There is no greater place to feel fully immersed in a foreign culture without leaving New York City than Brighton Beach a/k/a "Little Russia by the Sea."
On a recent Sunday afternoon, I met up with my friend Monica in Union Square and we took the subway about 40 minutes to the Brighton Beach stop.
As we walked along Brighton Beach Avenue, the main thoroughfare running beneath the elevated subway tracks, it was fascinating to see and hear that Russian was completely dominant – in the Cyrillic street signs, the periodicals at the newspaper stands, and the conversations around us. There were Russian vendors selling goods and delicacies directly on the sidewalks in front of their storefronts.
We bought cheese and egg filled breads for only a couple dollars and ate them while walking to the boardwalk.
Our next stop was for a pick-me-up at the most famous institution on the promenade, Tatiana’s Restaurant & Nightclub.
We were pleased that there was no minimum to sit outside, though the wait staff was not exactly attentive. We ordered tea with jelly (jelly = delicious stewed cherries) and hot pink vegetable borscht. The food was better than expected, but the people-watching was even more superb. Despite the broad daylight, the dress code for adults at a children's birthday party inside appeared to be club attire – short tight dresses and platform heels dominated. Needless to say, Tatiana’s did not disappoint and I would love to go back for the four-course, $20. lunch special or the nighttime floor show.
After Tatiana’s, Monica swam in the ocean while I walked the length of the boardwalk to Coney Island, about 10-15 minutes away. The crowds on the boardwalk were incredibly diverse and engaged in all different sports from kit sailing to volleyball to strength training.
Before heading back to Manhattan, we stopped at the Vintage Food Corporation, a Turkish bazaar selling inexpensive dried fruits, nuts, olives, cheeses, and other gourmet items. There was a colorful Russian candy section, but it was difficult to navigate without English labels.
We both bought a plethora of groceries and headed back to Union Square, exhausted after the fun, authentically Russian beach day.
My favorite places in Brighton Beach:
Tatiana Restaurant & Nightclub - 3152 Brighton 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11235 (718) 891-5151
Vintage Food Corporation - 287 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11235 (718) 769-6674