Friday, June 6, 2008


It's been quite a few years since I ventured out to Brighton Beach, America's little Odessa. I remember the aroma coming from the little Mom and Pop pastry, butcher and seafood shops under the elevated subway on Brighton Beach Avenue. This is home to 350,000 Russian immigrants, thought to be the largest Russian enclave outside of Moscow.

I decided to return and I was pleasantly surprised. It's the place to go if you don't want to travel far from home, but feel like you're in another country. Most of the signs on the shops are in Russian. Shopping here can be difficult. Although the prices are in U.S. dollars and not in Rubles, you may have a tough time identifying some of the unique produce and meats. Russians love their veal and at the local butcher shops, they sell every possible cut, including livers and brains.

Between World War II and the 1970's, immigrants from the Ukrainian port city of Odessa flocked to New York city and settled here in Brighton Beach and nearby Sheepshead Bay. It appears populated by an older generation of expatriates from the Black Sea town of Odessa. Very few people here speak English. Don't worry about the language barrier, because it adds to the ambiance of Brighton Beach.

Up on the boardwalk, you'll find elegant outdoor dining at a handful of Russian restaurants. One of these places is Tatiana's, which was advertising a $16.95 lunch special. I didn't find anything special about a lunch for nearly 17-dollars, considering it consisted of basically sausages and mashed potatoes. Venture back to Brighton Beach Avenue for a much more affordable, yet authentic meal. The people watching here is great. I don't understand why so many of these overweight, 60 and 70-something men insist on wearing bikini swimwear. But, they do and you can't help but chuckle at the sight.

If you're looking to visit, take the B or the Q train to the Brighton Beach stop and go on a little tasting tour of the neighborhood. Look for some of the popular Russian staples like Veal Orloff, Chicken Kiev, Beef Stroganoff, Borscht and a traditional cabbage soup. Brighton Beach Avenue is also lined with a variety of pastry shops selling odd looking treats like Vatrushka, a sort of cake centered around cottage cheese and sprinkled with bits of fruit. Priiatnogo appetita!

1 comment:

  1. interesting observations. I am Russian myself and when I visit Brighton it feels like I am in another country. Country that no longer exists anywhere - the emigrants preserved the culture of 1970's Odessa. By the way, Odessa was a large jewish enclave and most of those who left where jewish people.


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