Plan B: R Train Downtown

R

wRitten by: Tania

B.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.  And while Bonnie and I are neither mice nor men, we found ourselves in need of a plan B.  The night before our Saturday voyage to the far end of the B line – Brighton Beach – Bonnie was at a show for our good friends, Wild Yaks (soon to appear on an episode of SVU).  She was approached by a friend who said, “I have something to tell you!”  Bonnie braced herself for some horrible news, given the girl’s tone, but was simply informed that the B does not run on weekends.  You would think 2 ladies embarking on an extensive end of the line journey would bother to check the train schedules.  No, not us. Thank you to Carina Elizabeth for being so informed about MTA schedules and interruptions!

What to do?  Should we remain purists and take the B on a weekday?  Should we take the Q, which runs on the B line and just get off at Brighton Beach?  Or should we select another line all together?  We make the rules to this trip, do we not?  Even so, there is some unspoken code to adhere to, we are being held to some standard. In Bonnie’s words, “No pretends!”

Bonnie

R. We decided the best course of action was to meet at noon and take an entirely different line all together.  At 12:26PM we departed on the R train headed to Bay Ridge.   At first we were not entirely sure that we were even on the R line – there was no sign, it was on the wrong track and went express to Canal Street.  None the less, at 1:10PM we stepped off the train at Bay Ridge.  Neither of us has spent really any time in this neighborhood  and I didn’t have any time to prepare my envelope of Wikipedia reports and demographics, so we were going in cold.

Sometimes I find myself annoyed when people sing out loud in public, but as we ascended thestairs into the sunlight, a dude was belting out a pretty glorious rendition of NIN’s Closer, and it felt like a good sign.  At the very least it made us smile.

Welcome to Bay Ridge

We quickly came to a consensus that Bay Ridge is a pretty solid place to live.  We speculated that perhaps all the fancy homes we expected in Bedford Park had been picked up in some extreme weather event, and relocated in Bay Ridge.  Somehow the Wikipedia folks never caught on.  The view of the water and the Verrazano bridge is breathtaking.  There are parks and flowers and signs of life.

Cannon

There are also a lot of lounges, and valet parking and “restaurants” with velvet ropes.  One such “restaurant” was called Club Cats and the logo was of a cat in an extremely suggestive position.  There were no windows.  I would have like to have eaten there, but alas they did not open until 4pm.  What do they serve there at the Club Cats?  I was dying to know, so I called the Club.  It’s Pan European – just in case you are as curious as I.

After some pleasant exploring, an old time diner caught our eye.  I am a sucker for an old neon sign, and we got sucked in.

Sign

Hinsch’s is a 65-year-old soda fountain on 5th Ave and 86th.  It looks quite authentic, except the banner noting that it is under new management.  After being seated, we took a look at the menu, and it looked a bit too familiar.  This is not the end of the line burger tour (please refer back to our first trip on the B train uptown for more info), and I can’t say exactly why, but we were slightly put off by the extensive list of paninis on a soda fountain menu.  On the fence as to whether we should stay, we ordered some coffee and an orange juice and waited for a sign.  And then it came.  Taylor Dayne’s sweet voice asking us to tell it to her heart, and telling us we needed to find somewhere more interesting to eat than another diner that plays Taylor Dayne (no disrespect, LOVE Taylor Dayne).  That aside – the OJ was fresh squeezed and delicious, the service was friendly and there is a surveillance tv in the ladies bathroom aimed at the front door of the restaurant.  Worth a stop if you’re in the neighbourhood, you might even run into these ladies…

Ladies

A few more blocks of walking and we happened upon Le Sajj, serving Lebanese & Mediterranean Cuisine.  It looked inviting enough, and there were two other people in there, so we decided to go for it.

Le Sajj

There was a bar in the back lit by a skylight, which gave us the distinct feeling that we were on vacation (perhaps a Mediterranean vacation if you really suspended disbelief), elaborate wood moulding and a white pressed tin ceiling.  After a bit of a wait, they brought us out pickled vegetables and our menus. The restaurant is named after a type of Lebanese flatbread, which the menu claimed was “a timeless tradition practiced by our grandmothers and mothers and is preserved only at our restaurant”.  I can’t say for sure if the bread is only made that way at that restaurant, but I can say that we have never had anything like it before.  It is extremely thin, and was delivered to us folded in a basket.  It was good for wrapping what was still to come!

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We decided that we would order a few appetizers and leave one for “chef’s choice” (something that we decided to do going forward at other end of the line dining destinations).  We ordered the Lebanese wine (white and red), halloumi cheese, the “Lebanese garden” platter (hommos, baba ghannoj, tabouli, stuffed grape leaves) and then we asked the waiter to pick out an appetizer for us.  He didn’t quite get our drift.  He recommended a whole fish entree.  Ultimately, he brought us out some spinach pie.  Not as exciting as we had hoped for. On the whole, the food was really good, and we left feeling satisfied and sleepy.

Earlier in the day we had discussed taking a walk by the water, however after our meal, we were feeling a bit tired and sluggish. It’s been a long week – we both celebrated birthdays – a brunch filled with piñatas (which ended up on Bonnie’s head) and tamales and drinks aplenty.  We threw around the idea of just boarding the train, and getting some much needed rest at home, but then we changed our minds.  We were glad that we did.  The park at the water was beautiful and even spending just a few minutes there was worth the walk.

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I don’t have many regrets in life, but there are definitely times when I wish I could reverse the decision to stay in and snooze rather than go out and experience.  Bonnie can attest first hand to times in college that our plans to go out dancing were foiled by a nap that even Bonnie’s jumping on the bed could not awake.  Bonnie on the other hand, gets magical second, third, fourth and fifth winds!  Even later that night after end of the line dining, she went out dancing till 3am at a going away party. She contemplated staying in but I told her to go. It was the right thing to do.  I knew the winds would come—they always do!

Stay tuned for the next installment of End of the Line Dining, when Bonnie and I (hopefully, successfully) take the B train DOWNTOWN to Brighton Beach in two weeks! We will be joined by some very special guests!

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