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The best things we ate on Long Island in 2019

Newsday food critics eat out almost every day of the week — here's a look at their favorite standout dishes at Long Island restaurants, markets and other venues.

Chori burger at I Am Nacho Mama

Queso smothers the Chori burger, a blend of
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Chori burger at I Am Nacho Mama (7 W. Village Green, Hicksville): Whether chorizo is the best thing you'll ever eat or the worst depends largely on who's doing the sausage-making, I've found. But country-of-origin makes a difference too. Not only is the flavor of Argentinean chorizo mild and subtle, it has an alchemical effect on the ground beef at I Am Nacho Mama. The Chori burger, a meaty amalgamation that chef Carlos Juarez created as an homage to his beloved father-in-law, wonderfully showcases this marriage of proteins. Tender, juicy, garlicky, smoked through with oregano, and topped with tangy curtido, it's a new kind of heaven on a bun. More info: 516-226-0228, iamnachomama.com -- Scott Vogel

Roast-pork noodle soup at Super FL Mart

Roast-chicken noodle soup at the food court at
Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Roast-pork noodle soup at Super FL Mart (52 Jericho Tpke., Mineola): First there were no ramen joints on Long Island. Now they are popping up like shiitake mushrooms after a rainstorm. Not a few of these noodle-come-latelies are owned by Chinese-Americans and to them I say: Hey, how about some Hong Kong-style noodle joints? The best ramen has nothing on a steaming bowl of clear broth containing a big hank of taut egg noodles, freshly roasted char siu (pork) and a few greens. I was happy to brave the bustle and the cold of Super FL Mart's food court for this world-beating bowl. More, please! More info: 516-873-0888 -- Erica Marcus

Mantoo at Kandahar Kabab

A delectable plate of mantoo--Afghani dumplings here stuffed
Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

Mantoo at Kandahar Kabab (459A S. Broadway, Hicksville): Afghan food, where have you been all my life? Ignorance of that easily-overlooked cuisine had long cast a shameful blight on my culinary reputation, but things changed abruptly this fall after a chance encounter with Kandahar Kabab. Hashmat Ghani's new eatery, which he runs with his father, was chock-full of rich dishes delicately spiced, none more swoon-worthy than the mantoo dumplings. Things started simply enough, with plump little pillows of minced chicken, then got interesting after Ghani spooned a tart tomato-and-chickpea sauce over them, and then beyond interesting when he christened my plate with a mint-flavored yogurty drizzle. And just like that, a new gastronomic fascination was born. More info: 516-595-7886 -- Scott Vogel

 

Machete at Taco El Chingon

Machete clasico, hand made tortilla folded in half
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Machete at Taco El Chingon (2809-A Merrick Rd. Bellmore): The taco game on Long Island grows stronger by the hour, which makes it puzzling that other Mexican culinary wonders such as huaraches, tlayudas and gorditas rarely make appearances here. The machete falls into this camp, an oblong, earthy corn tortilla folded over a mash of beans, cheese and whatever else fits. Mercifully, Laura Lucero serves them at her cheerful new eatery, Taco El Chingon in Bellmore. In this tiny space, the machete takes on an outsized stature, a floppy, fresh, charred-all-over tortilla fills to its gills with refried beans, melted, squeaky Oaxacan cheese, sliced avocado, shredded chicken (if you wish) and a cloudlet of crema. (Don't forget to slather on tomatillo salsa). Everything oozes into your mouth at once as you eat, making you feel simultaneously pampered and naughty. It costs $10, and can probably feed you across three meals. More info: 516-809-9102, tacoelchingon.com -- Corin Hirsch

 

The Smoking Gun cocktail at 317 Main Street

The Smoking Gun Cocktail served with a cover
Credit: Heather Walsh

The Smoking Gun cocktail at 317 Main Street in Farmingdale (317 Main Street, Farmingdale): Maybe it was the day -- an unseasonably cold one -- when I ducked into 317 Main Street for an early date. Or maybe it was the rich, powerful, perhaps even life-changing conversation we had there. Point is, there was something special about that chilly November afternoon, a day that in retrospect seems unthinkable without a little cocktail under glass called The Smoking Gun. Clouds redolent of Cynar and Italian liqueurs wafted skyward when I lifted the lid from that rowdy assemblage of bourbon and brandy, raspberry and vanilla scents filled the air, and soon it was clear that nothing would ever be the same again. More info: 516-512-5317, 317mainstreet.com -- Scott Vogel

