If you’re not a native New Yorker (and sometimes even if you are), wandering into the depths of Brooklyn can be daunting. Brookyn may be referenced by many a thug in a rap song but as a proud Brooklynite let me tell you, West Philly is far more intimidating.
Start at Coney Island:
The final stop on the Q train, Coney Island is a must–see destination in the summertime.
The beach is filthy and on a hot day it is swarmed with people; but scenes like this are the essence of Brooklyn.
You will be offered mojitos and other alcoholic beverages from shady men (purchase at your own risk), you will be surrounded by a cacophony of music-players, your nostrils will be soaked in the smell of weed and you will love all of it!
The food isn’t anything special and its certainly overpriced but if you want to stuff your face with funnel cake, knishes and Nathan’s hotdogs this is the place to be.
You might even want to try on one of the rides in the amusement park. Though they too are very overpriced, riding the Cyclone is just one of those things you do when you’re in Coney Island (they say it’s safe but the Cyclone was built in 1927 so expect a few bruises).
Get back on the Q train and take it Manhattan–bound a few stops until Brighton Beach (unless you want to take a detour to the New York Aquarium).
You can also walk straight down the boardwalk.
You will see terrible fashion and a lot of red lipstick. Fair warning: some of the grandmas here are rude, lewd and they only speak Russian so don’t bother trying to reason with them.
If you want to try some inexpensive and highly authentic Russian cuisine try:
Ocean View Café at 290 Brighton Beach Ave (between Brighton 2nd St & Brighton 3rd St). The Russian-language music channel will probably be on so get ready for a few laughs while you sip on some Borscht.
Not ready for a full-on Russian meal? Don’t be afraid to taste to the street food. There are several stands near the train station selling pastries called pirozhki. They are typically filled with apples, cherries, cheese, poppy seeds (a typical Russian desert filler), or meat and are pretty good!
The St. Petersburg Book Store on Brighton Beach Avenue and Brighton 1st Road offers some authentic imported Russian books, music and knickknacks.
Last but not least: the stop is aptly named because there is a beach here too! It’s somewhat quieter and attracts a slightly different crowd than Coney Island though it is a continuation of the same shore.
Hop back on the train and sit tight until 7th Avenue.
You are now in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Park Slope is home to yuppies, lesbian parents, dozens of quaint cafes, historic buildings, top-rated bars and shops as well as the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Prospect Park (Central Park’s less famous, less groomed brother) is also in close vicinity and nice for picnicking and idling.
Head over to Hooti Couture (321 Flatbush Ave, just across the street from this Q stop) for some interesting vintage finds.
Take a quick coffee break at Joyce Bakery (646 Vanderbilt Avenue); a block away, it’s not technically in Park Slope anymore but its close by and worth it for the macaroons!
On Saturdays you can find a quaint flea market on Seventh Avenue and 1st Street. Stop by if you’re looking for some old coins and trinkets and hidden treasures.
Back toward the train station
Olive Vine’s (54 7th Ave Btwn Lincoln & St John Pl) is a BYO (rare for NYC) that serves up a decent plate of Mediterranean food. Even if you're not prepared, a liquor store is conveniently located right next to the Q station on 7th avenue and Flatbush.
Get back on the Q train...
The Q train makes essential stops in Manhattan: Canal Street for Chinatown, Union Square, Times Square, Central Park before zipping you all the way to Astoria Boulevard in Queens. But don't be surprised if you want to turn right around and head back to Brooklyn.