Here we are, at the tail-end of summer, September drawing perilously near, and maybe that European jaunt you dreamed of just didn’t pan out this season. We expected as much, and we’ve been doing our best to provide substitutes: exotic home swaps, $500-a-week vacations, a special kind of working holiday and, well, Mexico. But if none of these was the thing for you, it’s not too late for this one last chance for a great almost-getaway: the South Brooklyn staycation. Here are 17 ways to have a (very full) weekend in our own down-under.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Cheap Italian, drinks on the boardwalk
Fuel first, so start off on a Friday evening with an authentic Italian dinner at John’s Deli (2033 Stillwell Ave.). Take the D train to the 25th Ave. stop for “steam table”-style service and a menu with specials like chicken cacciatore, sausage and peppers, lasagna or fried ravioli—all for around $7 a plate. After dinner, jump back on the D for two short stops to the end of the line at Coney Island to see the historic attractions or even, depending on the size of your meal, take a ride on the Wonder Wheel or Cyclone ($6/$8 respectively). If you make the trip soon, get to the boardwalk by about 9:30 for the weekly summer Friday night fireworks show. Then top the evening off with cocktails at Ruby’s or Cha-Cha’s (the Riegelmann Boardwalk and Stillwell Ave.). This combination is my pick to end an evening at Coney —but keep an early curfew because tomorrow is a big day.
SATURDAY: Fishing, clams, geezer rock
You’ll be crack-of-dawnin’ it on day-two as you make your way down to the Sheepshead Bay Road stop on the Q train. The waterfront here is home to a number of commercial fishing boats which offer either a full-day or a half-day of fishing (approx. $75/$45 respectively, including all tackle, hooks, sinkers and bait). Most of the boats leave at 8 a.m. and reservations are not required. If you are staycationing with friends, consider a more intimate experience and charter a smaller vessel. My favorite, the 29′ boat manned by Captain Joe of More Time Charters, must be pre-booked with a deposit. Fishing for the day will set you back a bit, but it’s hard to beat this for authenticity in Sheepshead Bay (and think of all the money you’re not spending on JetBlue).
After you’ve de-wormed your fingernails and regained your land legs, pretty yourself up and get ready for a water-front supper. For a local favorite, try Randazzo’s Clam Bar (2017 Emmons Ave.), where the draws are the two Italian red sauces, known as simply Medium and Hot. Both are distinctive and go well atop your choice of fried fish, shrimp, calamari or a plate of steamed mussels. The joint’s best seller is the calamari, which will set you back $11 for a heaping plate.
If you find yourself completely fished-out after today’s ocean expedition you needn’t worry—some great (and cheap) hot roast beef sandwiches are only a few blocks up the main drag. Take a stroll to Roll-N-Roaster (2901 Emmons Ave.) where their motto is that you can have cheez on anything you pleez. Place your order at the counter and just wait for the cute girls in short skirts to call your number. Their roast beef sandwiches sell so fast that a fresh meal is all but guaranteed. Around $10 will get you a double dipped sandwich (extra gravy), a side of fries with cheez and a homemade lemonade or iced tea.
For some after-dinner imbibing, you have a number of choices. Lucky for you, fishermen like to drink, and they like to drink cheap. Nightlight Cafe (1657 Sheepshead Bay Rd.) always has something going on, like karaoke, live music or even belly-dancing. Drinks come in at around $6 per cocktail and $4/domestic and $5/imported for the beers. A block away is Wheeler’s (1707 Sheepshead Bay Rd.), a favorite of the area’s older crowd. It’s probably not the best place to pick up a hottie, but if you’re looking for a cheap beer (tap at $3.75 and $4.50) and a good place to absorb the old salt in the air, then cozy up here for the evening.You might even be lucky enough to visit them on Geezer Rock night when they feature a live band jamming classic rock hits.
SUNDAY: Walk off Saturday’s calories (then eat more), zen out at a spa, gaze at the Verrazano
The next morning, clear your head with a walk on the water—on the footbridge, that is, between Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach (don’t worry, you’re still in Brooklyn). Then take a winding walk up and down the tree-lined streets and admire the modern architecture. The streets run alphabetically here, so you’ll want to make your way left, up in letters, to the shoreline at Oriental Boulevard. The sand of Manhattan Beach you’re on now was once the site of the Oriental Hotel (1880-1916), the resort du jour of the elite during Coney Island’s heyday.
Back at Oriental Boulevard, you can pick up a bus to one of the south’s best shopping areas: Bay Ridge. Take the B1 bus (toward Bay Ridge) to 86th Street and 14th Avenue. There, you’ll transfer to the B64 bus and take that to the last stop, 86th Street and Fourth Avenue.
Nearby Third Avenue is a unique shopping area. For whatever reason, there are a bunch of little stores that specialize in home decoration, candles and aromatherapy. Make it your business to stop by Lavender Blue (8702 Third Ave., 718-748-0322) and pick up a mixture of incense sticks at around 10 for $2. Their scent menu is as big as the hair on the girls you’d expect to see hanging out there. About a half-block away is The Green Spa (8804 Third Ave.) where, if you’re so inclined, you can dig into your pockets for your last staycation splurge. Sample a basic service like the Vegan Spa Mani, which, at $18, features a 100% vegan product line. (Wait, are there beef scraps in normal nail polish?)
Somewhere in the shopping mix you might be about ready for Sunday brunch. Find the corner of 88th Street and Third Avenue to sit down at Cebu (8801 Third Ave.). Their outdoor-seating is perfect for people-watching and $10 will get you a complete brunch (not including alcohol). Try the orange & vanilla-infused French toast and warm banana Belgian waffles. Or, right across the street you’ll find Trace (8814 Third Ave.), where $13 will snag you a Mexican inspired breakfast complete with your choice of Mimosa, Bellini or Bloody Mary. Hair of the dog, y’all.
Then there’s always Century 21 (472 86th St.), which, like its flagship location in lower Manhattan, is where you can snag designer duds for next to nothing. On a recent trip here I picked up a pair of Cole Haan shades for $12 and a men’s Ben Sherman hat for $16 on clearance. Get there.
To wind down the weekend, go on the 15 minute walk (or $6 cab ride) to Owl’s Head Park (68th St. at Shore Road) and its 27 acres of green. Enjoy the foliage, check out the action in the skate park or just lie back and take in the view of the Verrazano Bridge. The massive suspension bridge to Staten Island is affectionately known to locals as the “guinea gangplank,” but it really is quite a view. And remember, it’s the very bridge where John Travolta stood in Saturday Night Fever and tried to save his buddy Bobby C. All right here in South Brooklyn.
Nikki Jo Grossman is the newly appointed Coney Island correspondent for the Examiner.