The Best Restaurants on Long Island
One of Long Island’s best kept secrets is that there are, in fact, places to eat other than bagel stores, pizza places, and The Cheesecake Factory. It’s true! The past 10 years have brought a transition from the Olive Garden to the parking lot garden, from Sizzler to Sous Vide, and maybe a chef or two plating with tweezers. The ties that bind Long Islanders will always be such epic food traditions as the Little Vincent’s cold slice, an all-American cheeseburger, or a deli Hungry Man. But notable spots like Tullulah’s and Old Fields are combining tradition and trends with spectacular results, and newcomers are following suit. Whether your style is old-school or trailblazer, you've got dinner options aplenty. These are our favorites.
Located just off the train tracks in quaint Greenlawn, Old Fields is a stellar neighborhood tavern that originally opened in 1955. For five decades, this was the place you’d visit once a year with your grandfather and his fellow esteemed Moose Lodge members because he got a free birthday steak postcard. Enter David and Christine Tunney, who somehow changed nothing yet everything, and reopened with a cool and cozy vibe. The menu features pubby comforts, with strict attention paid to food quality. Those who don’t worry about the little things -- like their arteries -- will adore the Davey Gravey: a cheeseburger housed between two grilled cheese sandwiches. The skirt steak, marinated in the original recipe from 1955, is a modern classic. Rustic icebox pie makes a fitting signature dessert for this small town star.
This lively Garden City mainstay has been around for nearly two decades, and is known best for its moules frites. The mussels are available in a dozen rich broths with global inspiration. The Thai and Montrachet varieties are standouts, and the traditional Provencal is great as well. All are accompanied by fresh-cut frites for your broth-dipping pleasure. If mussels aren’t your thing, there are a number of alternative entrées, as well as an indulgent Wellington burger. True Belgian trademarks aren’t forgotten; Waterzooi boasts the largest Belgian beer selection on Long Island, as well as heavenly fresh-baked Brussels waffles for dessert.
As the sole James Beard Award-nominee on Long Island, Guy Reuge knows a thing or two about the marriage of classic cooking and updated trends. Sandbar is his latest outpost, located in a completely renovated space in the heart of Cold Spring Harbor. Like the chef himself, Sandbar stays true to its Long Island roots with a frequently changing farm-to-table menu and an abundance of seafood specialties. Try the Long Island clam chowder (because when in Rome/Suffolk... ) and Reuge’s signature Berkshire pork chop. The interior is yacht club-chic, and will make you regret leaving your khakis crumpled up in the corner of your closet.
It is highly likely that All American has had a line every second since it opened in 1963. To this day, its simple hamburgers -- bigger than White Castle, smaller than McDonald’s -- come in at less than a buck-50, which makes it completely cost effective and a fairly sound investment to consume a dozen. All American is as old-school as it comes. You order at a long counter, and eat your food wherever there’s space -- the scattered outdoor tables, a counter on the front wall, or perhaps sitting on your tailgate. No matter how highbrow the scene turns, the true food soul of Long Island lies in a few cheeseburgers, a square knish, and a chocolate milkshake.
What happens when you combine a dive bar, a gastropub, and some vintage scuba equipment? You get this quirky newcomer offering lowbrow/highbrow pub fare. Duck hot dogs topped with duck confit chili, apple mustard butter, and some optional foie gras epitomize the concept. Plus, in a nearly impossible feat, the Dive’s homemade tater tots are far superior to their frozen counterparts. The beer lineup dominates the neighborhood, as does the wacked-out cocktail list, including a bottled and nitrogenated Cosmo dubbed the Sarah Jessica Parker. Fun fact: patrons can earn discounts for various random things, like having a fantastic beard or being the life of the party -- qualities that truly do deserve constant accolades.
Chef Stephen Rizzo’s butcher shop and casual restaurant combo has all the townies buzzing, and for good reason. Crispy apple-glazed Brussels sprouts with house-smoked bacon bits are large enough for sharing, but it ain’t gonna happen, my friends. The 5 Cut Burger is a masterpiece, using a nice blend of meats and served with perfectly salted thick-cut French fries. Should you opt for a cut out of the butcher case, (which you absolutely should) there’s a 50% markup to prepare the meat in-house, and it includes one side. The selection of locally produced beverages such as Great South Bay Blood Orange pale ale, Subtle Tea, and Sail Away cold brew round out the newcomer’s small town vibe.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the Flour Shoppe treats it that way. The cafe existed previously as a bakery, but late in 2015 owners Samantha Caltagirone and Madison Kaer converted it into a charming little farm-to-table breakfast and lunch spot highlighting Stumptown Coffee, Satur Farms produce, and other local entities. Menu bests are the home fried breakfast poutine (yes, seriously) and scrambled Florentine tartine, with fluffy eggs, spinach, and Gruyère atop a freshly baked rustic toast -- basically bruschetta on steroids. Scratch-baked goods and homemade granola taste no less spectacular than their entrée counterparts. Light fixtures are made from whisks and graters, which align perfectly with the restaurant’s light-hearted personality.
