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In a World of Tasty Meat-Filled Starches

A culinary tour of the neighborhood’s main drag


Map by Jason Lee  

1. Cafe Glechik
3159 Coney Island Ave.; 718-616-0766.
With recipes cribbed from the owner’s grandmother (naturally), this busy café serves the best Ukrainian food in the city. A bowl of ruby-red borscht ($6) provides the warm-up for the epic Glechik stew—fall-off-the-bone short ribs with an oniony sauce and crisp-fried potato dumplings that gradually soak up the meat juices ($14.50).

2. Café Kashkar
1141 Brighton Beach Ave.; 718-743-3832.
The lamb-and-dough-centric cuisine of Uzbekistan’s Uighur community is well represented at this nook by exotica like samsa (flaky pastries with juicy, hand-chopped lamb filling, $2.50), Chinese-style lagman noodles, served either stir-fried ($7.50) or in a bracing lamb soup ($6), and the zesty glass-noodle salad called langsai ($7).

3. Vintage Food Corporation
287 Brighton Beach Ave.; 718-769-6674.
Thronged with shoppers from Russia’s southern and eastern fringes, this fragrant Turkish bazaar is one of the city’s best sources for inexpensive, high-quality nuts and dried fruits. The jars of pekmez (thick grape molasses) isn’t normally seen outside Istanbul.

Café La Brioche  

4. Café La Brioche
1073 Brighton Beach Ave.; 718-934-0731.
This Russian-Jewish bakery smells of sweet dough and fresh coffee. Buy plump vatrushki danishes, slabs of honeyed poppy-seed roll, and crumbly rugalach. The sour-cream-filled smetannik cake ($4 a pound) is the sine qua non of Russian home desserts.

5. Ocean View Café
290 Brighton Beach Ave.; 718-332-1900.
While regulars order Caesar salad with smoked eel ($14) at this vaguely nautical-themed storefront, non-Russians should stick to the comfort foods: fluffy cheese blintzes ($6.50) or the remarkably delicate stuffed cabbage in tomato sauce ($9.50). Vodka—sold by the gram, in the best Soviet tradition—should be downed with the house-cured herring ($8), coupled with dilled roasted potatoes and wisps of red onion to cut the richness.

6. Gold Label Deli
281–285 Brighton Beach Ave.; 718-743-3900.
Pirozhki are the quintessential Russian street food, and the stand here serves the best. Besides the proletarian fried-yeast dough pies with cabbage or meat (greasy but good, from $1 to $6), you’ll find khachapuri (Georgian cheese pastries, from $2), various strudels, and terrific Moldovan plachinda—flat, round pies with a tangy feta-and-scallions filling ($2.50).

7. Ocean Wine & Liquor
514 Brighton Beach Ave.; 718-743-3084.
Since so many restaurants here are BYO, you’ll need a good source for vodka. Here you’ll find more than 50 varieties—pure, or in such flavors as buffalo grass (zubrovka), birch-tree buds, and honey and pepper.

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