We had two options when we headed back from the Hamptons in our hire car. Drop it off early at the Brooklyn depot, or keep the car for a few more hours and drop it off later. The second option it was.
I’d never really had any desire to see Coney Island on previous trips to NYC. To be honest, I always had the impression it was just an amusement park on an island. How wrong I was. Firstly, it hasn’t been an island for a very long time. And secondly, the amusement park occupies only a fraction of what’s mainly a residential area; now effectively a peninsula at the bottom of Brooklyn.
Strolling along the boardwalk is clearly a popular exercise with the locals; families with kids and elderly couples out for a little vitamin D and fresh sea breeze. As for the amusement park, it’s definitely one for the kids, or those of us that are into adrenaline-inducing rides. And the deal with the food, well, it’s what you’d expect. Pizza, burgers, hotdogs and clams. Plenty of soft drinks and beers, some cotton candy, and even those all-American funnel cakes.
Fast food at an amusement park was never on the agenda, as the main reason for driving out there was to sample some Ukrainian food. Coney Island is a bit of a cultural melting pot. Hispanic, African-American, Jewish and Ukrainian residents, among others, make this place what it is. Just walking along Brighton Beach Avenue, in the shadow of the overhead railway, transports you to another part of the world.
This area isn’t nicknamed “Little Odessa” for nothing. Fruit and vegetable markets with the cheapest of produce, supermarkets loaded with meats, baked items and cured seafood, even somewhere to pick up a fur coat. I had to resist buying bags of vatrushka, cheese or fruit-filled “danishes”, from a Russian-speaking woman at a stand out the front of a supermarket.
With the many eating options along Brighton Beach Avenue, we settled on Cafe Glechik (now permanently closed), a place that’s all about the Ukrainian food. The name of the cafe comes from the clay vessel that’s used in cooking, so it was only fitting that we order some Siberian pelmeni (6).
Twenty five steamed little dumplings filled with pork and veal came served in a small glechik. The plain looking morsels were far from plain when you bit into them, spilling hot and steamy juices in your mouth. A little sour cream made them even better.
The Glechik menu is massive and offers rustic dishes from smoked mackerel to chicken gizzard stew. A bunch of traditional cold appetisers, pelmeni and vareniki dumplings, stews, meat and seafood. A big glass of borjomi (2.5), a homemade apple & berry punch, sure went down well whilst reading through the rest of the menu.
The pork loin with mustard sauce (12.5) is a huge plate of seared meat drenched in mushroomy sauce, some sour cabbage salad and boiled buckwheat. My baked trout (18) came out looking very much the same, apart from the large butterflied trout, of course. Both are delicious, despite the buckwheat kasha having no seasoning. Pity it was just the two of us as I would have liked to try much more from the menu. More of those dumplings!
Now. It’s time to get the rental car back to the depot, and then move into our next apartment in the Meatpacking District.
Cafe Glechik – 3159 Coney Island Avenue, Brighton Beach