One year ago, New York Bread was gutted in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. Gennady, one of the owners, showed us how high—six feet—the storm's floodwaters reached in the interior. Everything on the first floor was a loss. Luckily, most ovens and other bread-making equipment were on the second.
Gennady and his partner Viktor had to throw out everything and start from scratch. Hampered by no electricity and minimal support from the Small Business Administration, the work was slow, and they weren't sure if they would be able to revive their store. However, loans from friends and family made up for what the government wouldn't provide. A year later, New York Bread has reopened bigger and better than ever.
If you don't want to fight Brighton Beach parking, New York Bread off on Neptune Avenue (conveniently a few blocks from Totonno's) is a perfect place to shop for Russian specialties. Inside, the grocery is four times larger than the old, pocket-sized store. You find the greatest attraction just inside the door: shelves of New York Bread's spectacular assortment of Russian-style loaves, almost 40 different varieties in all.
Here you find the city's best Borodinsky, topped with crushed coriander seeds, and, darkest and densest of all, a Lithuanian rye that makes a perfect base for smoked salmon. They have also just introduced a new loaf called Radzivil Rye Bread, which is named after a 16th Century Lithuanian nobleman. For identification, each loaf comes baked with a big "R" on the crust. It's another extra-dense loaf, made from rye and wheat flours, potato flakes, molasses, malt, sourdough starter, salt, caraway seeds, anise, and yeast. Despite its density, it's a smooth-chewing bread with a slight but pleasant bite from the anise and caraway seeds.
Venturing farther into the store, you find all the imported delicacies needed to stock your dacha. These include bags of kasha and big bottles of kvass, a slightly alcoholic soft drink made from rye bread. If you don't feel like going out to the forest to forage wild mushrooms (a favorite Russian pastime), you can buy big jars of all kinds of pickled fungi.
Eastern Europeans are also major consumers of honey, which they eat for health as well as pleasure. New York Bread sells jars of excellent Bashkirian honey from the Southern Urals that's supposed to have all kinds of special properties.
To construct your zakuski, or Russian-style appetizers, head to the deli counter at the back. Here you will find smoked fish and mounds of plump and beautiful wild salmon caviar. Further along the counter displays hefty balls of brinza, the Eastern European version of feta cheese, and row after row of imported salamis and smoked meats.
South Brooklyn is home not just to Russians but immigrants from many of the other republics that made up the Soviet Union. In a nod to these groups and the mingling of tastes that has occurred in the New World, New York Bread also sells a wide range of pungent Georgian sauces and fresh Uzbek-style spicy salads and frozen manti.
New York Bread makes a destination of the slightly obscure northwest side of Coney Island. The store is about eight blocks from the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue D, F, N, and Q stop.
About the author: Andrew Coe is the only reporter covering the city's bread beat.