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My Favorite Street // Surf Avenue, Coney Island

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Nathan's Famous
“A day at Coney Island always begins with Nathan’s Famous hot dogs,” says Aronofsky, who will have a hot dog and crinkle-cut French fries even though he’s sworn off red meat. “The mustard, the bun, it’s perfect. It’s a pretty stunning experience.”
The New York Aquarium
“I love to swing by The New York Aquarium. I was once there on a rainy day when it was almost empty,” he says. “I had an encounter with a walrus that thought I was a trainer. He came right up to me, and when he realized I didn’t have food, he sprayed me with water.” Surf Ave. and W. 8th St.
MCU Stadium
“The Eldorado bumper cars are the greatest bumper cars in the world,” he says. “You’re always bump, bump, bumping your butt off. Nearby is MCU Stadium, home to the Brooklyn Cyclones. It’s a small park, so you can be right up there with the action.” 1904 Surf Ave.
Brighton Beach

The Coney Island boardwalk is about five miles long and starts at the Brooklyn community of Brighton Beach, which is near Aronofsky’s old neighborhood. “It’s a mixture of older people and young Russians, a great crossroads of people and culture at the beach," Aronofsky says. “I love to walk past the handball courts where the old-timers still play."

Tatiana Restaurant
Each June, after the Mermaid Parade down Surf Avenue, which ushers in the official beginning of summer on Coney Island, Aronofsky likes to end the day at Tatiana Restaurant, in the Russian area now known as Little Odessa. “We eat Russian food, then watch the sunset,” he says. 3152 Brighton 6th St.
Cyclone Roller Coaster

Aronofsky says he never passes up a chance to ride on the Cyclone roller coaster, which was built in 1927 and still has the same distinctive wooden frame. “It’s terrifying because you never know if it’s going to survive.”

Photo courtesy of photolibrary.com

Totonno’s
“A block off Surf Avenue is Totonno’s, the best pizza I’ve ever eaten,” Aranofsky says, adding that it used to only be open Saturdays. These days there are four locations in New York, and the pizzeria is open Wednesday through Sunday. 1524 Neptune Ave.

Director Darren Aronofsky often explores themes of despair in his films—Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler, to name a few. His new movie, Black Swan, is a psychological thriller set in the world of ballet. But in his own life, the 41-year-old New York City native loves the uplifting, nostalgic milieu of Surf Avenue, the main drag of Brooklyn’s Coney Island on the Atlantic Ocean, where he spent childhood summers at the arcade downing saltwater taffy. “When immigrants came to this country, the first place they went for fun was Coney Island,” says Aronofsky, who has a 4-year-old son, Henry, with actress Rachel Wiesz. “It carries the ghosts of a dying amusement park. Now a lot is happening there, and it’s coming back again.”

Coney Island, on the southern tip of Brooklyn in New York City, was America’s great amusement park at the turn of the 20th century.

—Jeanne Dorin McDowell
Photos by Evan Sung

This article has been adapted from the original, which appeared in the December 2010 issue of Sky.

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