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10 downtown hubs with quieter buzz

In many of Long Island’s thriving downtowns — think Huntington, Patchogue, Babylon, Port Jefferson — going out to dinner can mean struggling to find parking, waiting an hour for a table and negotiating crowds of bar-goers. But for those who want a relaxing night out, there are alternatives. We found 10 downtowns that provide great eating, drinking and shopping options, but with a little more room to breathe.

Floral Park

Mike Mathis and his daughter Lila,5, stroll down
Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

While big groups often spill out of J. Fallon’s Tap Room, Tulip Avenue southeast of the Floral Park Long Island Rail Road station also boasts the more intimate speakeasy-style bar Cork and Kerry. Enter through the unmarked door in the back of a coffee shop and try one of several cocktails, or ask the bartender to mix a drink based on your favorite flavors. Grab Greek cuisine at Pita Park or made-to-order Mexican at Oak House Mexican Kitchen, or shop a selection of candy and chocolate at the old-fashioned Tulip Sweet Shoppe. 

Ladies share a bench in downtown Floral Park
Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

Navi Bhullar, 25, lives in neighboring New Hyde Park and enjoys Floral Park as a low-key alternative to Rockville Centre or a train trip to Manhattan. “When you don’t want to travel so far, and be close to home, it’s a great place to go,” says Bhullar, who is studying for her master’s in social work at Mercy College in the Bronx. “You don’t have to take a train, and parking is pretty easy, especially at night. It’s easy to get an Uber.” 
   In a recent search of MLSLI.com, 94 homes were listed for sale in Floral Park, which includes parts in Queens. Prices ranged from $205,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op to $1.595 million for a four-bedroom, 5 1⁄2-bathroom co-op.

Floral Park, $558,000

This three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bathroom home Floral Park is
Photo Credit: Novus Realty Group/Kristine Thomas

This three-bedroom, 1-1⁄2-bathroom home has an eat-in kitchen and a formal dining room that opens onto a deck, along with a covered front porch. Michelle Krapf, Novus Realty Group, 516-481-4663

Garden City

Pedestrians do a little shopping on Seventh Street
Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

Removed from the hustle and bustle of Roosevelt Field, Franklin Avenue has a nice mix of restaurants and bars popular with locals and the after-work crowd. Waterzooi Belgian Bistro, which opened in 1998, anchors the scene here with a vibrant happy hour and an extensive list of Belgian beers on tap. The same owners run Novitá Wine Bar & Trattoria next door, which serves small plates and pasta. Franklin Avenue is also home to a paint-and-sip spot called Muse Paintbar. Around the corner on Seventh Street are more restaurants, including the hip Burger Spot and the Seventh Street Cafe.

L-R: Kaitlyn Curtin (at table back to camera)
Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

Ed Davis, co-owner of the Ale House Group, which runs Waterzooi and Novitá, as well as Croxley Ale House (which has a branch in popular going-out town Rockville Centre), says Waterzooi was part of the revitalization of Garden City. “It is a destination, but it’s not hopping all over, so it’s a little more of a grown-up experience,” Davis says. In other towns, “the people might hit three or four spots in a night. Here we have people who have dinner, they’re meeting up with friends and staying because we have that lively lounge atmosphere.”
   In a recent search of MLSLI.com, 67 homes were listed for sale in Garden City. Prices ranged from $210,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op to $4.495 million for an eight-bedroom, seven-bathroom house with two half-baths on just under an acre.

Garden City, $835,000

This three-bedroom, one-bathroom Colonial in Garden City is
Photo Credit: Coach Realtors Fennessy Associates/Nicole Altkin


This three-bedroom, one-bathroom Colonial has a stone facade, a renovated eat-in kitchen and a living room with a wood-burning fireplace. Suzanne Blair and Laura Rich, Coach Realtors Fennessy Associates, 516-746-5511

Bellmore

Rich and Kathy Rollando cross the street at
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Bedford Avenue and its side streets, north of the Bellmore LIRR station, have a nice selection of restaurants, including the Crown Gastropub, with fanciful bar food and 200 types of whiskey, bourbon and rye. The International Delight Cafe, a diner that serves gelato, is popular with families, and Matteo’s serves classic Italian food. Caffeinate at Bellmore Bean Cafe before seeing a movie at the Bellmore Playhouse. 

