Less than an hour from the bustle of New York City, Rockville Centre gives locals a taste of suburbia and a vibrant dining scene. The homes appear to be out of a storybook (think Victorians, Tudors and colonials), and Rockville Centre restaurants offer menus as delicious and diverse as one would find in the city.
“It’s very centered around hospitality and the food service business, catering to all walks of life,” said Chef Ian Coughlin of Parlay and Mesita. “We have a little bit of everything in town.”
The limitless options have turned the town into a foodie haven. Coughlin dished on which Rockville Centre restaurants to hit when those brunch, taco and coffee cravings hit.
Best Brunch: Parlay
Coughlin and Parlay rolled out brunch in 2014 and it became an overnight success. Locals were eating it up so quickly, Open Table named it a top 100 spot for brunch in 2015. There’s Nutella-stuffed French Toast, which is as delectable as it sounds, and chicken & waffles served with a spicy honey sriracha sauce. “I can’t tell you the magic ingredient behind [the sauce], but the spices and honey play so well with one another when you mix it with the chicken, it’s to die for.” The laid-back vibe makes it the perfect place to go following a late Saturday night. Go
Afternoon Jolt: Kookaburra
When the 3pm slump sets in, Coughlin books it to Kookaburra. “I tell people, if you like Starbucks, don’t go to [Kookaburra] because you won’t go back.” Locals don’t seem to miss the java giant—the long lines at this popular hole-in-the-wall establishment got even longer after Kookaburra unveiled its La Marzocco espresso machine, which churns out the smoothest shots of espresso around, this year. “They roast their own beans so they have good control over what they produce and what the customer gets. There’s a lot of care and compassion that goes into what they do.” But, as much as he loves the coffee, Coughlin often gets his pick-me-up at the PB&J Bar, which features oats. When I asked why, he seemed to wonder if it was rhetorical. “It’s peanut butter and jelly and oats,” he laughed. Touché. Go
Taco Tuesday: Mesita
Mesita opened its doors last year and Taco Tuesdays are already a hit at the authentic Mexican restaurant. It’s the one day of the week diners can mix-and-match taco options, which are steak, chicken, fish, shrimp, pork and vegetable. Coughlin’s personal favorite is the steak tacos made using skirt steak. “A lot of places use hanger steaks which are similar but not as good quality. [Skirt steaks] are more tender.” Warning: try not to gorge on house-made chips and salsa, which the staff serves in lieu of bread. Warm and crispy, the chips tend to get eaten in a New York minute. The guacamole is made tableside, as are the tacos. “It’s fun to interact with the client and you can customize it.” Less jalapeño? More pico de gallo? Done and done. Go
A Quick, Farm-Fresh Meal: The Flour Shoppe
This hidden gem allows people to have a charming dining experience on-the-quick. Bright flowers adorn the tables and chalkboard menus list the cafe’s offerings in colorful lettering known to bring a smile to the faces of even the groggiest of customers. Coughlin tends to go with the croque madame, a breakfast sandwich with an egg on top. “It’s fresh. A lot of places cut costs using preservatives and frozen things but then there’s places like Flour Shoppe that will spend a couple more dollars to serve fresh food to customers.” Go
High Tea: Chat Noir
“It’s the quintessential ladies who lunch place in town,” Coughlin laughed. But the scones are so good, he breaks the gender barrier without shame. “[They are] made-to-order so they’re still rising when they get to you. They’re soft and crumbly.” As for the tea, it’s made using tealeaves and comes in a pot with a strainer and side of honey. Go
Make a Great Escape: Cork & Kerry
A recent addition to the Rockville Center restaurant scene, at first glance Cork & Kerry appears to be a home nestled between blocks of buildings. Inside, the speak-easy style bar transports guests back to Prohibition days with dim lights, dark walls, comfy leather couches and a tea party menu. Of course, it’s not your grandma’s tea party. The menu offers cocktails like planter’s punch or Rosemary’s baby for groups of four served in a teapot. Pink-raising not recommended while sipping. Go