Though we’ve had repeated pronouncements made here at Toronto Sauna that the Baths at Brighton Beach are better, the proof is in the pudding, so we’ll believe it when we see it.  In the meantime, if you’re in the New York area and looking for a sure thing, head on over to 10th and 1st.

Russian and Turkish Baths feels very New York…it’s got that old school charm, that NY smell and…well…this is because being from 1892, the place is old.  Walking in the set up is pretty standard for any run of the mill bathhouse.  Rather than describe it, check it out here:

This place has five (FIVE!) different steam rooms all crammed into a poorly laid out basement.  The area is difficult to maneuver in when it’s packed but the diversity of spaces and steams makes up for any shuffling that must be done.  The place is coed, but everyone mostly does their own thing.  You get the impression that lots of people have been coming here for ever ad you can see why.

Starting at the back of the sauna gauntlet you can work your way forward.  I recommend the aromatherapy room first.  The room isn’t very hot, but the nice smells sooth you and get you ready for a steady ramp up in the increase in temperature.

A small steam room is good for an intimate steaming experience (though it’s basically just a smaller and hotter version of the aromatherapy room) and the redwood room is a must for those that like the standard dry, wood-paneled straight up sauna.  However for Toronto Sauna our money is on the Turkish room.  The only thing really Turkish about it is the fact that it’s covered in tiles, but it does have a handy cold shower built into the room itself that you can blast yourself with.  They also usually throw in some eucalyptus which is a nice treat.

When you’re done here, we strongly recommend a blast in the cool pool because, friends, you are about to enter a volcano.

Most of us here at Toronto Sauna lover a piping hot sauna.  But dear god, the Russian sauna at Russian and Turkish baths holds no punches.  It is a deep heat that can only be appreciated when getting changed.  This is because when you’re in the men’s changeroom you are standing directly on top of the sauna.  And unless you’ve got slippers you will be dancing as if you are on hot coals.  Inside, you’ll feel something that can not be described…only experienced.

But wait!  We’re just getting warmed up here, because unlike most other saunas and bathhouses, the gem of this place, by far is the incredible and delicious selection of beer.  They have food too, but the dozen’s of Russian and Eastern European beers take the cake.  Throw on your robe and pop over to the patio (during the summer) and nurse an ice cold one.

Of course there’s EVEN MORE! You’ll see a tremendous amount of people getting massages and scrubs in this place.  Sea salt, Russian birch and big burly men all milling about wait to exfoliate your skin and de-clench the sinews and every muscle in your body.  That said a warning comes from blogger Andrew Sullivan:

“A friend took me to some Russian baths – a mise-en-scene that came like a bolt from the blue. Some of the most beautiful men I have ever seen were parading in front of bikini-ed female admirers; there were Jews and gentiles; there was food and even something called “plotzing” where some dude whacks you with a tree branch as a form of massage. So my friend booked me one when we arrived. It was timed for 3.45 pm. It never happened. We waited till 5 pm and gave up. The lockers were all numbered randomly. Talking to customer service, one quickly realized there wasn’t any.”

Sullivan has a hate on for New York, so take it with grain of salt (specifically if that grain will be part of the Epsom salt scrub).

In any case, it’s Manhattan! So gay and queer folks should expect to be taken care of nicely without incident.  And so should anyone!

Overall Rating (Out of 5): 4/5

Cleanliness: 3/5

Facilities: 5/5

Cost: $35

Coed: Yuppers – separate change rooms and no birthday suits

Queer or Straight: It’s New York, everyone will be fine

Facilities: Russian Sauna, cool pool, redwood sauna, turkish sauna, aromatherapy room, steam room, swedish shower, sun deck, restaurant, bar