The Crown Gastropub, located at 106 Bedford Avenue,
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Brooke Humphries-Luchs lives in Merrick with her husband, Jodi and 6-year-old daughter, Ava, but they often frequent Bedford Avenue and the popular Morning Rose Cafe (for all-day breakfast), the International Delight Cafe and the movie theater.  “Merrick has a downtown, too, on Merrick Avenue, but I find that Bedford has more brunch and lunch places, which is great for weekends with the kids,” says Humphries-Luchs, 37. “Also, since Bellmore Playhouse on Bedford has done renovations, we don’t have to travel too far to other theaters with stadium seating. We now have the convenience of closer location to home with the same amenities we found in theaters farther away.”
   In a recent search of MLSLI.com, 73 homes were listed for sale in Bellmore. Prices ranged from $289,000 for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house on 0.12 acres to $1.1 million for a four-bedroom, 2½- bath house on 0.15 waterfront acres.

Bellmore, $529,000

This three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Bellmore listed for
Photo Credit: Red Jasmine Real Estate/Chuck Danas

This three-bedroom, two-bathroom home has been renovated to “nearly new” and includes a stylish new kitchen. Karina Guevara and Walter Radovic, Red Jasmine Real Estate, 516-502-2676

Amityville

A couple holding hands walk along Park Avenue,
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

The southern stretch of Route 110 is going through a transformation, with new condominium developments springing up. Surrounding the area where Park Avenue splits off from Broadway at Amityville’s gazebo, restaurants include the popular brewpub Amity Ales and the more upscale Vittorio’s Italian Steak House. Cornucopia’s Noshery attracts a crowd for its popular Sunday brunch.  

Friends meet outside of the Cornucopia's Noshery, Inc.
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Amityville is also special in that it has two large live music venues — the Amityville Music Hall on Broadway and the Revolution Bar & Music Hall on Merrick Road. John Scanlon, manager of the Amityville Music Hall, which has been open for three years and hosts a variety of music genres, says the two venues complement one another and have brought more of a nightlife scene to the downtown. “I feel like Amityville beats the towns with the music venues because there are two,” Scanlon says. “In Amityville, there’s a show every day.”
   In a recent search of MLSLI.com, there were 79 homes listed for sale in Amityville. Prices ranged from $125,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op to $1.5 million for a three-bedroom, 2 1⁄2-bathroom house on 0.75 waterfront acres.

Amityville, $389,900

This three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bathroom home in Amityville listed
Photo Credit: Coldwell Banker Harbor Light

This three-bedroom, 1 1⁄2-bathroom home has a renovated kitchen with granite countertops, a subway tile backsplash and stainless steel appliances and a coffee island. Kerry Fee, Coldwell Banker Harbor Light, 631-842-8400

Bay Shore

A shopper crosses the street in front of
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Main Street here has blossomed in the past few years. The YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts brings rock, blues and jazz acts and children’s shows, while the Village Place advertises rental apartments with the draw of a walkable downtown. New restaurants and bars such as the Salt & Barrel oyster bar and the paint-and-sip chain Pinot’s Palette mix with veterans like The Penny Pub, which recently hosted regulars for a free Thanksgiving dinner. The Willy Nilly Trading Company is a popular spot for jewelry, clothing, accessories and unusual gifts. The local chamber of commerce organized the first Alive by the Bay festival this past summer, modeled on the popular Alive After Five series in nearby Patchogue.

The YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Heather Auer, who grew up in Bay Shore and still lives there, has seen the neighborhood evolve, with stores shutting down and then upscale apartments erected during the most recent revival.  “I feel like it really targets many ages,” says Auer, 37, an occupational therapist at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and the mother of three: Alexander, 15, Daniel, 9, and Alivia, 4. “Single life, family life. If you want to go out and just have dinner, or you want to go the bars and have dinner and drinks, there’s a good mix.” 
    In a recent search of MLSLI.com, 159 homes were listed for sale in Bay Shore. Prices ranged from $89,900 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op to $2.499 million for a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house with two half-baths on 1.8 acres.

