When it comes to Long Island dinner, Huntington tends to always take a seat at the head of the table, and emerging towns like Patchogue and Bay Shore have become heavyweights in the local food fight. But those who consider the dining scene their oysters will find plenty of pearls in these undercard Long Island foodie towns.
Twenty minutes from quaint Port Jefferson and a hop, skip and jump from Smithtown’s bustling bar scene, St. James often goes overlooked. But the town is like a mini-Long Island, right down to the pair of wineries, Harmony and Whisper Vineyards. In addition to wine tasting, both offer cheese platters and Harmony serves up weekend brunch and live music. When cravings call for good ‘ole burgers and brews, newly opened Liberty Burger and Beer Co., the latest venture for The DeNicola Concept Restaurant Group (Ruvo, Del Fuego and La Tavola), is already known to satisfy. Burgers range from the all-American Liberty Burger, brunch style Nooner with smoked bacon and ham and an Ahi Tuna with sesame slaw sure to hit the spot during peak seafood season. Italian enthusiasts can find brick-oven pizza at Spuntino or eggplant alla parmigiana at BYOB The Trattoria Restaurant, a rustic hidden gem. Even morning haters are loving Soul Brew, a coffee shop serving everything from a traditional cup of joe to chocolate peanut butter lattes.
Long in the shadow of Huntington, which is a mere six miles away, Syosset is plotting its rise as a nightlife town. Castanga Realty, the real estate masterminds behind Americana Manhasset and Simon Malls, are spearheading a multi-use development called Syosset Park, which will feature hotels, restaurants and shops. Though the project is still in early stages, some restaurants have already staked territory, and some of the best have become known for taking taste buds on an international excursion. Platia’s mega-sized blue canopy, addictive zucchini and eggplant chips and char grilled octopus put fun twists on a big, fat Greek night out. For a taste of Asia, try Beijing House’s stir fired pork meatballs with soy and vinegar sauce or The Rolling Spring Roll’s beef pho.
Known for being the gateway to the Hamptons and North Fork and home of Martha Clara Vineyards, Riverhead has a generous menu of dining options. There’s no need to use a knife when indulging in lamb shank at PeraBell—it falls off the bone. No-frills seafood market Buoy One invites people to come as they are, even if they’re wearing Birkenstocks. Farm Country Kitchen’s decor embraces its NoFo location and farmhouse roots. The chairs are an earthy-green and the accents are wooden but the white table cloths provide an upscale touch in line with the menu’s quality, which includes a lemon tart mascarpone frequenters consider a creamy, tangy indulgence. Leaving town without ice cream from Snowflake or an apple pie from Briermere is downright sinful.
UberFacts claims one could eat out in New York City every night for 54 years and still have restaurants left to try. But at the rate the LIRR is going, one could spend 54 years trying to get there the first time. These days, ditching the train and eating out in Williston Park is becoming more appetizing to diners, and with good reason. Copper Hill, a 125-year-old refurbished farmhouse, is an airy space with an open bar and cozy vibes. The Cracked Up daiquiri, which uses lemon instead of lime and agave syrup instead of simple syrup, is made for toasting to summer. The chops at BBG are so good even Pulse food reviewer Richard Scholem once wrote they deserve a standing ovation.
Blame Bayport’s undercard status on Patchogue’s resurgence, but consider a dinner out in the quaint town a must. Set in a window-lined cottage, Le Soir’s intimate feel, white tablecloths and noted gourmet French menu make it ideal for having one of those kinds of meals. Chef and co-owner Michael Kaziewicz’s French bread is love at first bite and the duck a l’orange is sweet, tangy and tender. Lia Fallon (Jedediah Hawkins, Riverhead Project) recently took over as executive chef at Grey Horse Tavern and has created a menu full of eclectic foods. Think spring pasta with asparagus and oysters and seared sea scallops made with tomato butter. Painters offers an extensive wine menu, sushi and a chance to draw on your tablecloth.