Long Beach restaurants: Great places for summer dining
The Hamptons may get all the glory, but Nassau County's South Shore has its very own beachside resort town, Long Beach. In the years since it was devastated by superstorm Sandy, Long Beach has come roaring back, with new food and dining options.
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. This year, the West End -- traditionally focused more on drinking than eating -- has some of the city's hottest tables.
Here are some places not to miss.
Laurel Luncheonette & Restaurant(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Laurel Luncheonette & Restaurant, 300 W. Park Ave.: A Long Beach standby since 1932, the Laurel reopened this year after a gut renovation restored it to Art Deco splendor. Brothers Andrew and Peter Loucas also updated and streamlined the menu and now proudly serve a burger made with a proprietary beef blend from Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors. Of course you can still order a classic cherry lime rikki, a disarmingly red-and-green fountain drink that the Laurel claims to have invented.
Tandoor Grill Indian Cuisine(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Tandoor Grill Indian Cuisine, 1042 W. Beech St.: The tandoor is the traditional bell-shaped clay oven of the Punjab (shared by India and Pakistan) and it lends its name to this new restaurant under the same ownership as Baldwin's Raagani. All manner of kebabs and roast meats -- as well as breads -- issue from the tandoor, and there are scores of curries, rice dishes and vegetarian dishes as well. Open for lunch and dinner.
Pammy Cake Creations(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Pammy Cake Creations, 966 W. Beech St.: Satisfy your sweet tooth at Pammy Cake Creations, a new bakery owned by Pamela Kreutzberg. In addition to cakes, pies and bars, Kreutzberg makes beach-themed cupcakes decorated with seashells and umbrellas ($3.50) and mini-cupcakes ($14.95 for a dozen). The younger set will appreciate the easy-to-eat (and difficult to make a mess of) cake push-pops ($3), each contained in a little plastic tube. Coffee drinks to go, too.
Grotta di Fuoco(Credit: Linda Rosier)
Grotta di Fuoco, 960 W. Beech St.: After a day baking on the beach, enter the "cave of fire." Chef-owner Andrew Allotti's soulful modern Italian was one of 2014's standout restaurants. The focal point of the rustic-hip room is a wood-fired oven putting out smoky, blistered, terrific little pizzas (try the pork-heavy tre porcellini with sausage, prosciutto and guanciale). Also recommended: fettuccine carbonara, eggplant fries sparked with Calabrian chilies and roasted fish. Open for dinner only.
Das Biergarten(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Das Biergarten, 1148 W. Beech St.: Das Biergarten injects the West End with a shot of Gemutlichkeit, the German term for a feeling of warmth and cheer. Here's the place to sample wursts, schnitzels (fried cutlets), sauerbraten and cheese spaetzle. Not that Das Biergarten is ignoring das bier. Hetzler taps six brews from Munich-based Paulaner, plus Radeberger Pilsner, Schofferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen and others. Open for lunch and dinner.
Lost & Found(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Lost and Found, 951 W. Beech St.: Alexis Trolf, former chef and co-owner of the departed Caffe Laguna, returns to the West End with this hip, pocket-size restaurant that puts the emphasis on carefully crafted small plates of vegetables (shaved carrots with roasted chickpeas, cilantro and spiced yogurt), fish (roasted skate wing with braised radishes) and meat (miso-glazed duck breast with herb salad and pickled shallots). You can also share a whole roast chili-lime chicken or dry-aged rib-eye steak. Open for dinner only. Cash only.
Shoregasboard(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Shoregasboard, Intersection of Riverside Boulevard and the boardwalk: Now in its third year, Shoregasboard is a beachside convocation of local food trucks that form a circle around a sandy little plaza of umbrella-topped tables. New this year is Poseidon's Kitchen (pictured). Alan Artieda's surf-and-turf-themed mobile eatery makes a meaty lobster roll ($14), crunchy fish taco ($5), juicy beef burger ($7) and savory black-bean burger ($5). Spice anything up with Artieda's shockingly green Peruvian hot sauce. You'll also find C&C by the Sea, a mobile luncheonette serving breakfast, burgers and sandwiches; NY Acai, serving fruit-based smoothies and bowls; Let's Get Delicious, serving barbecue from Swingbelly's as well as gyros, fish sandwiches and chicken fingers, and Pineapple Express, serving frozen yogurt from Long Beach's Tutti Frutti. Trucks are dispatched from local restaurants Corazon de Cuba, Sugo, Don Juan, Point Lookout Deli, Whales Tales, Lido Kosher Deli and Villagio.
Gentle Brew(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Gentle Brew, 151 E. Park Ave.: Gentle Brew is one of Long Island's leading coffee purveyors, with beans sourced from all over the world and roasted in the store. Enjoy your joe pulled from the espresso machine, dripped, cold-brewed, siphoned, French-pressed, poured over, Chemex-carafed or AeroPressed. 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.
Dough Hut(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)
Dough Hut, 891 W. Beech St.: This 3-year-old doughnut factory 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.
Swingbellys BBQ(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Swingbellys BBQ, 909 W. Beech St.: Sandy wiped out this well-regarded barbecue spot, but it's back with a new dining room, new menu items and Dan Monteforte, the former chef-pitmaster who is now part of the new ownership team. "Southern barbecue with a New York twist" is how Monteforte describes the cooking. Eat inside or at picnic tables on the deck. Open for lunch, weekend brunch and dinner.
Brixx & Barley(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Brixx & Barley, 152 W. Park Ave.: Brixx & Barley satisfies a lot of appetites. Beer nuts will appreciate the 30-plus brews on tap and 30 more in bottles; sports fans can focus on the flat-screen TVs; and kids are welcome, too. The menu features pizza, salads, brick-oven-roasted wings with a choice of 10 toppings, and hearty fare ranging from an over-sized porchetta hero to ale-battered fish tacos. Brixx & Barley also has a takeout operation dispensing pizza and gelato.
Ra-Kang Thai Cuisine(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Ra-Kang Thai Cuisine, 895 W. Beech St.: This year-old family-run restaurant 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. Open for lunch and dinner.
Gino's(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Gino's, 16 W. Park Ave.: 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. You can also 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)
At Corazon de Cuba, the Long Beach salpicon -- a simple, citrusy salad of shrimp, calamari, scallops and mussels -- makes a terrific light meal.
Fresco Creperie(Credit: Nicholas Roberts)
Fresco Creperie, 150 E. Park Ave.: After an evening stroll along the boardwalk, head to this friendly cafe and order one of the excellent dessert crepes, stuffed with the likes of banana and Belgian chocolate, 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)
Farmers Market at Kennedy Plaza, Next to LIRR station: Long Beach's vibrant farmers market 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 fresh produce for the beach, make it your first stop. You'll also find fresh bread, pastries, cheese, pickles and more.