Chefs Jonathan Contes and Tate Morris’ game-changer restaurant offers a daily rotating menu based on what is in season, and apparently, whatever the chefs are in the mood for. There is no physical menu at Mosaic -- you just offer up your food allergies and extreme dislikes (but really don’t, you control freak) and let the courses roll! A Fifty Shades of Grey-style waiter delivers your five mystery courses and a heartfelt monologue describing the dish. A recent squid ink pasta “which we made today! By hand!” was twirled so beautifully it was worth admiring for a good three minutes before eating. While the plating is Instagram gold, meals are so transporting that you won’t even remember what an iPhone is.
Sometimes you just need a Greek Isle getaway for a couple hours to propose to your girlfriend, and for those times, there’s Kyma. Nestled in a corner of Roslyn village, this elegant Mediterranean space is best known for impeccable seafood, prepared simply. Be sure to start with the Kyma Chips, paper thin slices of fried eggplant and zucchini. Choose from a handful of whole fish (that friendly servers will debone table-side) or a range of inventive entrees. You’ll find unexpected love in a housemade Greek yogurt with honey, black cherry, and walnut for dessert. Tables are nearly impossible to score on Saturday nights, but you can also opt for the daily three-course lunch prix fixe (added bonus: you don’t have to iron your fancy pants).
Let’s face it, all you Italian Stallions out there. Nobody makes sauce as well as your grandmother. But inside an unassuming building on Long Beach’s main strip is Chef Andrew Alotti, and he’s ready to give your nonna a sincere run for her money. Though his menu is approachable, each dish is beautifully prepared and plated. The charred octopus appetizer is a must-order, as are the homemade pastas (like baked cannelloni and veal cheek ravioli), with nightly specials pushing the bar even further. Brick oven pizzas, desserts, and cocktails are also on point.
Bay Shore has blossomed into Long Island’s best eating town, and Tullulah’s is the queen bee. This sexy spot will make you feel exceptionally uncool, unless you’re a transplanted Brooklynite. The menu changes seasonally, always offering a variety of small plates from mac & cheese and salads to seafood and dry-aged meats. It’s hard to go wrong when ordering here, and there’s a clear emphasis on food presentation. During the summer, there’s limited outdoor seating and the chefs tend a garden for fresh herbs and produce. Suspender-clad bartenders are masters of their domain, specializing in updated classic cocktails and a stellar beer lineup.
Located on a busy road off the Island’s famed Gold Coast is the German beer hall-inspired home of Peter Luger, an offshoot of the Brooklyn original. Though the interior hasn’t been touched since it opened in the 1980s, most self-and-beef-respecting folks would agree that the steak for two remains the greatest piece of meat on Long Island. The key ingredient? About seven sticks of sizzling butter per serving, which your veteran server will expertly ladle over your portion of porterhouse. Everything about Luger’s is simple; a sliced ripe tomato is an appetizer, so is one slice of bacon. No need for frills when you’re eating the steak of the century.
If you compared the Long Island dining scene to your record collection, Salumi would be the newish Beck album. And we’re talking vinyl. This dimly lit strip mall gem is known best for its laid-back vibes and insane tapas menu. Highlights include daily empanadas and braised oxtail. The seriously delightful pork belly bocadillo (exotic name for sandwich) is perhaps the most recommended menu item on the entire Island. Craft your own meat and cheese board, or let them do the picking for you with a Spanish or French house spread of meats and cheeses. Servers are knowledgable, and will happily assist in pairing your food choices with their extensive wine choices, or vice versa.
Anchored in Huntington Harbor, Prime is the true star of the ever-popular “steak and sushi” scene dominating Long Island -- it works damn hard to make it happen, but it’s the hottest game in town. Though the dining room is gorgeous and fit for any special occasion, the warm weather is what really makes Prime a destination. During the summer, al fresco dining and drinking are simply the only way to go. Spend an afternoon with some friends out on the deck, ogling the impeccably dressed drivers of cars you can’t afford. Drown your misery in a spectacular beef Wellington, and perhaps a fruity martini.
On those days when Louisiana is just too far for lunch, head to this little train car diner. Opt for the alligator sausage (tastes like chicken!) followed by the delightful -- and not-greasy -- fried chicken and waffles, which taste like a freaking funnel cake, and are served with both honey and raspberry butters. Or satisfy your other Southern comfort needs with a fried oyster po-boy, house-smoked BBQ brisket, or shrimp etouffee. Do all of this while enjoying some Preservation Hall Jazz Band and gazing out of your train car window at neighboring industrial park employees on their smoke breaks.
Bonus: the diner
We all know that this is the TRUE best meal on Long Island, and when any fancy schmancy meal fails you, you’re heading to the diner at midnight to eat a Western omelette or some disco fries, and make it all go away.
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Shelby Poole owns two restaurants on Long Island that she didn't include on this list even though she eats there the most. Her favorite food is the pickles that taste like cucumbers.