добро пожаловать в Брайтоне! Or, Welcome to Brighton! This the biggest, most influential Russian and Eastern European community in the United States. Here you will encounter Eastern European goods, culture, and language on every step of your journey. As soon as you step off the Q, you will think you’ve been transported to Odessa itself! Enjoy the crisp ocean breeze, warm sand, and living, breathing Russian culture. A majority of the residents are immigrants from the Soviet Union, where anti-Semitism and outright, arbitrary coercion drove people to leave as soon as they could. Russians and Eastern Europeans flooded Brighton when Gorbachev implemented reform that opened the sheltered Soviet Union to the rest of the world. With this history in mind, bask in the richness of the neighborhood – it is certainly a community unlike any other. So, without further ado, let’s tour Brighton:
Established in 1994, St. Petersburg Bookstore is a bastion of Russian culture. It is, in fact, the world's largest Russian bookstore outside of Russia! St. Petersburg sells both retail and wholesale - it supplies universities and libraries around the country with Russian language literature. Here you can purchase Russian books, souvenirs, nesting dolls, CDs, traditional items of clothing, household goods- you name it! And, to make this Brighton gem even better, the prices are exceptionally low, making Eastern European culture accessible to everyone - russophiles rejoice! This is a popular site among the locals, who rely on the bookstore for their supply of Russian language books. Can you imagine moving to a country with a completely different alphabet? St. Petersburg Bookstore truly brings a little bit of Russia to the United States; it provides a quintessential Russian culture experience without the cost of a plane ticket to Moscow.
Wondering what Brighton nightlife is like? Well, look no further. Like most of the locations on our tour, Tatiana is quite the hotspot, providing excellent Russian food and wild entertainment. It doubles as both restaurant AND nightclub! Best of both worlds! Just be sure to dress to impress, Tatiana party-goers sport some of the hottest, most sought after fashions.
But wait, there's more! It sits right on the boardwalk, so while you're partying the night away you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean. If you ever want to turn down, feel free to step outside for a breath of fresh ocean air. The owner of Tatiana says, "It's Sex in the City mixed in Sleepless on Brighton Beach. Vodka and Cognac pours like fountain Di Trevi in Rome." Sound good? Tatiana is a hotbed of Russian culture, and one you won't soon forget (or remember..) (If you're over 21.)!
Take a relaxing stroll down the Brighton Beach Boardwalk! Opened in 1868 as a resort community to rival Coney Island, the boardwalk now boasts over two miles of scenic sea-scape. The boardwalk is a focal point of the Russian community in Brighton - it is an all-purpose meeting place. As you stroll down the boardwalk, notice the groups of Russians engaging in spirited conversation. This common sight is the essence of Brighton Beach as an enclave and community - it is a place to share a laugh or shed a tear with fellow compatriots.
What better way to realize the importance of the boardwalk for the residents than by experiencing the features that make it great? Feeling active? Join a rousing game of beach volleyball in the warm sand. Tired? Stop into one of the many beachside restaurants and coffee shops and soak up the rays as you watch the beachgoers pass by. If you get so tired that you don’t even want to leave, get someone to carry you over to one of the new luxury hotels lining the boardwalk, where you’re more than welcome to collapse and stay the night.
The Brighton Beach boardwalk is the location of the annual Brighton Jubilee, hosted by the Brighton Neighborhood Association, another stop on our tour. This event is simultaneously a celebration of Brighton's culture and a neighborhood fundraiser! Enjoy local art, live entertainment, rides for kids, and yummy food! If the Brighton Jubilee is going on when you visit, it is not to be missed!
Whatever you chose to do, make sure to appreciate the boardwalk not only as an attraction, but as a community unifier!
Wow, we've walked a long way, by now you're probably thinking, "There's nothing I'd like more now than to be serenaded by a middle aged Sinatra impersonator!" Well, you're in luck! The Millennium Theater offers just that, historically show casing such talents as Englebert Humperdinck, Ray Charles, and Britney Spears.
The theater opened in 1934, under the name Oceana Theater. The small venue served as a two theater movie house, showing popular feature films and warmth/air conditioning to residents. With the boom of bigger cineplexes, the theater was converted to the performance hall. While the theater occasionally houses big name acts (hello, Englebert Humperdinck!), the Millenium more commonly features smaller Russian performers, ranging from musicians to dancers, who are a big draw in the community. So rest your weary feet and enjoy the show!
