Long Beach eats: 10 great places for summer dining
This summer, Long Beach is celebrating the reopening of its 2-mile-long boardwalk, completely rebuilt after the ravages of 2012's superstorm Sandy.
But there's plenty to celebrate inland as well. The City by the Sea has always had a vibrant dining scene, and this year, old favorites such as Fresco Creperie and Gino's pizzeria are joined by exciting newcomers.
Corazon de Cuba and Ra Kang Thai Cuisine bring exotic flavors to the dining scene; Dough Hut specializes in new-wave doughnuts; Brixx & Barley is an appealing mash-up of two surefire trends -- gastropub and brick-oven pizzeria.
Long Beach has two primary commercial districts, Park Avenue, the blocks on either side of the Long Island Rail Road station, and the West End, about two miles to the west. Both areas teem with restaurants. Here are 10 places not to miss.
Gentle Brew(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Gentle Brew is one of Long Island's leading coffee purveyors, with beans sourced from all over the world and roasted in the back of the store. Enjoy your Joe pulled from the espresso machine, dripped, cold-brewed, siphoned, French-pressed, poured over, Chemex-carafed or AeroPressed. This is a place with serious coffee cred -- it's about as close to Williamsburg as you'll get on Long Island. The spacious store is hip and stylish, too, with lots of subway tile and local art. You could get your coffee (or freshly brewed tea) to go and head straight to the beach, or linger in one of the easy chairs or sofas, or at a rustic wooden table. Gentle Brew bakes its own muffins, scones, bars and biscotti, and on weekends, from 7 a.m. to noon, hot breakfast is served with waffles, stuffed French toast, yogurt and berries.
Dough Hut(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)
Lined with taverns and open-air bars, Long Beach's West End caters mostly to the post-beach crowd, but Dough Hut is a must-stop on the way to the beach. Get there early enough and you'll see fresh doughnuts being made right through the window. Varieties range from classic (plain, cinnamon) to imaginative (pistachio, French toast) to out-there (Fruity Pebbles, maple-bacon). On weekends, there's a roster of chocolate-based doughnuts including cookies and cream and cannoli.
Cafe Spiaggia(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
No one in Long Beach is serving homemade, artisanal ice cream, and it's probably just as well. Caffe Spiaggia serves Edy's, in every size and style a beachgoer desires: wafer, sugar and waffle cones, waffle bowls, sundaes, shakes and malteds, floats and ice-cream sodas. Order inside, but all seating is outside, where the dress code is flip-flops and bathing suits.
Swingbellys BBQ(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Sandy wiped out well-regarded barbecue spot Swingbellys BBQ, but it's back with a new dining room and new menu items, such as house-smoked bacon; the belly burger, topped with bacon bits then smothered in the house mac and cheese sauce; or the taco-saurus (right), a dinosaur-size taco stuffed with barbecued meat, cabbage, onions, fruit salsa and sauce. Eat inside or at picnic tables on the deck. Dinner only.
Shoregesboard(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)
Some of Long Beach's most popular restaurants operate mobile units where Riverside Boulevard meets the beach, daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The trucks form a half circle around a sandy little plaza of umbrella-topped tables. Shoregasboard debuted last year, the brainchild of Alan Adams, owner of the West Park Avenue restaurant Sugo Cafe. The Sugo truck offers an abbreviated menu including GSR ("grandma's secret recipe") burgers, beer-boiled hot dogs and tacos ranging from blackened fish to Korean-style with bulgogi and kimchee. Other trucks include those from Lido Kosher Deli (hot dogs, deli sandwiches, square knishes), Villagio Ristorante (street-fair-style sausage and pepper sandwiches and Philly-style cheesesteaks), Corazon de Cuba, Swingbellys BBQ, frozen yogurt from Long Beach's Tutti Frutti and the NY Acai truck serving fruit-based smoothies and bowls.
Brixx & Barley(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Long Beach's newest hot spot, Brixx & Barley, is good for lunch or dinner. Beer nuts will appreciate the 30-plus brews on tap, 30 more in bottles; sports fans can focus on the flat-screen TVs; kids are welcome, too. The menu features 12- and 18-inch pizzas, salads, brick-oven-roasted wings with a choice of 10 toppings, and hearty fare ranging from an oversized porchetta hero to ale-battered fish tacos. Brixx & Barley also has a takeout operation dispensing pizza and gelato from Baci in Williston Park.
Ra Kang Thai Cuisine(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
A new, family-run restaurant, Ra Kang serves fresh, clean Thai cuisine in a dining room appointed with parasol-concealed lights, intricate carved wall details and dozens of little cast-bronze bells ("rakang" means "bell"). Standards such as spring rolls, pad Thai and papaya salad are well executed, as are less common dishes such as nam sod (a salad of ground pork, fresh ginger, scallions and peanuts), crispy duck panang with bright green beans in a coconut sauce and savory noodle soup with braised beef, meatballs and Chinese broccoli.
Gino's(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
If you need to grab a slice, head to Gino's, which has been serving pizza since 1962. This Long Beach institution is always busy, so the pizza is always fresh. Take it to the beach or sit at a table, inside or out. Or have a proper Italian meal in the table-service dining room. There's nothing surprising about the menu here, just generous portions of well-priced Italian-American standards.
Corazon de Cuba(Credit: Barbara Alper)
Ebullient Cuban eatery Corazon de Cuba is a good choice for lunch or dinner (as the night progresses, the good cheer can ripen into cacophony). The Long Beach salpicon (pictured) -- a simple, lemony salad of shrimp, calamari, scallops and mussels -- makes a terrific light meal. Heartier recommendations include the lime-garlic-marinated roast chicken, lechon asado (roast pork) and lusty beef-cheese caserola de quesos. Save room for the rice-pudding-stuffed empanadas.
Fresco Creperie(Credit: Nicholas Roberts)
After an evening stroll along the boardwalk, head to friendly cafe Fresco Creperie and order one of the excellent dessert crepes, stuffed with the likes of banana and Belgian chocolate (pictured), dulce de leche and strawberries, honey and toasted almond, fresh oranges and caramel or -- not to be outdone -- butter, sugar and cinnamon. Salads and savory crepes (try "the complete" with Gruyere, ham, eggs and onion) also are recommended.
Farmers Market at Kennedy Plaza(Credit: Aaron Zebrook)
Long Beach's vibrant farmers market (at Kennedy Plaza next to LIRR station) is open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you're looking for healthy provisions for the beach, make it your first stop. Pick up a loaf of bread from Bread Alone (Saturdays) or Monty Breads (Wednesdays), which you can slather with Eden Fresh hummus (Saturdays) or local cheese from The Big Cheese (Wednesdays). There are always pickles and pastries and lots of fresh produce, too.