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Dear Sandoony,

November 24, 2009

1158 McDonald Ave, Brooklyn

First of all, thanks so much for always hosting a great party. We think you are the best banya deal in town and we totally appreciate the long tables reserved for us, the sweet little group discounts and the fresh towels always stocked! Is there a keener way to celebrate with a pile of friends than a leisurely sauna and soak, a recline on the balcony (skin steaming in the chilled air), an awesome snack? And then do it all over again!

To make the most of this experience, it’s mandatory to observe the regulars. They come prepared with snacks, beverages, flip flops, hair masks, etc. The spa-goers claim a spot, set up shop and spend a day lounging. In and out of hot rooms and pools, snapping each other with leafy branches (platza). They read and play cards, eat a few meals with plenty of fine drinks, beer and vodka among the favorites.

Though guests may bring their own, it is the amazing quality of the food in the banya’s restaurant that is such a fantastic surprise. With well-priced house specialties like smoked salmon, borscht, pickled vegetables (including chayote and lettuce), whole prawns, and garlicy potatoes, we are transformed from a group of temporarily de-stressed and exfoliated New Yorkers into a hearty, red-nosed, robe-clad clan of Eastern blockers. The menu is extensive, everyone eats, and it doesn’t take long to get used to the idea of dining in a tiled room alongside a pool in a bathing suit. In fact, relaxed comfort might make the food taste that much better.

Though it is not fancy, everything is served with great pride and flourish. Food shaped into flowers (Sandoony is the only place this is acceptable), served with extra lemon, bright herbs, two kinds of bread and heaps of butter. The fish is perfectly cured and the soups restorative, each plate a meal in itself. Even an order of tea is accompanied by lemon, honey, sugar, milk and these fabulously sweet sour cherries. It is honest, well-done and downright delicious. No one bats an eye when a bunch of girls eat cupcakes and sip vodka. They just want to know whose birthday it is…

It’s kind of a steamy dream. Thank you.

Love,

Ori

Photos by Jean Naté.

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