I visited the Nathan's Famous flagship store in Coney Island a few weeks back, determined to hate it. The iconic restaurant had been closed since being hit by Hurricane Sandy, and was further decimated by a fire in May. I expected the resulting renovation to be slick and anodyne, like much of the new and soon-to-come Coney.
I was surprised by how much I liked what I saw. Let's be honest: What makes the Coney Island Nathan's great—aside from the hot dogs and fries themselves—is the iconic neon exterior. That's always been the case, and it is happily still intact. The interior of recent decades was always a study in cramped ugliness. Zero charm. The new Nathan's has been redesigned with an eye toward spaciousness and efficiency. For the first time in long memory, I didn't feel dirty and claustrophobic upon entering. There was plenty of space for the throngs and many cashier lines. I waited five minutes for my food, instead of the usual twenty.
There's also a new raw bar. A marked improvement.