Summer Almanac 2012: Nassau Shopping and Nightlife

imageSaturday Delight Great Neck

From its earliest days, this northwestern corner of Long Island has been known for commerce. It started in the 1660s when area farmers found their necessary services in the village. It’s not at all rural today, but it remains a retail hub. And shop here they do, but that’s not all. Middle Neck Road is a strip full of stars—boutiques like Steven Dann, Jildor, Nardo, Lonnys—and a handful of wagons to quell your hunger. There is a sweeter side, too. The 5 Continents and Lazar’s snack shops will stroke your sweet tooth with nuts, cookies and crème coffee, fluffy marshmallows and heavenly chocolate delectables. For a serious throwback experience, Postur-Line has one of those old time picture shows—the ultimate in cheap thrills—where one penny will have you flipping through a reel of vintage photos… Oh no, a train wreck! Or just pick up a new pair of Chuck All Stars while you’re there. If you want to nosh, Bruce’s is the definitive kosher deli (you’d be mad to miss the cheesecake). For evenings, Sip City is a micro lounge with a mighty international menu and bar offerings to keep up. The fun doesn’t stop here. Around the corner, jeweler extraordinaire Gelber & Mundy is centered on Bond Street (hint hint) and Bee-Organic is your crunchy healthy café and juice bar—Zen for the inside, with Buddha statues and handmade goods for Zen on the outside.

“Great Neck is a lively, well-maintained town. The residents have a great sense of community pride and enjoy patronizing the local merchants, of which there is a large selection. We love having a store here and interacting with the sophisticated shoppers who are looking for something special.” Howard and David Zuckerman, second-generation owners of Gelber & Mundy, Bond Street.

Highly Recommended:Village Market
Heads up! You might miss one of Long Island’s most precious hidden gems. Enjoy one of their specialty omelets (or design your own) or a veggie burger with radish sprouts and curry dressing. Improve either one with a baked tomato—it’ll be the best dollar you spend all day. This is the place to read the paper and escape the shopping marathon. And they play great classic rock. Tell Charles and Giovana we say, “hey!”

Artsy UpSide

Heading out of Great Neck, follow Bayview Ave north into Port Wash—a left on Plandome Rd will get you there. Innuendo, Tava and Wild Honey are chic, intimate options for happy hour, with diverse international fare. But if you want a sunset waterside scene, few can compare to Louie’s Oyster Bar & Grille. If you’re lucky, or plan ahead, you’ll be here on a night when something is happening at the Landmark on Main Street. This arts venue has hosted performances by David Bromberg, Richie Havens, Rickie Lee Jones, Jorma Kaukonen, Shelby Lynne, Tito Puente Jr, Dar Williams and other gods of the folk, funk, roots and world music scenes. Plan well and make your first stop.

Nightlife tip: Nearby Glen Cove is pretty thumping downtown along School St. On Thursday nights they close it to thru traffic for car shows and other such carousing—um, parading.

Who Doesn’t Love a Bar?

Miniature but mighty Mineola is stepping up its selection of hit-and-run eateries. At the center is the Brown Box Cafe on the corner of 2nd and Main. Started by baker Lisa Cron to exercise her passion for meatballs, it is now a breakfast and lunch spot offering the gamut of down-home fresh and fantastic food with an inventive twist. You choose your meatball (one of four assorted types), choose your sauce, your topping and your landing (bowl, bread, etc). It’s kinda like the good ol’ days of the Soup Nazi, but with meat: A small, unassuming place where people line up around the corner just for a bowl of the day’s goods. The name includes two of the most important words in the English language: MEAT(ball) + BAR = Meatball Bar. See? Go now.

Rockville Centre

RVC is your quirky East Village type of town, only sprawled out across a few busy, double-lane streets. It’s the kind of place that will do you right for sipping a Saturday afternoon beer, assuming you can handle a drink before 4pm. If not, try Le Chat Noir, a patisserie and teahouse. Punctuating the streets are little boutiques with an old-school focus, like Twin Hearts Vintage, stocked with clothing and accessories authentically of another time. Milk & Honey’s offerings are new, but reminiscent of sweeter bygone eras, with a Billie Holiday soundtrack on the speakers to prove it. Finally, Extra Butter is a skate shop with a healthy stock of shoes, like Toms “One for One.”

The occasional home décor store will help lighten your pockets along the stroll. And smack in the middle of town is CD Island. You remember record stores, don’t you? Defined by that distinctive dusty, musky smell and the long, narrow rows of cubbies housing CDs and movies, CD Island is of a cherished but dying breed.

The big draw however, is the casual restaurants that come alive after 7pm. The Dark Horse Tavern boasts a burger and fries for $6 and Churchill’s has a new 10oz steakburger. Prime Catch Seafood Bar & Lounge, if you need a little karaoke to go with your fish du jour, is thee spot 8pm-Midnight on Fridays. The list would be incomplete without Beach House (sounds like what it is: Flatbread pizza, surfboards hung from the ceiling), Get Baked (isn’t what it sounds: Shaved ice, sorbetos and cupcakes), the famous Croxley Ales and its beer garden (though it’s more beer than garden), Dodici Italian restaurant, Five Pennies Creamery and George Martin’s Grillfire. Kasey’s, a larger lounge, is equal parts flat screen tvs and cocktails, and Press 195 makes a little sandwich and easy fare to go with an abundance of wine offerings. It’s easy to see why it’s a restaurant town (and there are about a dozen more great spots not mentioned here). Choose one or many in the same night. You won’t be disappointed.



The Freeport of most of our youths is a flip-flops-only fish fry sort of place. This is still true, although much like the rest of Long Island, Nautical Mile has been cleaning up its act. You can pick up a fun and no-frills tchotchke at touristy gift shops like the Seahorse and Silver by the Sea.

