What's Good at Brighton Beach

What’s Good at Brighton Beach

It’s so true that you don’t miss what you have until it’s gone. I grew up about an hour away from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, but I never realized how great Gulf beaches are until I visited New York beaches last year.


 

It’s so true that you don’t miss what you have until it’s gone. I grew up about an hour away from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, but I never realized how great Gulf beaches are until I visited New York beaches last year. The experience aligned with what I’ve come to feel about my quality of life in New York City: tolerable enough, if I think really hard about the small town I left behind. It’s all relative. New York beaches are sufficient, even nice, if I pretend I’ve never dipped a toe in the Gulf of Mexico.

I see potential though, in pairing a beach trip with something else cool. Beach + immersion in an ethnic enclave. Kind of like my first beach trip of 2015, to Brighton Beach, this past Sunday. E.B. had suggested it since it was easy to reach via subway. I would definitely go again to further explore the neighborhood, and this could be my go-to beach since getting there was so convenient.

Here are some learnings for you, in case you’re still trying to figure out which New York beach to visit.

Scene: Overwhelmingly Eastern European. Family-oriented, with many babies and babushkas. Sensible swim suits (no G-strings or Speedos here) but ridiculous-in-not-a-good-way tattoos. Crowded with locals, which is better than being crowded with tourists.

Water/Sand: Dirty.

Transportation: B or Q train. About 1 hour from uptown Manhattan.

Surrounding Area: Brighton Beach the neighborhood, aka “Little Odessa,” is full of small businesses catering to Russian/Polish/Ukrainian speakers. This is a gentrification-free zone. Have vareniki, pelmeni, or pierogi for lunch.

Fun Facts: Nearly half of the Brighton Beach/Coney Island population (49.8 percent) was foreign-born. The city-wide average is 35.6 percent. The median age in Brighton Beach/Coney Island is 47.9 years, compared to 34.2 years in Brooklyn borough.

Arbitrary Rating on Scale of 1-10: 7

Brighton Beach Station. Almost exactly one hour from Harlem.
Brighton Beach Station. Almost exactly one hour from Harlem.

 

Not pictured: Brighton 6, Brighton 4, etc. I've never seen streets named this way.
Not pictured: Brighton 6, Brighton 4, etc. I’ve never seen streets named this way.

 

Down the shoreline.
Coney Island in the distance. Forever retro.

 

Ocean water.
Best admired at a distance, where you can’t see the trash in the surf.

 

Umbrellas.
Lots of brightly colored umbrellas.

 

Kites.
Kites.

 

Friend and food.
Until my ability to compose shots improves, people will have to sneak into the frame. Lunch at Ocean View Cafe (there was no view of the ocean).

 

Gold Label Grocery.
We visited this sweet Russian grocery store after lunch. A+++++ would buy from again

 

Bread aisle.
The bread aisle, sans bread bags. I resisted the urge to test loaves for staleness.

 

Dried fish.
Dried and smoked fish.

 

Russian candy.
Not a single word of English on these mystery candies. Most of them ended up being some kind of chocolate-covered jellied fruit.
Russian Pastries
Second biggest regret of the trip: not getting one of these pastries. (The biggest regret was not wearing enough sunscreen.)

 

Case of sausages.
Sausage fest.

 

Frozen bulk dumplings.
Self-serve frozen dumplings by the pound. I’ve never seen frozen bulk items before, and I think the idea is BRILLIANT.

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