The newest addition to Coney Island’s Riegelmann Boardwalk combines both fine and casual dining with both live entertainment and deep-rooted history.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), iStar, Live Nation and Legends Hospitality on Tuesday, May 16 cut the ribbon on the long-awaited restoration of the old Childs Building – 3052 West 21st Street – to mark the grand opening of Kitchen 21, a first-of-its-kind five-concept restaurant adjacent to the new Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk and inside the previously landmarked structure.
Originally constructed in 1923, the Childs Building served as home to the storied Childs Restaurant until the 1950s when the space was converted to a candy manufacturing facility. In wake of the sweet shop’s closure, the building fell into disrepair and became a vacant eyesore on Coney Island’s iconic – and now-booming – boardwalk.
That is, until Legends Hospitality – the award-winning company responsible for the food at such large-scale venues as Yankee Stadium and One World Observatory, as well as 39 amphitheaters across the country – and Craveable Hospitality Group – the restaurant group behind such successes as Aspen Kitchen and Rickhouse Social in Aspen, Colorado and JIMMY and David Burke Kitchen in New York City – got their hands on the space.
They, with the help of designer and architect Ewing Cole, re-imagined and reworked the abandoned building into a comfortable and relaxing environment where with menus that are just as inviting plus a direct line to the attached amphitheater in the form of a gate that doubles as both a wall to the venue and, when lifted, an opening onto the new concert space’s stage (which, managers told this paper, in the winter time will allow the Amphitheater still to host shows via Kitchen 21’s stadium seated-dining hall, rather than the outdoor digs it utilizes in the summertime).
Furthermore, the full-service restaurant comes with five distinctly different dining concepts – all under one roof (and inside a space that, besides necessary restorations and enhancements, was left fairly untouched, with much of the old Childs Buildings’ original flooring and architecture still in place).
Local residents and tourists alike can stop in for a quick bite from The Café (and return back to the beach at their leisure) or sit down with friends at either the Test Kitchen (where they can experience the latest in food and wine trends from across the city), the Community Clam Bar (where the focus is freshly caught raw seafood), the Parachute Bar (a gastro-pub where there are 32 different beers on tap, including a brew of its own) or the rooftop’s Boardwalk & Vine (an upstairs eatery serving small bites, local favorites and – perhaps most notably – wine on tap).
“Bringing new, exciting dining to entertainment at the international landmark of Coney Island is a great responsibility that we are honored to have,” said CT Nice, vice president at Legends Hospitality Group. “After months of ideating, we can’t wait to bring each Kitchen 21 concept to life and enhance the overall experience at Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island.”
The creation of the complex Kitchen 21 was a long time coming, according to stakeholders.
NYCEDC first brokered the deal for the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk and the adaptive reuse of the adjacent Childs Building with iStar and nonprofit Coney Island USA in 2014 — a public-private partnership that included a $60 million investment from the offices of the Brooklyn borough president, the New York City Council and the mayor.
That investment, they said, supported the renovation of the Childs Building as well as property acquisition, development of the 5,000-seat amphitheater and the creation of 40,000 square feet of open space.
All of this is indicative of where Coney Island is headed.
“Coney Island is booming,” said NYCEDC President James Patchett. “Unprecedented investment is creating opportunities for residents and driving the neighborhood forward as one of the country’s landmark destinations. Kitchen 21 in the historic Childs Building will bring incredible dining experiences and another reason to visit the thriving amusement district.”
Since its opening, Kitchen 21 has helped to create close to 150 new jobs – nearly 75 percent of which have gone to Brooklyn residents – making for a total of 300 living wage jobs in Coney Island via both the new venue and the Ford Amphitheater. Through the city’s HireNYC program, both spaces have targeted local residents for available positions.
“We are ecstatic about the opening of Kitchen 21 on the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk. This addition, alongside the Ford Amphitheater, brings a new element of cuisine for any type of foodie to Coney Island,” said Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island. “Bringing back to life the landmarked Childs Restaurant is an experience visitors should not miss.”
Other noteworthy features include Boardwalk & Vine‘s ability to serve as a VIP area during select concerts at the adjacent amphitheater, as well as the venue’s ability to transform into nearly any type of event space. Upon closer look, a small window attached to a wall of the rooftop venue provides a look straight down onto the amphitheater’s stage — “so that VIP ticket holders can take a look at the stage and see exactly what’s going on during set up,” noted General Manager Jim Coughlin — weather permitting, of course.
“Kitchen 21 is an exciting and innovative new addition to Coney Island’s growing roster of culinary delights,” noted Councilmember Mark Treyger. “This foodie paradise promises to be a hit with visitors and, with employment opportunities for local residents, members of the community, as well.”
“I’m thrilled to celebrate the opening of Kitchen 21 in Coney Island,” agreed Assemblymember Pamela Harris. “In addition to boosting the economy and creating jobs, Kitchen 21 offers new and exciting dining options to both residents and visitors. Its location, next to the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk, provides an ideal venue to also experience state-of-the-art music and entertainment. I look forward to frequenting this wonderful, newly renovated establishment throughout the year.”
Check back soon for this paper’s full dining review of Kitchen 21.