Bay Shore, $419,000

This three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Bay Shore listed
Photo Credit: Netter Real Estate/Andrew Netter

This three-bedroom, two-bathroom home comes with solar panels and a detached artist’s studio. Andrew Netter, Netter Real Estate, 631-661-5100

Sayville

Shoppers stroll down Main Street, on Nov. 18,
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

This gateway to Fire Island ferries has a fun mix of boutiques and eateries. Cricket’s, an old-fashioned pub, mixes with the casual and friendly Downtown Burger at Five Points Cafe, while unusual gifts can be found at the Sayville General Store and at Irish Crossroads, which sells Celtic-cabled sweaters and wood signs. Around the corner on Railroad Avenue is Android’s Amazing Comics as well as a shop that sells only American-made cheeses (it also has a restaurant), and a retro-style movie theater that shows first-run films.

Shoppers stroll down Main Street, on Nov. 18,
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Dominique Maciejka, who opened the first branch of her Paper Doll Vintage Boutique in Sayville six years ago (there also are branches in Huntington and Patchogue), says the town has always had a great balance of retail and dining. “It’s scenic, it’s hip and the town organizes some great street fairs and events in the park for the whole family to enjoy,” Maciejka says.

In a recent search of MLSLI.com, there were 46 homes listed for sale in Sayville. Prices ranged from $125,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op to $1.199 million for a five-bedroom, 3-1⁄2-bathroom house on half an acre.

Sayville, $479,000

Built in 1886, this three-bedroom, two-bathroom Colonial in
Photo Credit: Seal the Deal Real Estate/Robert Philips

Built in 1886, this three-bedroom, two-bathroom Colonial features an enclosed front porch and a renovated kitchen with a subway tile backsplash and stainless steel appliances, along with original decorative moldings. Denise Torino and Tina Webber of Seal the Deal Real Estate, 631-456-4600

Riverhead

The Suffolk Theater on East Main Street in
Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Since the Long Island Aquarium opened in 2000 and the renovation and reopening of the historic Art Deco Suffolk Theater in 2013, this downtown along the Peconic River has become much more vibrant. The 19 affordable rental units in the Woolworth Apartments, which a few years ago took over a building that had been vacant since 1997, boast access to a dynamic Main Street, with restaurants such as Dark Horse, which serves cocktails, seafood, steak and vegetarian dishes, the Riverhead location of the popular Blue Duck Bakery Cafe and the family-owned Turkuaz Grill, which has an enviable spot on the river. Across from the theater is an indoor winter farmers market, open from November to March. The area is also home to a growing number of breweries, including Crooked Ladder Brewing Co. on West Main Street and Long Ireland Brewing on Pulaski Street. 

Shops along E. Main Street in Riverhead on
Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Christopher Hatton, who moved to the neighborhood three years ago, says he enjoys being able to walk to great local bars and restaurants, such as Digger’s Ales N’ Eats and Cucina 25, from his apartment in the Woolworth Building “This is building on itself, but still trying to stay small,” says Hatton, 31, who grew up in Center Moriches and works as a bartender. “It’s gotten better and better each year. I take the bus to Patchogue and have lunch with friends, and I can’t wait to come back.”
   In a recent search of MLSLI.com, there were 102 homes listed for sale in Riverhead. Prices ranged from $29,999 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom mobile home to $6.5 million for a five-bedroom, 1 1⁄2-bathroom house on a 93-acre estate.

Riverhead, $399,000

This four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom home in Riverhead listed
Photo Credit: Douglas Elliman Real Estate/Jim Harrison of Jump Visual

This four-bedroom, 2-1⁄2-bathroom home overlooks Merritts Pond and is just under a mile from the Long Island Aquarium. Suzette Reiss, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 631-298-8000

Kings Park

Clock tower in the small downtown area on
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

This small business district on East Main Street is anchored by Relish, a diner-style eatery that dishes out comfort food and milkshakes, and Ciro’s, a homey, red-sauce joint with a nice bar area. The Natalie Blue Boutique, which opened earlier this year, sells trendy tops and dresses, and around the corner on Indian Head Road is the recently opened Legends Bar & Grill, which draws a crowd for drinks, food and sports on several TVs. For daytime bites, there’s the popular Bagel King and Edelweiss Delicatessen & Caterers, which serves traditional deli food along with German cuisine.

Pedestrians walk across Main Street, in the sleepy
Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Amy Gillen, who has lived in Kings Park for 18 years, says that while her family — husband, Joe, and daughters, Kylie, 18, Alyssa, 16, and Sarah, 14 — often spends time in Northport Village, Kings Park has a more low-key, community atmosphere that draws locals.  “It’s a small town; whereas, the bigger ones draw from farther away],” says Gillen, 47. 
   In a recent search of MLSLI.com, 41 homes were listed for sale in Kings Park. Prices ranged from $110,000 for a studio co-op, one-bathroom waterfront co-op to $824,000 for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house with two half-baths on 0.32 acres.

