Hitting the snack bar at the beach is a summertime ritual. Sitting down to a white tablecloth, or its equivalent, a much rarer pleasure. At least until this season, when Long Island gained a few new seaside places where sun-basted beachgoers can get their fine dining on — say, lobster ravioli (at a new art-deco restaurant at Jones Beach) or a berry salad with feta, almonds and a fig jam reduction (on Tobay Beach). And inside a comparatively veteran spot on the Long Beach boardwalk, lobster omelets and mimosas continue to launch many very fine days.
Whether you’re in the mood for bulgogi tacos, steamed clams with chorizo, a raw bar or a tiki drink, it’s a brave new world for beachside places. Here are a few to hit this summer, and at least least one welcomes bathing suit attire.
Atlantica at the Hotel Allegria
80 W. Broadway, Long Beach
Hours: The restaurant is open every day from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast. Lunch and dinner are served Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 3 to 10 p.m. There is also a brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Hotel Allegria opened in the fall of 2009, although for some reason it always feels like spring 1973 in the lobby, a vaguely swanky place. But just beyond is a set of stairs leading up to Atlantica, the hotel’s signature restaurant, where there's a brand-new menu by executive chef John Maffei and chef de cuisine Kwaku Boah, and beyond that a pleasant hostess who’s agnostic as to whether you should partake of the $14.95 morning buffet or order off the menu. One look at the buffet, which is housed in a windowless room, and you bolt for the dining room.
Good choice. With any luck, powerful winds will have swept away blue-gray morning fog, color-correcting the skies to cerulean, and the sun will burst through floor-to-ceiling windows, flooding Atlantica’s tables with lemon yellow light that ricochets off its hall-of-mirrors décor. Has experience taught you to be wary of ordering lobster omelets in such an atmosphere? It has. But you don’t give in to fear, since Maffei and Boah are behind the new menu. Your reward? A nicely fluffy pouch of eggs stuffed decently with lobster meat alongside a tumble of perfect roast potatoes ($21). Other new items include pizzas from a just-installed pizza oven ($13-$14), linguine with clam sauce ($21), fried jumbo shrimp ($27) and chicken parmesan ($25).
It is now 9 a.m. Your table sits hugging the glass, a perfect vantage point for that world-class people-watching opportunity known as the Long Beach boardwalk. You are not the only one who's reckless today: There are barefoot cyclists, mothers pulling back bonnets on strollers, rows and rows of newly planted dune grass feeling good about its chances against a roiling sea, and at least one kiteboarder having the ride of his life.
You wonder: When is the earliest time it's appropriate to order a piña colada? 11:30, your conscience fires back. At that exact moment, coincidentally, you decide that the view is so pleasant, the service so prompt, the food so promising, you simply must stay for lunch.
At 11:32, your piña colada arrives ($11). Mike at the bar has impeccably constructed it of fresh pineapple juice and coconut rum, and it pairs favorably with a plate of cocktail shrimp too large and meaty to hang from any goblet or parfait glass ($21). A fry basket of calamari served with a cup of forgettable sauce ($16) seems an unnecessary addition, but by then you are feeling positively madcap.
“Did you like everything?” Mike asks. Yes, you reply, thinking it petty to complain of dull marinara on a day that’s turned out so well. “Great,” he says.
Gatsby on the Ocean
2000 Ocean Pkwy. (atop the West Bathhouse, across from Field 3), Wantagh
Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The vast upstairs hall inside Jones Beach’s West Bathhouse has worn many hats since it opened in 1931, from ice cream parlor to meeting space. On one edge are rooms that legendary developer Robert Moses used as his private offices, as well as for the occasional lavish party. As Moses popped open Champagne, his guests could also drink in to-die-for views: to one side, the turquoise bathhouse pool and the scene that surrounds it, and to the other, a nearly 180-degree panorama of sand and sea.
After languishing in a sort of culinary limbo, this summer the Marine Dining Room was returned to its art deco roots as Gatsby on the Ocean, a lunch-to-dinner restaurant and event space with two outdoor terraces and robust New American dishes from a London-trained chef.
The restaurant — most recently called The Landing — stems from a $16 million bathhouse renovation that began in 2015. When Gatsby opened on a hazy June day, George Gorman, director of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, was on hand (as were a few costumed flappers) to exult at how the spot had evolved from a "dilapidated meeting area" to its current incarnation. The 1930s vibe is strong: Ornately carved beams buttress the high ceilings, towering windows frame ocean views and sepia photos of good times past dot the walls. In one corner is a clubby bar with eight taps, one of them hooked to Gatsby Golden Ale, brewed for the restaurant by the Patchogue Beer Project.
Chef Andrew Helliwell, fresh from a decadelong stint heading the kitchen at The Mansion at Glen Cove, is lassoing plenty of state-grown and -produced food for his menu, which focuses on uncomplicated seafood, small plates and sandwiches. “I like simple things,” said Helliwell, who trained at the Savoy in London. “If you have too many ingredients, they can fight with each other.”
Those pared-down but still polished combinations include steamed littleneck clams with roasted tomatoes, lemon thyme and croutons; local duck-confit wonton tacos with Asian slaw, cilantro and sriracha mayo; and a lobster roll blended with mayonnaise and served with fries. Beets from the East End compose a beet salad in passion fruit vinaigrette, and entrees also comb both land and sea, from lobster ravioli to pan-seared salmon with Dijon-tarragon sauce to a bone-in strip steak with potato-cippolini hash and asparagus. At dinner, appetizers start at $11, and entrees, excluding steaks, fall between $18 and $27.
