Growing up on Long Island is second to none. We live in the backyard of the greatest city in the world, have unlimited access to beaches on all sides, play host to an acclaimed culinary scene and can claim some of the greatest musicians and artists in the world as our own. Even still, there are some seemingly mundane, everyday things that Islanders might take for granted unless they leave. I’ve been there, done that. Two years ago, I moved from Long Island to the West Coast and I found there are certain things I never knew I needed that now always make me homesick.
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Driving down 25A
From Queens to the North Fork, few drives are as dynamic, iconic and crowded as Route 25A. It begins in Flushing, one of the urban centers of New York’s Korean and Chinese communities, and meanders through Gatsby country where elaborate mansions serve as a reminder of our region’s opulent history. Touching the coast in Cold Spring Harbor, the road cuts inland through culinary and nightlife hub Huntington, continues through quaint coastal towns and ends on the North Fork.
A kindred spirit is someone who will wait on line forever for “cawfee” and who is from “Just outside New York City—Long Island.” Speaking of waiting “on line”—the rest of the country says “in.” Add it to the list of things that makes Islanders unique.
He hasn’t released a studio album since 2001, but Billy Joel still strikes a chord with Long Islanders, especially the displaced variety. When he came to San Diego to perform for the first time in 15 years in May, he brought down the house in front of a clearly New York-heavy crowd. When “Downeaster ‘Alexa'” came on, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house because “there ain’t no island left for Islanders like me.”
Seeing a concert at Jones Beach
Whether arriving to the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater by land or sea, it’s immediately obvious that this is an incredibly special place. The amphitheater that juts out into an inlet is flanked by water on three sides and draws acts from around the globe. Live music under the stars on the water is just better after a sunset tailgate.
Summer is technically 16 weeks, but it’s just not the same without the traffic jams on the LIE and Sunrise Highway. You can’t blame Long Islanders for crowding the streets. After a long, slushy, cold winter, our hometowns turn into a summer wonderland with beaches, clam shacks, outdoor concerts and boat parties on all sides. After moving off the Island, I had to adjust to a culture shock when I realized that my new neighbors didn’t have their Memorial Day Weekend, Fourth of July and Labor Day plans locked up in January.
Food, in general
Bagels lack a signature crunch on the outside, pizza frequently comes with the wrong bread/sauce/cheese ratio and 24-hour Greek diners? That’s a uniquely Long Island institution. But let’s talk about egg sandwiches for a second. To Islanders, wanting an egg sandwich topped with bacon and cheese and served on a roll is second nature. But for some reason, it seems this creation barely exists anywhere else. After a couple of years in California, I still have yet to find a takeaway “bacon, egg and cheese on a roll” on any menu. Long Islanders living elsewhere will just have to make this breakfast treat themselves.
Italian food, specifically
Personally, I knew I’d miss this one before I left. Whether it’s cold cheese pizza from Little Vincent’s, the neighborhood pork store, mom’s Sunday sauce, or the variety of specialties from Emilio’s in Commack, Italian food tastes different on the left coast. If you order a pie outside of New York, expect an apple pie instead of a pizza along with a few confused looks. Don’t believe me? Check the bags of people that are flying out of JFK on Sunday night—I bet there’s more than a few boxes of pizza and jars of Sunday sauce packed away. Or so I’ve heard.
The Voice on the LIRR
Like an old friend, the automated conductor’s voice on the Long Island Rail Road is always there after a long time off the Island. No matter where dispersed Islanders came from or where they are going, “Next stop: Merillon Avenue” is a phrase everyone instinctively knows.
Tell us: What do you miss most about living on the Island?