Live at the Millenium theater
"The only place left for us is the ocean, and it's the wrong time of year to take a swim," young mother-turned-activist Pat Singer told hundreds of Brighton residents in 1977. The 1970's were a bad time for New York, and Brighton was no exception. Crime proliferated, property value fell, and residents suffered. Out of these conditions, the Brighton Neighborhood Association was born. Since its inception, this anchor organization has fought to make life better for Brighton locals. It holds demonstrations for neighborhood interests, and provides housing advocacy, landlord assistance, and social services, like food stamp and housing subsidy sign ups. It also hosts a variety of youth services, like after school centers and summer school. It is so successful in helping the community that 3,000+ residents utilize its services every year! Though New York's economy has improved drastically since the founding of BNA, the association's commitment to aiding the community has only gotten stronger. This organization is of the utmost importance to the neighborhood, as a majority of Brighton residents are elderly immigrants that are dependent on government assistance. A resource like BNA, to help navigate confusing government processes, is truly invaluable. Visiting BNA gives you a behind-the-scenes look at Brighton Beach, as it truly helps the community operate. During your time in Brighton, keep the story of Pat Singer and the Brighton Neighborhood Association in mind: it is organizations like this one that make the hardships of immigration a little easier to bear.
BNA's Meeting on Senior Benefit & Housing / Domestic Violence:
After experiencing authentic Russian entertainment at the Millenium Theatre, bring your growing appetite to the community hot spot: Skovorodka Cafe. Found right on the main stretch of Brighton Beach Avenue, this cultural establishment blends the oceanic atmosphere of the beachside neighborhood with traditional Russian cuisine.
Brighton Beach has welcomed the influence of Western Russian culture, especially with its proximity to the Atlantic ocean. Russia has a deep attachment to its western ports, with the Baltic sea and Arctic Ocean to the North and Black Sea to the South. These ports have connected Russia to the trading cities of more Western countries, bringing in different spices and cooking influences from countries in Northern Africa and Western Europe. In fashion, the interior of the restaurant has a coastal, seafood style with sky lights, warm Mediterranean-esque color schemes and natural sunlight pouring in. It is almost always busy, with a line of hungry natives and seasonal tourists pouring out the door.
The menu is written in Russian, but do not fear, the English translations are written in smaller font beneath. You can find a wide assortment of different seafoods, as well as Russian home staples, such as the varynyk, which resembles a dumpling. Trout, salmon and shrimp are the highlights of the seafood menu, with different Russian variational dishes such as the Salmon shish kebab. Pastries and grain based products such as blini, varynyk, and porridge are heavily found in traditional Russian cuisine as well. At the Skovorodka Cafe, these pastries stuffed with berries, assorted fruits, meats and potatoes can be enjoyed by anyone new to Russian cuisine. Other entrees such as the beef stroganoff are highly recommended, and the Turkish coffee and espresso truly define this establishment as a fine cafe. So whether you wish to fully immerse your taste buds into the world of Russian cuisine, or just wish to sit and have a quick cup of rejuvenating turkish coffee, the Skovorodka Cafe is a great stop to make on your walking tour through Brighton Beach!
M & I International Food is a market specializing in Eastern European foodstuffs. Spending the day in Brighton may cause you to want to add a little Russian culture to your life. M & I provides essential ingredients for traditional Russian and Eastern European dishes like pelmeni, blini, and pirozhki. This means that you can take some of Brighton Beach back to your home kitchen! This store is a must-have for the locals who aspire to keep their culture alive in Brighton. Shopping here is a true cultural experience.
M & I International Food towers above other Eastern European Food markets due to its massive size. This is the A & P of Russian foodstuff, with loads of Russian favorites. Huge containers and barrels of almonds, peanuts, olives, assorted dry fruit and other sweets are everywhere to be found. This includes the dearly beloved Russian chocolate toffee, prism shaped and wrapped in colorful wrappers. This type of chocolate is substantially sweeter than normal chocolate due to a balanced temperature during the melting stages of the cream, sugar and cocoa. Most of the wholesale items are sold on a pound standard, so make sure you have an ample amount of cash before you come!
Other foodstuffs include Russian meats and cold cut. Smoked meats and fish are particularly popular within the Russian culture, including different varieties of sausage such as the Kilbasa and Salami. Pick up some Pirozhki if you're looking for an easy to eat on the go snack. They are small baked pastries filled with different fillings such as meat, onions, eggs, potato, mushrooms and cabbage.
We sincerely hope you have enjoyed your tour of Brighton! Our last stop is right by the Q and R trains, so getting home is a breeze! But, feel free to continue strolling along Brighton Avenue – our tour is just the tip of Brighton’s cultural iceberg. Have any more questions? Consult our annotated bibliography or consider the following links. Until next time, до свидания (bye-bye!)
New York Magazine on Brighton –