How to Spend a Day in Brighton Beach

I like to say that New York City is known for being a beach town. It certainly has more beach access than where I grew up – Atlanta’s l...


I like to say that New York City is known for being a beach town. It certainly has more beach access than where I grew up – Atlanta’s landlocked metro; that you can get to most of these beaches by metro, bus, bike or ferry, even better.

You don’t need the help of someone familiar with the city’s 22 km of public beaches to have a perfect day. But I recently enjoyed a tour from a dedicated guide around Brighton Beach, and was looking forward to sharing it with you all.

For starters, there are plenty of ways to get to Brighton Beach. My friend and guide Will Ferst, a freelance writer and food writing instructor, prefers to cycle down Ocean Parkway, which has a relatively shady bike path. I rode along the Belt Parkway, enjoying the incredible view of New York Harbor and Gravesend Bay. Take the B train (if it’s a weekday) or the Q train to the Brighton Beach stop, and it’ll spit you out just steps from the beach in the heart of the neighborhood, where a combination of street stalls and bustling shop windows coexist beneath the deafening roar of the subway above our heads.

If you want to go straight to the sand with snacks and drinks, start your day at Little Georgia, a small, non-seated bakery specializing in khachapuri and shawarma. The fact that the small interior of this bakery is almost always packed is a testament to the quality of the food. We ordered a medium pizza size potato and cheese khachapuri – it even comes in a pizza box – and grabbed a few specialty drinks from the fridge including a liter of Natakhtari, a brand Georgian lemonade.

If you have a bit more free time and really want to dive head first into what Brighton Beach has to offer, you owe it to yourself to step into Tashkent supermarket, at the corner of Brighton Beach Avenue and Coney Island Avenue. How to describe this Uzbek supermarket? The phrase “grocery fantasyland” comes to mind.

You’ve never seen a hot bar until you’ve seen this hot bar, brimming with every kind of Eurasian food you can imagine: pelmeni, lyulya kebabs, shashlik, dolma, olives, chebureki, pickles and manti. There are dozens of massive cakes as thick as encyclopedias, fried fish fillets and small mountains of plov (Uzbek pilaf). Don’t forget the tubs full of Eastern European sweets.

You’ll want to fill a plastic shell to the brim, but be aware of the different prices or face the wrath of the cashiers.

But maybe you want to start on the beach. Once you’ve settled into the sun and waves, consider sitting down for a meal at Varenichnaya. (Bring cash!) The menu at this unassuming family restaurant, which recently moved to a new location at 504 Brighton Beach Avenue, is varied, but you can’t go wrong with the classics: pelmeni or vareniki. Devra insisted we try the sour cherry vareniki, chewy dumplings with sweet and sour fruit inside, even better with a shot of sour cream. As a bonus, I ordered the lamb skewers, juicy and salty and crispy, a perfect complement to the vareniki.

We ate it all in the shade of a concrete pavilion at the end of Brighton Fourth Street. It’s a gathering place for the neighborhood – older residents getting some fresh air with the grandkids, groups of friends getting together to chat or play cards, people from every conceivable walk of life – we let’s all just enjoy authentic ocean views in a city that should be best known for its beaches.

  • In this week’s restaurant review, Pete Wells is broken down Taiwanese restaurant menu Wenwen at Greenpoint, the more mature but still playful counterpart to 886 in the East Village.

  • Openings: Take a vacation without ever leaving the city Holiday Bar & Rooftop, now open in Bushwick; the grandchildren of the Italian immigrant who was originally Ferdi’s in the Bronx opened a modern Italian restaurant of the same name in the West Village; and the Cuban Chinese Restaurant Dao Street is back on West 39th Street after a fire shut down the restaurant.

  • In his latest column, Tejal Rao rented the korean barbecue restaurant in san francisco San Ho Wonwhere the menu “emphasizes the need for a shared culinary language with more Korean terms and then proves their necessity”.

  • Adam Nagourney reported on “I’ll Have What She’s Have”, a new exhibition, currently in Los Angeles, which explores the history of jewish charcuterie. He arrives in New York in November.

  • Following a 16-month investigation by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, bar owner NoLIta Sweet and vicious will be pay $500,000 to more than a dozen employees who have reported “racial and gender-based harassment” and wage theft, reports Kim Severson.

Email us at wheretoeat@nytimes.com. Newsletters will be archived here. Follow NYT Food on Twitter and NYT Cook on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and pinterest.



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