My family is from Ukraine, so what better way to pay homage to them then visiting Brighton Beach (aka Little Odessa) deep in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. This is a neighborhood that is often overlooked by tourists and I think that is a shame.
Brighton Beach gained most of its Russian population during the late 1970’s into the 90’s. You can see this influence, as many of the stores and restaurants have signage in both Russian and English. We start our tour with some authentic Pirozhki at one of the many vendors on Brighton Ave between 4th and 6th ave. These baked pockets of goodness, come in many flavors. I opted for the potato and it was fresh and delicious.
The next stop was the Brighton Bazaar (1007 Brighton Beach Ave), one of the largest Russian Supermarkets in the United States. You can find products from all over the former Soviet Union. One of their specialties is caviar. We bought some Russian chocolates which brought Alan back to his time in St. Petersburg. I would buy some of the beer without English lettering as a great party favor.
Speaking of gifts, do you want to find the most random items in Brooklyn? Head over to St.Petersburg Books (230 Brighton Beach Ave) for some interesting ideas. We looked at matryoshka dolls with Michael Jackson and Harry Potter themes. How about a Russian Tzarist hat? Their is a large selection of Russian language books and videos as well.
When in Brighton Beach, you have to visit the boardwalk. Not as popular or crowded as its rowdy neighbor to the south (Coney Island), you can find some authentic restaurants facing the Atlantic Ocean. We went to Volna (3145 Brighton 4th St) and grabbed a table with a nice sea breeze. To commemorate our authentic day, we each ordered a shot of Russian Standard Vodka, which turned out to be a double shot ($9.00). The next 15 minutes were a little bit woozy.
To close out our trip, we went to a unique restaurant: Cafe At Your Mother In-Law (3071 Brighton 4th St). They blend Korean, Uzbek, and Russian food on their menu. It turns out, their was a large segment of Koreans in Russia who migrated during the Stalin era. We tried a little bit of everything. I started with a Kuksu ($7.50) soup which was way to big for me to finish. It consisted of savory noodles, broth, vegetables and beef. Served cool, it was the perfect summer appetizer. My brother had the Russian/Ukranian Borsch ($5.50) and told me it reminded him of the authentic stuff. For the main course, I ate the Uzbek Plov ($6.50) which had beef,lamb,rice and veggies. This was one of my favorites, as the meat was very tender. Alan had the Manti ($7.99) which were 5 dumplings stuffed with beef. They were delicious, we could not finish it fast enough.
Are you looking for something different in NYC? Are you an adventurous eater? Or maybe you just want to have a shot of vodka facing the ocean. Consider adding Brighton Beach to your next New York City trip.