Even in a 24/7 world, there's still noon to 3 p.m.
The business lunch may be trimmer, its pace faster, and three martinis rare. But a lot of what the IRS terms "the active conduct of business," with half the expense deductible, continues at tables large and small across post-recession Long Island.
Glen Cove Road
BEN'S DELICATESSEN, Greenvale: In addition to delis in Carle Place and Woodbury, there's this Ben's, the official headquarters. That corporate angle aside, it's also casual and elemental when your guest needs an overstuffed sandwich of corned beef, pastrami, brisket, hard salami and more, after a bowl of matzo ball soup. Remember the chicken or beef in the pot, too.
CENTRO CUCINA, Greenvale: Tucked away here, you can tuck into brick-oven pizza, very satisfying panini, and, just to make it more summery, trenette al pesto. Centro attracts a younger crowd of future financiers and human-relations heads. Perhaps a finance department exec-to-be, too, since lunch here will leave some funds for investment elsewhere.
WEST END CAFE, Carle Place: West End Cafe is just far enough from the Mineola-Garden City axis of law and politics to make it less likely you'll bump into any of your competitors. It's the standout table in a small shopping center, and worth visiting for Kobe beef sliders, spring pea ravioli, grilled shrimp and soba noodle salad, and the "mile-high" salmon club.
Mineola-Garden City corridor
THE CAPITAL GRILLE, Roosevelt Field, Garden City
Here's the newest, shiniest big-time steakhouse in central Nassau -- although you could be at any Capital Grille. They're nationwide and international, reliable, pricey and busy. Midday, try the chopped salad, shrimp cocktail, cedar-planked salmon, grilled swordfish, fried calamari with hot cherry peppers, all steaks.
PROST GRILL & GARTEN, Garden City
All deals aren't big. So: something different, patterned after a German beer hall, Prost is an informal choice, with outdoor seating, too. Between sips and business dealings, cut into the smoked pork chop, Wiener schnitzel, charcuterie, cheeses, pan-seared salmon with dill beurre blanc, and some Black Forest cake. $$
GIULIO CESARE, Westbury: Giulio Cesare has been a magnet for lawyers, politicians and business executives since 1972. The clubby, little-changed, trend-free establishment still is. Mover-and-shaker meals include steak alla pizzaiola, mozzarella in carrozza, paglia e fieno pasta, red snapper Livornese.
BLACKSTONE STEAKHOUSE, Melville: This surf-and-turfer has enough buzz and popularity to wake-up any jaded appetite. It looks the part and delivers the goods: excellent sirloin, bone-in rib eye, seafood platters, lobster-and-crab salad, colorful sushi rolls and the occasional macadamia nut-crusted fluke. On a budget, have the grilled chicken panino.
FOUR FOOD STUDIO & COCKTAIL SALON, Melville: Four landed on Route 110 like a spaceship, different from all that came before -- but immediately accessible, too. The New American food, attentive staff and whimsical spaces have broad appeal. Midday, you can nibble on barbecued brisket tacos, a bacon cheeseburger, steak frites, tasty flatbreads.
JEWEL, Melville: Jewel glitters at the corner of Route 110 and the south service road of the Long Island Expressway. Tom Schaudel's newest enterprise has flair to spare. At lunch, the selections include yellowtail crudo, snappy little pizzas, a BLT & T that adds tuna, crabcake, steaks and an aptly named "5 napkin burger." $$-$$$
LEGAL SEA FOODS, Huntington Station: Legal Sea Foods is a dependable national chain. This now is its lone Long Island branch, confident, assured, good for deals big and not-so. The raw bar, wood-grilled haddock, grilled swordfish, fried oysters, fried clams, shellfish cocktails, fish tacos, lobster roll and Niman Ranch burger get it done. $$-$$$
THE GRILL ROOM, Happauge: The paparazzi won't find you here. You'll arrive at a spacious, eclectic place for lunch suitable for all ages of businessfolk. Pick the barbecued duck tostada or the chicken lettuce wrap, seared ahi tuna satay or lobster-and-crab spring roll, a chicken quesadilla or grilled pizza, meatloaf or braised short ribs.
MARIO, Hauppauge: One of the mainstays for traditional Italian fare, Mario is right for business and/or socializing. Veteran staff, familiar fare, high comfort level. Good for hot and cold antipasti, cannelloni, linguine with clam sauce, spaghetti Bolognese and all'Amatriciana, saltimbocca, broiled finfish, endive-and-arugula salad.
PACE'S STEAK HOUSE, Hauppauge: Suits abound, many with ties, at this branch of Pace's. There's another in downtown Port Jefferson. A very professional staff handles the action. You'll be served on time and leave on time. In between: steak sandwich, chorizo wrap, Kobe beef meatballs, shell steak, filet mignon, porterhouse for one or two.
theRIVERHEADPROJECT, RIverhead: The low-slung, remade bank building provides a "Mad Men" setting, even if you're not partnering with Don Draper. It's also an essential addition to downtown. Look for crab-and-salt cod fritters, a fluke tempura sandwich, roasted mushroom crostini and the burger with bacon, blue cheese and red wine-onion marmalade.
Situated at the Woods Golf Course, Stonewalls channels your inner country clubber and small-plate appetite. The beef spring rolls, duck confit quesadilla, lobster risotto, kielbasa-and-sweet onion "honey badger," chicken salad with arugula, chicken wings and cheeseburger point the way.
TWEEDS RESTAURANT & BUFFALO BAR, Riverhead: Tweeds is in the J.J. Sullivan Hotel, part of Riverhead since 1896. In addition to history and location, it offers lots of lean bison: kebabs, chili, burgers, steak. But you also can pick crabcakes with citrus and Thai sauces, a duck wrap with Napa cabbage, grilled shrimp, and even a quiche du jour.