Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dosvedanya Brighton Beach

But only until next time.  It’s a long ride from Manhattan, but well worth the trip for a stroll on the boardwalk, a hearty Russian meal, and a visit to the shops in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.  Out on the streets of this neighborhood of Russian immigrants,  also dubbed “Little Odessa”,   you hear more Russian or Ukrainian being spoken than English, but the shop keepers quickly accommodate English-only speakers.

At the St. Petersburg Bookstore at 230 Brighton Beach Avenue, you can choose from a wide variety of Russian-language books, CDs, and movies, as well as a more modest collection of English-only volumes. Part of the fun for me was trying to recognize American and English volumes in translation. The staff doesn’t approach you as you browse, though there is some silent monitoring going on.

With so many intriguing titles I couldn’t read, I was glad to find some modestly priced copies of the works of Dostoevsky and came away with this Dover Edition of the author’s “The Eternal Husband” (1869). (The novella tells the story of Velchaninov, a rich lawyer with a history of treating women carelessly and cruelly, who is unexpectedly confronted by the  husband of his late mistress, many years after the affair has taken place.)  

In addition to books on a wide range of subjects, gifts are for sale. These include an impressive selection of the nesting dolls called matryoshka in Russian, and some balalaikas.
The St. Petersburg also sells merchandise on-line.

Feeling hungry after your immersion in Russian literature?  Stop at the Ocean View Café at  290 Brighton Beach Avenue for some stroganoff, potato varnekas (dumplings) and fruit punch. The bilingual menu is extensive and the busy but polite wait staff is prepared to answer questions from newcomers. We recommend you pass on dessert, however, and cross the street to Vintage Food at 287 Brighton Bach Avenue where you can stock up on a variety of dried fruits and beautifully wrapped candies with mysterious ingredients.

Inside this wrapper--as pretty as an old-fashioned children's
book illustration--was a delicious chocolate candy!

For more on the history of Brighton Beach (the neighborhood is also the setting for Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs), go to this link, courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library.


  1. This brought back memories of a similar day A & I had on my "Year to Say Goodbye" explorations, before we left NYC. We did the same thing re dessert!

  2. Thanks for the great photos--unlikely I'll ever get to this part of the country, but I was aware of a thriving Russian ex-pat community in the area.

  3. Thanks for your comments. There are so many interesting foreign-language bookstores in NYC--I'm hoping to visit more soon.