Coney Island Fun Guide: Food and Art At Coney Smorgasburg & Coney Art Walls
I'm a big fan of Coney Island–by which I mean the beach, the boardwalk, the diverse crowd, the games and rides–because even as it gets more and more spruced up, even as it adds more and more bland chain stores, there still remains the gritty, side-show, carny-barker heart of the place. Yes, the Scream Zone and the Thunderbolt are state of the art, but the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel feel as thrillingly old-school as ever (not to mention the DIY-looking Ghost Hole haunted house ride), and if you ever venture into the games area in the "back alley" between the boardwalk and Surf Avenue, you'll see a lot of folks who have been hustling suckers for a looooong time. That said, my biggest complaint about Coney has always been the (really bad) food. Yup, even Nathan's Famous, which is one of the worst restaurants I've ever bothered to eat at in all of NYC. And then suddenly, a miracle! Smorgasburg has just opened up shop in a big lot right off the beach, with a dozen first-rate vendors, two bar areas, AND nearly 20 amazing murals created by some of today's best street artists.
What To Eat In Coney Island: Coney Smorgasburg
Because the vendors at this Smorgasburg are here all summer long (Friday through Sunday until June 21, then daily through Labor Day), they needed something more permanent than the usual tent/table set-up of the once-a-week versions in Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Enter those ever-versatile shipping containers, painted in bright, festive colors and providing a kind of structure and flow to the place. All of the food here is good, but some of my favorites include Bon Chovie and their appropriately ocean-evoking crispy fried anchovies (get them with the head still on for maximum flavor); all of the sandwiches at Mile End; the lobster rolls at Red Hook Lobster Pound (of course); and the frozen treats at Blue Marble Ice Cream and La Newyorkina.
What To See In Coney Island: Coney Art Walls
Adding to the festive atmosphere are what's being called Coney Art Walls, about 20 free-standing "canvases" with murals by the likes of Shepard Fairey, Lady Aiko, Maya Hayuk, Crash, Ron English, Kenny Scharf, Ben Eine, and How & Nosm. These are all terrific, great work from an all-star lineup of street artists, and are reason alone to come check out the space. Also of note: Coney Art Walls was curated by Jeffery Deitch, who used to put on wild, fantastic exhibitions at his two galleries in Soho before he left for California to head up the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art. Deitch returned to NYC about a year ago, and as far as I know this is his first project since coming back.
More Info On What To See and What To Do on Coney Island
Smorgasburg Coney Island and Coney Art Walls are located between the boardwalk and Surf Avenue, right next to Stillwell Avenue and the Thunderbolt roller coaster. The lot is open on Friday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. until June 22; after that it's all open every day.