Coney Island is well known, not so its eastern neighbor, Brighton Beach. Being down there feels like being in Russia. Everything is Russian: the people, shops, restaurants, bulletins, ads. But it is in Brooklyn and it looks like Brooklyn. And it is a seaside place.
Getting to Brighton Beach took me far more than an hour. I took the B63 bus to Atlantic Terminal, which of course was delayed. When I reached the B/Q platform a B express train just left, so I had to wait for about 10 minutes. I could have taken the local Q instead but it has much more stops and I guess it would have taken longer. When I got off at Brighton Beach station I found myself on Brighton Beach Avenue, which stretches right under the elevated train. I decided to walk east first. I found the Subway (sandwich) restaurant where once Mrs. Stahl’s Knishes had been sold and the train tracks turn away from Brighton Beach Avenue.
I followed the Avenue, bought a new lottery ticket and was addressed in Russian by an elderly lady with heavy eye make-up. When I told her that I don’t speak Russian she tried to speak English. What she wanted to tell me was something like she had no money but would get rich now with the lottery. I invested 2$ on the 189$ jackpot. At the eastern end of Brighton Beach I turned towards the sea. Between the Avenue and the beach there are new and old apartment buildings. Some of them pretty plain and high, others having nice details. On the beach there is construction going on. I didn’t find out, what they are doing. It was a splendid day for walking on the boardwalk. The sun wanted to show it still has strength. I was dressed too warm, wearing a long sleeved t-shirt. It would have been a summer dress and sandals day. The boardwalk is much quieter than farther west in Coney Island.
There is no entertainment, just the beach, the boardwalk and a couple of (Russian) restaurants. I checked out the lunch specials of all three restaurants and decided for Volna. There I sat in the sun under a roof of a white plastic grid, white arcs of fabric and 70s style lamps in the shape of balloons. The tables were covered with neat light green tablecloths. Terracotta and pink linen napkins were folded in glasses. There was a TV screen of course, showing popular music and later a soccer match.
People around me were mainly talking Russian. I had a vegetable salad, borscht and pelmeni topped with fried onions. The salad was good, the borscht tasted like nothing and the pelmeni were swimming in oil. While I was eating men came by and wanted to sell fragrances they carried in Duane Reade paper bags. The waiter ignored me after he had brought my check. Instead he chatted with other guests. I had to tell him to please take my money and bring the change. I cut the tip for that.
After lunch I got rid of shoes and socks and walked down to the sea to put at least my feet into the water. Between the beach and the boardwalk a thick rusty pipe is running – for whatever. The water was cold, as expected. The beach is closed already but some people were still bathing.
Back on the boardwalk I passed the Aquarium and reached Coney Island with its amusement park, which is closed now as summer is over. Most of the booths lining the boardwalk were still open.
Beyond Stillwell Avenue it gets quieter again but as well pretty ugly. I would call the area run down. Deserted buildings, heavy fences around neglected gardens and housing projects in less friendly grey and brownish tones. Somehow it reminded me of East Germany shortly after the wall had come down.
Nevertheless I walked west until a fence forced me to turn north. I caught a bus to take me to the subway at Stillwell Avenue.
On my w home I made two stops.
The first in Gravesend to check out L&B Spumoni Gardens. It is a pizza and ice cream place that exists at this spot in the fourth generation now, since almost 100 years. House specialties are Sicilian pizza and Spumoni, ice cream in vanilla, chocolate and pistachio flavors. In front of the place tables and benches are facing busy 86th street. I had a rainbow Spumoni, consisting of all three flavors. It was good, but Ample Hill is far better.
The second stop was to check out Pastosa Ravioli, an Italian market on New Utrecht Avenue in Bensonhurst. A paradise for lovers of cheese and pasta. Lots of antipasti and tempting prepared dishes are available.
Before I got home I picked up a small Butternut Squash at Union Market and a bottle of wine on Smith Street.
When I arrived on Dean Street it had become late, past 7pm. I was greeted y a heavily miauing Astor who apparently wanted to tell me that he expected to be fed. Not my task though. I spent some time with the two of them while I was having a tea and a milk chocolate macadamia cookie and looked for a recipe for Butternut squash risotto.
Now after I enjoyed my risotto and the cats finally got their lamb they sleep peacefully, Pepper on the sofa today, Astor on the armchair.