Despite Gatsby’s smart looks, the dress code is broad: “You can come here in a bathing suit and have lunch,” said Joe Vitrano, president and CEO of J&B Restaurant Partners Top Flight Foods, LLC, which runs the 5,500-square-foot space — though evening brings a more formal vibe. As a counterpoint to beachfront restaurants that close for the winter, Vitrano said Gatsby's will remain open year-round. If you’re driving from afar, though, make reservations or call ahead: As Gatsby's swings into action as a wedding and event venue, capacity will fluctuate, but Vitrano said the east and west terraces can accommodate overflow.
As for Robert Moses’ old offices? One is now the bridal suite, and the other a groom's lounge, kitted out with high-end liquor and wine.
Surf Shack:516-468-6874, surfshackny.com
The Boat Yard: 516-324-8474, theboatyardny.com
1 Ocean Pkwy., Massapequa
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; bars may stay open later
It was nothing short of a mad scramble to open Tobay Beach’s two new neighboring restaurants this year. The owners only won the bid from the Oyster Bay Town Board in March and, said partner James Bonanno, “putting these places together — we could have filmed a reality show.”
But, with carpenters still hammering right up until the last minute, The Boat Yard and Surf Shack opened for business on June 17, on the tranquil bay-side sands of Massapequa’s Tobay Beach.
The ownership team, which also operates Salt Shack at Babylon’s Cedar Beach, represents a coming together of two prominent L.I. restaurant groups. Bonanno (a partner at The Tap Room in Patchogue and Massapequa Park, PeraBell Food Bar in Patchogue and Riverhead and multiple Bango Bowls locations) joined up with Scottie Campbell and Mark Miller (of Patchogue's Dublin Deck and Harbor Crab Co.) to pitch their concept to Oyster Bay.
“We spent over a million dollars to overhaul both restaurants,” Campbell said. “We said to the town, ‘We want to be here this year and every year.’ ”
This was, apparently, a welcome message for Oyster Bay, whose previous concessionaires have proved . . . problematic. Carlyle Catering, which ran the restaurants in 2017 and 2018, defaulted on the agreement last year and, according to town officials, is being sued to recover lost revenue. The concessionaire for the previous decade had been Harendra Singh, whose tangled history with Oyster Bay and Nassau County resulted in a guilty plea to eight federal charges including bribery and wire fraud.
The new season's fresh start begins with Surf Shack, which takes over the Crazy Oyster site. It's the slightly more formal of the two restaurants, though, Bonnano pointed out, “Our goal was to make it family friendly, affordable and approachable. You don’t have to go home and change to eat here — flip-flops are welcome.”
The 160 seats are all outside on a deck whose two focal points are the beach and a tiki-hut bar. Running the kitchen is Casey Kennedy, who was the opening chef at Element Seafood in Great Neck and, more recently, relaunched Ocean at Crescent Beach in Bayville. His menu features American classics, many of them exuberantly reconceived.
Highlights include coconut-crusted “coco-loco shrimp” with orange-ginger sauce; a berry salad with greens, fig-jam reduction, almonds, dates, feta and citrus-soda-soaked pears; scallops oreganata “Virgo” with a pink crab sauce and wild rice; “chicken tutto” with sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms in an Old Bay wine and cream stock; and the bad boy burger, whose two patties are topped with cheese sauce, sliced jalapeños, bacon, mac and cheese and chipotle sauce on a garlic-buttered brioche bun. Starters and salads range from $9 to $19; entrees from $24 to $32; burgers and sandwiches from $10 to $15. There’s also a kids menu and a raw bar.
The Boat Yard, which takes over Mango Bay, is an innovative concept for a Long Island beach: an outdoor food hall with different kiosks, seating for 200 (most on the outside deck), two bars and a stage for live music.
Bonanno said, “This made so much sense to us. It’s the beach, you’re with your friends, one person wants oysters, one person wants tacos, and nobody wants to have to split the check.”
The five order-at-the-counter kiosks cover a few continents' worth of menu items, and presiding over everything is Commack-born chef Gennaro Cozzolino, whose resume includes Nonnina in West Islip (now closed) and, in Manhattan,The Odeon and Cafe Luxembourg.
Hit up the Dockside Grill kiosk for burgers and sandwiches ($13 to $18), including the Carolina chicken sandwich with spicy-honey-dipped fried tenders topped with coleslaw; the Red Hook pork sandwich with slow-roasted shoulder, pickles, beet slaw and barbecue sauce; and Montauk tuna burger with herbs and wasabi mayonnaise. A few feet to the right, Bonanno’s Gourmet Pizza & Calzones serves personal pies and calzones ($14 to $17)
At La Playa Taco Bar, expect tacos such as barbacoa, pulled pork and mole poblano chicken (three tacos for $14 to $16) as well as grilled street corn, and guacamole with chips. Bayside Salads & Bowls features salads in taco shells ($14.50) and bowls ($15.90) ranging from bigeye tuna to Korean bulgogi (short ribs). Rudy’s Raw Bar & Chowder serves East and West Coast oysters ($2 to $3) as well as a lobster roll ($20) and soups in bread bowls ($8 to $9).