When it’s time for dinner, Huntington sits at the head of Long Island’s table. Huntington restaurants are like a diverse plate of offerings from international to gastropub, elegant to casual. For an ambitious restaurant owner like James Tchinnis of Swallow Restaurant Group, which has eateries in Huntington and Montauk, the competition fuels him.
“Huntington is probably the best place on Long Island for food,” Tchinnis said. “It’s the hub. As a chef speaking for chefs, there’s a sense of ‘I’ve got to prove myself. I’ve got to bring my A-game.’ It raises the bar.”
But the competition hasn’t stopped Tchinnis from tipping his cap to—or booking a table at—a nearby spot. He shared his favorite Huntington restaurants with Pulse. Prepare to eat like a chef.
Great Burgers: Rust & Gold
The new sports bar and restaurant, which former Swallow mixologist Frank Antoinetti partnered to open in September, has already created a burger buzz. “They’re hand-formed, 8oz burgers. Some are piled with bacon and cheddar.” The day we spoke, Tchinnis was heading there for a Bobby Nice: a double patty with American cheese, BBQ beef, pickles and rainbow slaw. “The double patty with the BBQ beef is a beef overload in a great way. [It has] great flavor [and is] perfect with beer.” The food is more creative than a concession stand, but on gameday, expect high fives, 65-inch TVs and a stellar sound system that ensures fans won’t miss a minute of action. Go
Great Wine: Jonathan’s Ristorante
“They’ve won awards for their wine list.” It’s true. An 11-time winner of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, given annually to select restaurants around the world, Jonathan’s Ristorante offers more than 100 wines by the bottle and glass. Many members of the well-trained staff, which included Tchinnis about 15 years ago, have been working at Jonathan’s for years and know how to really help diners pick out the perfect vino. “It’s like a family there. It’s a whole different vibe when people buy into the philosophy. When someone wants to help you have a good time, you’ll see that.” James and his wife gravitate towards the Patz and Hall Chardonnay, a complex wine with hints of pineapple and a great mouth feel; the Turley Juvenile Zinfandel, a smooth and thick drinking wine with dark cherry flavors and the La Spinet Rosé, a complex rosé with tart cherry flavors and a nice acidity. Go
Cozy Date Night: Piccolo
Nothing screams “date-night fare” quite like Italian and Piccolo’s live piano music, candlelit tables and extensive wine list hit all the right romantic notes. “It’s my wife and my favorite restaurant. It’s intimate…we love to get a nice bottle of red and hang out.” Tchinnis tends to order the fried calamari as an appetizer. “It’s nice and light.” For a main course, take a page out of his menu and spring for the crab cavatelli. “It’s homemade pasta, which alone is something I love. Then they add a cream sauce, which infuses with the crab meat. They cook it down and put a little cheese on it. It warms you up as it goes down.” Go
Tchinnis loves how lively Swallow gets on Sunday. “There’s live music. A reggae band plays from 12-4pm.” The food is as fun as the atmosphere. Think classics like crepes and pancakes and a bacon, egg and cheese empanada. “The dough is beautiful and flaky. It’s like a classic Long Island bacon, egg and cheese sandwich but it’s in an empanada.” The short rib hash is also not to be missed. “We take our slow-braised short ribs and cook them down for hours with red wine. Then we shred it, sauté it with roasted potatoes, put unnamed Mexican cheese on top and a sunny side egg on top of that.” Consider your Sunday Funday plans made. Go
Quick Meals: Munday’s Restaurant
When Tchinnis and his wife have a spare moment after dropping their kids off at school, they hit up Munday’s Restaurant. “It’s classic Americana with a tiled floor and wooden banquettes. There’s a tin wall and photos of diners. It’s got a hometown good feel to it.” These days, guests will find it decked out with Thanksgiving decorations like turkeys. Speaking of which, “I typically get a turkey club on white toast with bacon, lettuce and tomato and good ole diner fries. If I’m feeling healthy, which is rare, they have a nice granola bowl with yogurt, strawberry and blueberries…it fuels me.” Go
Opulent Evenings: Prime: An American Kitchen and Bar
“There’s no more beautiful restaurant on Long Island, in my opinion. They killed it with the design. They didn’t miss one detail.” During summers, there’s no view of the water quite like Prime’s, which has a large deck overlooking the marina. Come fall and winter, guests can have a night out in by choosing a seat in the wine room or dining area. “[The room off the bar] has a big fireplace. It’s almost a lodge feeling with the stone. It’s so comforting. The wine room is dark and sexy with the wine behind the glass.” Tchinnis’ go-to meal at Prime is the beef wellington. “It’s classic but rich. There’s skillet roasted potatoes that you can get on the side…they’re tender and crispy and usually have rosemary and garlic. It goes great with the hollandaise sauce in the wellington.” Go
Comfort Food: Oaxaca Mexican Restaurant
Sometimes, Tchinnis’ cravings call for comfort, which prompts him to head across the street to no-frills Mexican joint Oaxaca. “It’s as authentic as Mexican gets. It’s like someone’s mother is making food for you.” He de-stresses with a street taco. “It’s slow cooked pork with cilantro…it’s definitely cooked with love.” Go