With pubs and restaurants packing them in around the intersection of Route 25A (Main Street) and Route 110 (New York Avenue), Huntington Village has long been a regional center of North Shore nightlife.
However, Huntington offers more than just drinking and dining with a crowd.
On a Saturday night, you can listen to live music while dipping into chocolate fondue, play a classic board game as you munch on fresh chocolate and cookies, or learn to paint your own masterpiece suitable for hanging on the living room wall.
17 Green St., suite 6
INFO $40 (includes materials), 516-683-5788
Roving around her art studio, instructor Alison Hinkaty, 30, of Oakdale is showing about 20 students how to paint a copy of a Claude Monet windmill. Among the students wearing smocks and wielding brushes are Tina Creteur, 29, and David Gallagher, 30, of Huntington.
"We had dinner in town, and then we decided to come in and top our night off with painting," Creteur says as she dabs yellow paint from a paper plate, then applies it to the canvas. For others this is also a date night.
"I'm spending some time with my fiance, doing something different and out of the box," said Mike Pappalardo, 33, of Port Jefferson.
The studio, which opened in a storefront in October, is decorated with student artwork, including a copy of Edvard Munch's "The Scream." Hinkaty's class generally lasts 90 minutes to two hours. "Alison breaks it down into basic steps so anybody can do it," her husband, Jonathan, also 30, says of her teaching style.
342 New York Ave., Huntington
Amy Goldwasser, 28, of Arlington, Va., and Dara Klein, 28, of Somerville, Mass., are playing Connect Four -- that 1970s game where the object is to line up four colored disks in a row -- at one of six tables inside this busy sweet shop. They've just finished a bag of warm double chocolate and peanut butter chip cookies. In town for a wedding and staying at a hotel, they discovered Chip 'n Dipped after dinner at Tomo, a nearby Japanese restaurant.
Also tempted by the lure of chocolate: Mike Reynolds, 20, of Middle Island. "I'm looking at the milk chocolate cream cheese graham," Reynolds says, scanning the glass case.
Reynolds' friend, Amanda Mueller, 19, of Patchogue, has her eyes on a dark chocolate raspberry cream, a treat she'd sampled on a previous visit. "It was delicious," she says.
At the register, you can pick up handmade chocolate bars with scrumptious names like Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Almond Bar. Wrapped in gold paper, they're made during the day inside a glass-enclosed room near the store entrance.
69 Wall St., Huntington
INFO 631-549-7074, xowinebar.com
XO's two floors offer contrasting ambience. Downstairs, it's quiet and cozy, with couples sharing romantic meals; the upstairs lounge is noisy and busy, but equally cozy with table service, leather couches, a fireplace and a band.
"It has that New York City vibe," Diggs says.
At a nearby table, Andrea and Ben Pichardo of Merrick are celebrating a birthday with a popular food item: fondue. They're dipping pieces of banana, strawberries and pretzels into a pot of chocolate as they contemplate a move that would place them closer to the Huntington night scene.
"We want to move to Huntington," says Ben, 36, a New York City firefighter.
Andrea, 35, a teacher, likes that idea, explaining, "It always has good nightlife."