfed down in eating contests. Credit: Mattia Panciroli, flickr

If nothing says summer like a day trip to Coney Island, then few people know how to make the most of it better than Glenn Harris.

 

The chef/owner of Jane and The Smith, Harris’ love of the area goes above and beyond. He was born at Coney Island Hospital and grew up on the beach, eating Nathan’s hot dogs and kissing girls under the boardwalk. He even has a Coney Island tattoo.

 

So as we enter the dog days of summer, the ones that can only be endured within sight of the ocean or the wind in your face as you scream along the rollercoaster track at Luna Park, we asked Harris for his favorite things to see and do.

 

And Manhattan — don’t let the distance scare you. It’s a straight shot on the D, F, N and Q trains, and it’s just $32 for four hours of unlimited rides on most attractions.

 

Favorite Eats

Even among the “tons of great food” on the boardwalk, Harris has his favorites. Nathan's Famous isn’t meant to be scarfed down in a competition; savor a hot dog with fries, with a side of clams on the half-shell and an ice cold beer. Go for the caramel cashew marshmallows at Williams Candy (1318 Surf Ave.); for something more upscale, Gargiulo's Restaurant (2911 W. 15th St.) does Italian right. “I love their hot antipasto and pastas."

But the good eats don’t end at the boardwalk. “I would drive back home, so that on the way I can stop at L&B Spumoni Garden (2725 86th St.) for a square slice, or Randazzo's Clam Bar (2017 Emmons Ave.) for Brooklyn-style half-shells and calamari. I also like to check out the Russian food stores in Brighton Beach, where you can choose from dozens of smoked meats, sausages, fish and caviar."

What to Do

Start at the New York Aquarium; the native species tank is Harris’ favorite. Then head to the boardwalk and ride the classic 1927 Cyclone wooden rollercoaster before lunch — pizza at Totonno Pizzeria Napolitana (1524 Neptune Ave.) is always a must. Grab a drink at Ruby's Bar & Grill (1213 Boardwalk W.) and then check out the Circus Sideshow.

Harris likes his thrills. The new steel coaster Thunderbolt opened this summer after the original was demolished in 2000. Or catapult yourself in the air without a track on the Slingshot. Shoot the Clown, which replaced Shoot the Freak after it closed in 2010, also makes Harris’ list.

Even if you don't have something to be nostalgic about, Coney Island is a rare slice of a disappearing New York.

“One thing I love most about Coney Island is that it holds on to its roots. It’s classic Brooklyn," he says. "I hope it stays that way, even with new areas being developed."

Follow Eva Kis on Twitter @thisiskis or email eva.kis@metro.us.

 
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