Monday, April 12, 2010

Brighton Beach on a Budget

Brighton Beach is a Coney Island community that deserves a closer look. While on the surface it may resemble a beach town neighborhood, brimming with pierogies and vodka (which are quite tasty), it is quite a lovely slice of life that has remained relatively untouched by tourists. It has provided a colorful background for films such as Requiem for a Dram, Lord of War, We Own the Night, Little Odessa, Mysterious Skin, and Two Lovers, as well as providing fodder for novels by Robin Cook (Vector),  Leslea Newman (In Every Laugh a tear), and Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach memoirs.

We suggest loading up a Gogol Bordello playlist and taking a trip on the Q or B train the next time you’re in the mood to have a Brooklyn adventure.

1. Café Glechik (3159 Coney Island Ave) is known for it’s Ukranian dumplings ($6), straight from a recipe belonging to the owner’s grandmother herself. You can even expect great service if you’re clad in your flip-flops and swimming trunks. While we usually opt to skip the borscht ($6) in favor of the chicken soup with krepeleh ($6), we assure you there’s no better bargain on a chilly spring afternoon. Cash only, open daily 10a-10p.
2. M&I International (249 Brighton Beach Ave) serves up a cornucopia of Slavic and Eastern European treats, from  smoked fish, to pickled vegetables, to homemade stuffed cabbage. Three floors of Eastern delicacies and snacks will leave your tastes for all things European satisfied, and be sure to brush up on your Russian before stopping by- some signs and labels are printed in Cyrillic only, and most staff assume their customers all speak Russian. Open daily, 8a-10p.
3. Anyway Café (111 Oriental Blvd) offers vodka-flavored fun- in fact, we’d recommend the $5 vodka shot. If you’re in the mood for strong drinks, lip-smacking cocktails, and shots that will leave you coming back for more, make Anytime Café a stop on your Brighton Beach extravaganza.

  1. The Brighton Pier, also known as the Palace Pier, opened in 1899. Similar to Coney Island but decidedly less iconic, the Palace Pier features a fun fair, restaurants, arcade halls, and boardwalk games. 
  2. People watch. From the adorable old men playing chess on the Boardwalk to the Russian grandmama’s rushing to pick up their evening groceries, there are plenty of interesting locals who deserve a second glance. Stake out a bench with your friends and get ready for an afternoon of creating stories for all the people you see.
  1. Go to the beach. Brighton Beach is an excellent place to pick up a surfing lesson or two before the summer begins. Water sports not your thing? Bring a towel and your sunscreen and lay out to catch some of that that late-spring sun.
  2. Stroll the wooden boardwalk at night and enjoy a variety of music, restaurants, and boardwalk games. If the night is clear enough, you can even spot Astroland from the distance!
1. If you want the full Brighton Beach experience, try the National (273 Brighton Beach Ave) for a big dinner theatre/dancing/$60-95 prix fixe meal/vodka bottle experience. Steven Segal doppelgangers in satin harem pants come out to entertain the crowd, top hats, pasties, cabana boys, cabaret dancers, feathers, drag queens, and bumble bee outfits are just a few of the wonders that await at the show that Anthony Bourdain has called “a show that if John Waters saw would turn into a Broadway show and make it a hit”. And we’ve never been one to doubt the sexiest chef alive.

SPEND: (not including $2.25 metrocard) $8-10

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