Riverhouse Grill offers live entertainment (not including the other patrons), JC Cove is a restaurant and bar with no shortage of tall tales, and F&J Classic Cigars has all your smoking needs (yes they sell cigarettes, too). Hershey’s Ice Cream, Hurricane Harry’s, Two Cousins Fish Market, Otto’s Sea Grill, Rachel’s Waterside Grill are all right there, and just in case the night gets really interesting, there is a law office across the way. Captain Ben’s Fish Market, Bracco’s Clam & Oyster Bar where the reggae band was screwed into place beneath the white EZ tent years ago, and one upscale-ish place, Hudson & McCoy, which entered the scene a few years ago as a definitive oyster, martini, steak and lobster house (with or without flip-flops, it’s still pretty laid back). Look, this is Freeport. The Nautical Mile. Leave your uppity expectations at home, cuff your pants, roll up your sleeves and bring some friends. A lot of friends.

Slick Sixties
Slightly farther off is The Patio at Freeport Inn and Marina. You can’t think about this place without thinking about those famously anonymous haunts in LA—you have to be in, to get in. The outside reads as an inconspicuous 60s era roadside inn (in a cool, Vegas sort of way). But the backside is where the magic happens. Think Rat Pack and Voodoo punch.

Get Wise To Cholov Yisroel
Five Towns in Five Hours

When you’ve given up the beach and want a chill Sunday, the Five Towns will deliver. Heading south from Cedarhurst on Broadway (before crossing over to Central Avenue) to take in the smattering of shopping and low-key eateries, Hewlett will whet your palate. Pantano’s pretends to be an Italian foodspot only, but it is also beloved for breakfast, and La Jolie Fleur—where you can test your charge card on some coveted Alice + Olivia or Black Halo—is across the street.

As soon as you pass into Cedarhurst, things really start hopping—the strollers, the music in the shops, the offerings all represent the style and taste you’d find in any active downtown. The surprisingly unassuming storefronts host tony Parisian designs as well as the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Carmen Marc Valvo, Phoebe and so forth. You can while away an afternoon shopping for things from Metal Art (Judaica for the home) to Breezy’s (kitchen goodies to eat and prepare food). Ruthies is not the only frozen yogurt-ice cream-bakery-coffee shop in town, but they will clue you in about the Cholov Yisroel process. Central Perk and Mom’s Kosher Pastries will also sate your sweet tooth and are close enough to the park to take your indulgences outdoors.

The vibe is very quiet and organized, and indeed, each store focuses on a succinct category of fashion. Yet it’s a very communal, friendly feeling. But leave the sweatpants at home. This is the kind of excursion where most women wear skirts and the men are casually, but sharply dressed.

Plus, you can discover Rock Hall. No, the other Rock Hall—the New York State Revolutionary War trail site. It’s a 1767 Georgian House owned by Josiah Martin, a Patriot imprisoned by the Continental Congress, as were many other Loyalists in Hempstead. The Hewlett family eventually took possession of the Hall before deeding the building to the Town of Hempstead as a museum.

imageBoardwalk Empire

There are many reasons for coming to Long Beach, but the main reason is without comparison: The Boardwalk. The City by the Sea’s history is not far behind it, which adds the grit of honesty and makes it so easy to spend time here. The modest abodes tell you everything you need to know—it’s all about the beach. Even on a chilly day, the men are wearing board shorts and flip-flops. But if you need more, it will deliver.

Crossing into Long Beach from southern Nassau, the Atlantic Bridge is a good way to go, but it’ll cost you $2. The western end is formally the more residential side, featuring not much more than a lone Portuguese restaurant. Only when you breach Georgia Ave along W. Beech St does the density increase. Cabana is the first, a Mexican joint sans pretense. The Saloon—ditto. At the corner of Wyoming Ave is Paninis and Bikinis, home of Long Beach’s foremost hangover cure. Other assorted spots are thick with surfer and chopper types filling outdoor areas in the afternoon. They seem to offer good times as much as they do food. The restaurants a few blocks north along W. Park Ave seem to be more popular with “out of towners,” starting around Magnolia St with Lola’s Kitchen & Wine Bar, a nod to the Florida Keys that’s as welcome for a Sunday brunch as it is for Friday cocktails. Passing Grillfire, Sutton Place and, crossing over National Blvd, the next stretch of blocks brings as much density as variety (as well as one Cuban Crocodile).

The glut of restaurants is in the middle and west areas, but if you find yourself east, as in Lido Beach (near Loop Parkway), Malibu Shore Club is happy to receive. It might be too late to take advantage of their cabana rentals, but Maliblue Oyster Bar is the place for some suds and a bucket of steamers (yes, oysters and fancier fare, too). Add this to your repertoire of shorefront, sunset happy hours.

The best way to explore the area is on two wheels, not four. Long Beach Bicycle abides with a range of available rentals. Just remember you can be ticketed for DUI on a bike.

If you don’t make it here this summer, the first Saturday in October is Long Beach Irish Day. You can imagine.

Funky FatFish

Whether or not you’re taking a Bay Shore ferry over to Fire Island, fatfish on a Friday night is a good place to stop for live music, a tempting wine bar and terrific bistro fare.

What else in Bay Shore?

The Boulton Center, of course. An up-close-and-personal 260-seat theater where the likes of Loudon Wainwright III, Marcia Ball and Matthew Sweet are already booked for the coming weeks. Across the street and down a-ways, the inimitable Drew Patrick resides in the old bank. Even if you’re not able to take in some of the best spa services around, it’s a cool place to pop in for eclectic things for your home and hands down the high holy of cookies, the Texas Mansion, which includes just about everything (chocolate, rolled oats, coconut…). Don’t worry. You’ll love it.