Growing up, I spent summers in Coney Island, a beachfront neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. My grandparents had a comfortable two-bedroom apartment in a high-rise next to the subway and across from the fire department on West Eighth Street, close enough to the shore to smell the salt air. On the weekends, the Q, F, and D trains deposited beachgoers, aquarium visitors, and amusement park junkies at the foot of their building. My brother and I would sit on their 10th-floor terrace and watch the Cyclone, a rickety wooden roller coaster, “click-click” up the ascent and then descend in a great racket. The roar of that coaster and the screams of its riders were the soundtrack to those summers.
Where We Went
Brighton Beach, NY
Brighton Beach is known for its high population of Russian-speaking immigrants.
As we got older, my mother would take us on boardwalk expeditions. We would start in Coney Island and walk the mile or so down to Brighton Beach. We'd stop to watch guys get into heated matches at the handball courts, listen to the honk of the walrus carrying on inside the aquarium, and just take in some of the best people watching to be found anywhere. When we reached the end of the boardwalk, we'd walk back home through the streets and neighborhoods, smelling the smells, browsing the buffet selections, and stopping for lunch at any number of eastern European groceries, restaurants, and bakeries.
These days, I tend to hurry off the boardwalk and head straight to the restaurants. I might stop at Toné Cafe for the adjaruli khachapuri, the chewy Georgian bread filled with cheese and a cracked egg; or hit up Georgian House for shkmeruli, a garlicky dish of chicken cooked in milk; or dine on grilled lamb shashlik (kebabs) at Cafe Kashkar. Just like when I was young, days spent walking and eating and taking in the sights in that densely populated corner of Brooklyn are still my best days.
If You Go
Restaurant: Toné Cafe
Address: 265 Neptune Ave, Brooklyn, NY, 11235