I will choose Brighton Beach over the Rockaways any day, and it’s not just on account of my last name. This laid back beach boasts irrefutable seductions: It’s easily accessible via the Brighton Beach stop on the B or the Q train, from which the sand is less than a five-minute walk. It’s spacious and rarely overcrowded. And the best part? It doesn’t feel like a damn American Apparel ad.
Though on the outskirts of what is essentially Little Russia/Odessa, the crowd that’s scattered across the beach is always diverse, and families are very much welcome. The bathrooms leave much to be desired (wear your shoes and hold your nose), but the water is consistently warm and tranquil and the sand is clean, you know, for New York. Unlike the Rockaways, the Brighton Beach boardwalk is relatively bare when it comes to food and drink (apart from Tatiana and Café Volna, two pricey Russian restaurants whose pleasures we’ll leave for another time). So while you won’t find tacos or happen across a hip flea market here, there’s a very undeniable allure to this boardwalk, beautiful and aging in the harsh sunlight. Whether it’s the gusto of foreign languages swirling around you, or the unparalleled people watching, there’s something about Brighton Beach that will make you feel much further from your apartment than you are, maybe even like you’re on an overseas adventure.
Before you set foot on the sand, hit up some of the small shops and bakeries that line the streets for snacks, salads and sandwich makings. You won’t regret it. One challenge is that in many stores the signs are exclusively in Russian, so if you have a friend with some Slavic language skills, hit them up for their assistance. Or get ready to point and nod and smile a lot. And keep in mind that the Q train will get you here in under 30 minutes from Atlantic Terminal, so it’s a solid shorefront destination even in the winter, when many of the hot dishes will be even more appealing. Here are three of the best spots to stop and stock up. (more…)