On the southern outskirts of Brooklyn, just down the boardwalk from Coney Island, the peaceful ocean waves once drew waves of immigrants from a tumultuous past. Refugees from the former Soviet Union. After the Cold War ended in the '90s, an influx of Russians settled on the shores of the city.
Brighton Beach, nicknamed Little Odessa after the Ukrainian city on the Black Sea, boasts the largest Russian-speaking population in the United States. Here, you may feel you need a translator, or a tour guide, like Dave Garbarskiy.
Onward down Brighton Beach Avenue, at M & I International Food, locals stock up on fresh-made breads and other provisions. While there, also sample Russian-style eats like cured cold cuts, variations of pickled fish, and Pir-oj-ki: fried pastries with either a savory or a sweet-filled center.
Fresh apricot or mango juices often accompany meals at cafes, and you can sample a variety of dishes for under ten dollars.
Of course everyone in Russia needs a fur coat, and maybe a fox fur hat, as warm as they are stylish. Luckily, David's uncle owns a store down the street!
When you commit to long train rides to the outskirts of New York City, you'll be amazed by the things you discover. It's not necessarily that Brighton Beach looks like Russia - it looks like any other neighborhood in Brooklyn. What makes it Russian is the people you meet, the sound of the language and the music in the streets, the foods you get to sample - that's what gives it the vibe that you're somewhere else outside of the United States.