339 New York Ave. Huntington, NY 631-692-9330
Featuring an eclectic menu, this tiny cafe offers wraps, sandwiches, burgers, pastas, salads, seafood and chicken platters, as well as "frites" sold with a choice of more than 20 toppings (including mango chutney, peanut sauce, jalapeno cheddar, roasted and eggplant).Hours: Mon-Thurs, Sun: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Reservations: Not Accepted Credit cards: Accepted Accessibility: Yes
For a truly multicultural experience, head over to European Republic (formerly known as Potato Republic, which was, if you ask me, a niftier name). In this small Huntington storefront, the Afghani owners prepare Belgian-style fries along with a remarkable array of American-style soups, Italian pastas, salads and wraps. They also make desserts. "It's all fresh, from scratch," they proudly tell you.
You must order at the counter, even if you eat at one of the few tables. Your food is served on flowered melamine dinnerware reminiscent of another era. In the background, Middle Eastern music and reggae play. It's a mix that works.
Don't miss the awesome fries, meaty hand-cut sticks of potato. You can have them with any number of flavored mayonnaise dips, from mango chutney to Jamaican curry to Cajun. I prefer them plain or with ketchup, which is available on request.
Before, after or with those fries, you might want to try a bowl of sweet potato-ginger soup, a thick brew deliciously reminiscent of Thanksgiving. The country mushroom-barley soup is thin but full of flavor. A robust lentil soup is another hit, as is the sprightly roasted red pepper brew. Clam chowder is creamy but light, fresh and full of clams and the flavor of the ocean. You also get warm Middle Eastern flat bread with the soup.
Wraps are the restaurant's one weakness. While the ingredients are all fine,the sandwiches are premade and served too cold. Forego one of the wraps in favor of a fine Caesar or Greek salad. The latter has lots of fresh feta cheese and is surrounded by stuffed grape leaves. Even the salad of simple baby organic greens with a light vinaigrette is a winner.
A true surprise is the linguine with white clam sauce, al dente pasta pan-tossed with herbs, chopped tomato and lots of clam meat. It outclasses the more commonplace red clam sauce version. Rigatoni bolognese stars a lusty, full-bodied meat sauce, while penne alla vodka is luxurious, but not too-too rich. Vegetarians as well as carnivores will like the pasta primavera, a garlicky melange of fresh vegetables and the pasta of your choice.
I tried two versions of the buttery-crusted cranberry cheesecake, which leads me to believe that the chefs like to experiment. I prefer the cake made with a plain cream cheese filling on the bottom and fruit on top, as opposed to the fruit swirled throughout. Pass on the ho-hum tiramisu in favor of the dynamite rice pudding, served unceremoniously in a plastic-covered container.
If you're searching for fancy frills, you won't find them here. But look no further if you're after good, old-fashioned Afghani-Belgian-American-Italian food, just like mama never made.
-- Joan Reminick