Sunday I set off on a true adventure... at least, a true adventure for me. Phil and I occasionally argue about the best of any type of food.... when I declare that the best Cuban sandwich is at Brisas Del Caribe in Newark, though I'm sure there are better in Union City or Miami, I get challenged because I haven't had the Cubans at some joint in Chelsea. The same is true for Phil's suggestions that Murray's has the absolute best bagels (although after trying the bagels at Murray's, I'm more inclined to believe that). I think we just enjoy arguing, and people always find their own traits to be the most inflamatory in a friend. The point of this story is that I was assured, not only by Phil, but also by his buddy Rajeev, that I had not lived as a hot dog lover until I had sampled Nathan's.... not just any Nathan's, but Coney Island's original Nathan's stand.
I've never been to Coney Island, and other than a vague sense that there might be roaming packs of wild dogs and some broken bottle fights, I was not sure what to expect. I picked up Phil, his lady friend Emily, and Rajeev outside the Tribeca Grand, and we crossed the Manhattan Bridge over to Brooklyn. It was really a quick drive and before I knew it, we were right by the Atlantic Ocean.
Coney Island actually has a very interesting history, and Nathan's was originally opened in 1916. Wikipedia does a nice job, so I won't bore you, but I recommend reading their article. We parked by the Brooklyn Cylones' stadium, since we had tickets to the 5pm game against the Aberdeen Ironbirds. You may recall that Sunday was hot and steamy, but there was a fantastic breeze off the water, and so it was understandable that so many people were out on the beach and the boardwalk.
As far as the boardwalk goes, it was definitely similar to the Jersey shore in that there were lots of fried food vendors and ridiculous games. I'd say it reminded me the most of Wildwood because there's also the Cyclone and the ferris wheel. Unlike the Jersey shore, there's a game called "Shoot the Freak" in which people pay to shoot paintballs at some poor schmuck in protective gear. As the purveyor of this game said, "Yeah, we're from Brooklyn. Yeah we shoot the freak. Yeah we swim in dirty water. And we like it." I appreciate pride in things that are less than travel brochure material. Good for him. As for the arcade games, they were a little more broke than, say, Seaside's Jenkinson's Pier.
Anyway, after a ride on the ferris wheel and some skee ball, we headed for Nathan's. Suffice it to say, the lines were rather long, and the staff, highly incompetent. But the weather was so exquisite, the company good, and the promise of fantastical hot dogs so great, that I found myself completely unconcerned. You have to love Sundays spent at a beach.... they're just good for your soul. Anyway, we finally got our hot dogs (and cheese fries!) and they were everything I thought they would be. It's difficult to explain what's so great about a good hot dog as compared to a crappy one. It's the delicate balance of grilling (I'll eat boiled dogs, but prefer grilled) and texture and flavor.... it defies description for me. I will say that while the cheese fries were exactly like the cheese fries you would have at a Nathan's in Garden State Plaza, the hot dogs were definitely in a class by themselves. Simply perfect.
Next up, we headed over to the ball park. The Cyclones are division A, affiliated with the Mets. As such, there was a lot of Mets gear about. Phil had hoped against hope that we would be among the first 2500 fans, thus garnering us beer mugs, which really did not look anything like beer mugs.... they were more like those 7-11 Big Gulp cups. I'm rather relieved that we missed out... I love my Yankees coffee to go cup, but a ginormous plastic beer mug with a strange lid? Pass, thanks.
I have been to a Newark Bears game before, and the Bears are AAA, but still managed to make 4 errors during the game, so I was eagerly anticipating the ridiculous lack of skill that would surely be present. I was not disappointed - the Cyclones were actually pretty good, but the Ironbirds got pounded and by the time we left, they had accumulated 4 scored errors (and there were others that really could have been scored as such). The stadium was lovely - nice breeze and a view of the water and the boardwalk. On the whole, a lovely, lovely Sunday in Coney Island.
On the ride home, Rajeev played the role of food mindreader when he suggested a stop for ice cream in Dumbo. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory was right on the water, with a view of lower Manhattan that almost looks like it's fake. I remember going to a roof deck party with Anhabelle one summer a couple of years ago. She was a summer associate at her firm and one of the other summers was subletting around 16th Street. The weather was beautiful, and as the sun set and the sky turned pink, you felt like you could reach out and touch the Empire State Building. It almost looks painted, it's so breathtaking. The same could be said from the view in Brooklyn. It's simply lovely. I have thought my entire life that you cannot beat the early evening skies of summer in the tri-state area... perhaps it's the pollution and burning ozone, but after two cross country trips, I still haven't seen colors like that elsewhere.