Kings Park, $399,000

This four-bedroom, two-bathroom Cape in Kings Park listed
Photo Credit: Coldwell Banker Residential/Chris Mills

This four-bedroom, two-bathroom Cape features a large master bedroom with a walk-in closet, new windows and a modern kitchen. Jacqueline Clancy, Coldwell Banker Residential, 631-754-4800

Oyster Bay

Pedestrians stroll along the downtown shopping area in
Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

There are lots of options for shopping and dining along South Street, Audrey Avenue and West Main Street, including the popular Oyster Bay Brewing Co., which brews its own beer (even a stout brewed with oysters). Restaurant Wild Honey serves New American food, and down the street is Bonanza Stand of Oyster Bay, where people line up for Italian ices. History lovers can visit Raynham Hall Museum, home of George Washington’s intelligence operative Robert Townsend, while crafters find a close-knit community at The Knitted Purl, a popular yarn store. 

A statue of Teddy Roosevelt greets visitors to
Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

Ryan Schlotter, who opened Oyster Bay Brewing with partner Gabe Haim in 2013 and moved to a bigger location two years ago, says the pair chose to base their business in Oyster Bay because they saw a void on the North Shore. Because the brewery doesn’t serve food, patrons bring in takeout or go out to eat after a round of beers, and a lot of new restaurants — as well as a branch of Southdown Coffee, with an original location in Huntington — have moved in since they opened. 

In a recent search of MLSLI.com, there were 22 homes listed for sale in Oyster Bay. Prices ranged from $194,900 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op to $16 million for an eight-bedroom, nine-bathroom house with three half-baths built in 1856 on 16.8 acres.

Oyster Bay, $589,000

This turn-of-the-last-century Colonial in Oyster Bay listed for
Photo Credit: Daniel Gale Sotheby’s Internat/John Mayo

This turn-of-the-last-century Colonial has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, along with an updated kitchen with quartz countertops and a patio overlooking the backyard. Elizabeth DeAngelis and Dawn Gibbons, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, 516-922-9155

Glen Cove

A pedestrian crossed School Street, the downtown shopping
Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

The downtown here is on the path to becoming a destination, with town officials hoping the Village Square residential and retail development, with plans for 146 apartments above shops and restaurants, along with the larger Garvies Point development project on the waterfront, will give the downtown new life. For now, a night out in Glen Cove could mean a walk down School Street, which boasts the original location of La Bussola Ristorante (sister restaurants Piccola Bussola are in Mineola and Huntington); the Downtown Cafe, a no-frills bar and restaurant with a menu of unique pizzas; the Meritage Wine Bar, with outdoor seating in front; or Machu Picchu, an inexpensive, authentic Peruvian eatery. The American Cafe serves American comfort food, including an all-day breakfast menu, near the newly renovated AMC movie theater. Daytime visitors often head to Henry’s Confectionery, a family-style diner that makes its own chocolate rabbits at Easter. During the summer, the Downtown Sounds series brings live music to the intersection of Glen and Bridge streets, and there are upcoming celebrations planned for the 350th anniversary of Glen Cove’s founding.

A pedestrian walks down School Street, the downtown
Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

Debra Petkanas, an agent in the Glen Head office of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Real Estate and a lifelong Glen Cove resident, says the popularity of the downtown has come in cycles, and she thinks the new developments will create more of a renaissance.  “I believe the Garvies Point and Village Square [projects] will enhance what already exists and make Glen Cove more of a walkable downtown,” Petkanas says. “It will bring in a whole new dynamic.”
    In a recent search of MLSLI.com, 98 homes were listed for sale in Glen Cove. Prices ranged from $135,000 for a studio co-op to $2.75 million for a three-bedroom, 2 1⁄2-bathroom house on 0.6 waterfront acres.

Glen Cove, $529,000

This four-bedroom, 1 1/2-bathroom wood-shingled Victorian in Glen
Photo Credit: Keller Williams Realty/Ryan Coyne, Explorify 3D

This four-bedroom, 1-1⁄2-bathroom wood-shingled Victorian was built in 1892 and features a wraparound porch. It has fireplaces in both the foyer and living room. Kent Miller, Keller Williams Realty, 516-873-7100

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