Gastropubs are pouring onto Long Island as if from an open tap.
Morrison's heightens the competition with a full-flavored debut in what used to be Red Fish. Exit, kung pao calamari; enter, shrimp and grits.
The spirited newcomer is run by Shelby Poole and co-chef Harry Poole, who also operate Jackson's in Commack. They're the daughter and son-in-law of restaurateur, designer and consultant Art Bloom, whose dining rooms included the departed G.D. Graffiti in Woodbury and Bali in Huntington.
This go-round, you'll find some dishes from restaurants past, such as the spicy lobster egg roll and jambalaya. But Morrison's is geared toward the comforts of the easily enjoyed, washed down with a few fine craft brews. It's a very good, very 2013 combination.
The compact spot sports lots of booths, blackboards and a decibel level that may inspire pointing instead of speaking. The eager staff, however, is very attentive.
Start with snacks. The "fairground corn dog" and the fried pickles may seem a little like Iowa State Fair chow via Woodbury Road. But they're right with your second beer. Shrimp queso, spreadable on pita triangles, has the same effect. The "burnt" sprout leaves are crunchy and sweet enough to convert foes of Brussels sprouts.
Shrimp-and-grits adds a tasty Southern accent to the action. Chicken wings dutifully evoke Buffalo. Brooklyn-style calamari means a blond and crunchy pileup of rings and tentacles, cherry peppers and marinara on the side.
The excellent "farmhouse" grilled cheese could make you reconsider the rural life: goat cheese, muenster, slab bacon, tomato, between thick slices of toasty milk bread. The sandwiches here also star "The Red Rooster," with blackened chicken, Swiss cheese, tomato and a garlic-herb dressing; a pastrami Reuben on marble rye; and a crisp, sweet, satisfying shrimp po'boy. And the "tavern" burger stands out -- a thick one made with rib-eye, short-rib and Kobe beef, boosted by sweet-onion marmalade.
Bourbon Street jambalaya has the heat of authenticity, as well as plantains. Pecan-crusted chicken is tender. But ale-battered fish and chips and the Saturday night special of prime rib are pretty bland. Next visit for sure: on a Wednesday, for fried chicken and waffles.
The brews on tap may be from winners such as Smuttynose, Goose Island, Victory and, for a local angle, Greenport Harbor. Fort Collins Chocolate Stout updates a dessert float. But at least once, Briermere Farms contributed blueberry crumb pie. You'll want seconds.