Babylon Carriage House
21 Fire Island Ave. Babylon, NY 631-422-5161
Housed in a post-Civil War carriage house, this classy restaurant's happy hour crowd is at its strongest Friday evenings. Complimentary buffet offerings typically include salads, pastas and desserts. While the bar may be exciting for mingling purposes, you can address your hunger with entrées both born of the sea (tuna, sea bass, Atlantic salmon) and land (steaks, burgers, chicken) -- all ready to follow appetizers like the house tasting plate, armed with Thai calamari, gorgonzola chopped salad, pork dumplings and yellow fin tuna tartare tacos.Hours: 4 p.m.-10 p.m.: Mon.-Wed. 4 p.m.-11 p.m.: Thursdays. 4 p.m.-11:30 p.m.: Fri.-Sat. 4 p.m.-9 p.m.: Sundays. (Bar stays open until late.) Party size: Party rooms Notable dishes: Tuna tartare, braised short ribs, hamburger, lobster BLT wrap, molten chocolate cake.
Babylon Carriage House is trotting along a different path: the road often taken. More casual in style and familiar in food, the restaurant now takes a safer route through a thorny economy of changing priorities and dining habits. You still can have a good meal here, with respectable beers on tap and a selection of vintage wines. But don't expect that extra side dish of excitement. Although the buoyant personality that marked the joint has been tempered a bit, Babylon Carriage House remains a pretty popular gathering spot, punctuated with live music. The decor appears untouched from four years ago, when the restaurant was first reviewed. Tabletops are getting that distressed look. Banquettes sport the softness of wear. In some ways they've made the joint more comfortable. So nibble on arancini, or rice balls filled with mozzarella, peas and roasted peppers. Turn contemporary with the satisfying yellowfin tuna tartare, glistening under a sesame-ginger vinaigrette. The "jumbo lump crab cake" definitely is plus-sized, surrounded by charred-corn succotash. The "Thai calamari bowl" delivers crunchiness and tender squid, but the sesame-seed-strewn production is defined by a sticky, oversweet chile glaze. A crisp special of chicken-and-cashew spring rolls is a better choice. Undercooked potatoes bob around in the corn chowder. A generous amount of Gorgonzola cheese sparks the house's chopped salad, an iceberg production with red onion. The Caesar salad's dressing needs a wake-up call. Butternut squash ravioli in "balsamic sage brown butter" arrive candy-sweet, complete with a grating of Amaretto-flavored biscotti. The meal improves with main courses. Chef Joseph Balbo sends out a juicy hamburger and an ample, appetizing lobster BLT wrap, with smoked bacon, shredded romaine and a thin, lemon-herb mayonnaise. Too bad the seasoned fries alongside each are limp. Balbo's big entree: braised, boneless short ribs, their richness cut with a squirt of reduced balsamic vinegar. The Parmesan risotto cake is the hefty accompaniment. His braised pork shank also is a heavyweight affair, flanked by mascarpone-whipped potatoes and a stew of mushrooms. The prime competition: filet mignon with truffled macaroni-and-cheese and a grilled sirloin with caramelized Vidalia onions. Seaside, sample the oven-roasted Atlantic salmon, prepared with either a purple-potato puree and teriyaki glaze or charred-peach and corn salsa. Sesame-crusted and sliced yellowfin tuna joins with sushi rice, bok choy, mandarin sections, shiitake mushrooms and an orange-and-soy drizzle for a satisfactory alternative. Desserts are headed by a puck of chocolate cake with an exceedingly molten center that spills out on cue. Pistachio gelato helps. But the house's bread pudding is pasty. Go, instead, for the lemon cake. Or, keep with the current theme and pick a risk-averse mainstay: cheesecake.