Cannolo pizza at Pizza Rita

The cannolo” pie topped with mozzarella, ricotta, sausage,
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Cannolo pizza at Pizza Rita (55 Middle Rd., Mattituck): Neapolitan wood-fired pizza continues its inexorable spread across Long Island. This year, Jeff Marrone's Pizza Rita, formerly a food truck, settled into a little strip mall on Route 48 (the north road) in Mattituck. All the pies display chewy-airy, leopard-spotted rims and just-this-side-of-lavish toppings. The cannolo is a symphony of mozzarella (made by the chef), ricotta, sausage, oyster and button mushrooms, finished with pecorino and extra-virgin olive oil. A lesser chef might muck up the works with truffle oil. I have no idea why the pie is named for a cannolo, but I'd order it if it were called dirt. Day-trippers' note: In winter, Pizza Rita is only open Thursday to Sunday. More info: 631-315-5557, pizzarita.org -- Erica Marcus

Macadamia nut pie at Maui Chop House

Macadamia nut pie, a heavenly dessert served with
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Macadamia nut pie at Maui Chop House (49 Route 25A, Rocky Point): My meal had been an unhappy one, there was no pretending otherwise. But even as I found myself lost in bitter reflection over the fate of Maui Chop House, a last-minute plea arrived from a most unexpected corner of the kitchen. Behold a nut pie of substance: Bold, crunchy, evincing none of the treacly sweetness of its pecan brother, and truly one of a kind. My pastry instincts, forever dancing on the edge of crassness, craved the textural change of a warm presentation and a melting blob of vanilla ice cream. But really, what would that have accomplished? More info: 631-849-1620, mauichophouse.com -- Scott Vogel

Tuna tasting at Torigo

A sashimi platter of Chu Toro, left, and
Credit: An Rong Xu

Tuna tasting at Torigo (196 Jericho Tpk., Floral Park): The highlight of reporting a sushi story was an afternoon spent with Tony San, chef-owner of Torigo in Floral Park. A courier from JFK had just delivered a toaster-oven-sized chunk of blue fin tuna that had been farm-raised in Spain. San explained that it was both more sustainable and more expensive than wild, and then gave me a guided tour, pointing out the ling (leanest meat), o-toro (the richest, pink with intramuscular fat) and chu-toro (somewhere in the middle). After he finished breaking down the tuna, he let me sample the three varieties and, true to my moderate nature, I liked the chu-toro the best. More info: 516-352-1116, torigorestaurant.com -- Erica Marcus

Chicken salad at Coco Palace

Jinpo style chicken served at Coco Palace in
Credit: Daniel Brennan

Chicken salad at Coco Palace (19 Northern Blvd., Great Neck): Is this chicken salad even Chinese food? I had my mind well and truly blown at Coco Palace, a new Great Neck restaurant that serves the cuisine of Yunnan, a province in China's southwest that borders Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam (and shares with those cuisines a tropical brightness and clarity). This cold dish was a pile of rough shards of breast meat, showered with crushed peanuts, young celery, basil and cilantro and veiled with a spicy lemon (lemon!) dressing. Yet another reminder that there really is no such thing as "Chinese food," just a collection of regional styles that, happily, are increasingly available on Long Island. More info: 516-708-1978, cocopalaceny.com -- Erica Marcus

Porgy crudo at Bakuto

Porgy Crudo at Japanese inspired restaurant Bakuto, in
Credit: NOAH FECKS

Porgy crudo at Bakuto (121 N. Wellwood Ave., Lindenhurst): The summer before last, I caught a slew of porgy while fishing with my dad (he caught even more, and gave it all to me), and for days afterward grappled with not wasting any of it. I fried filets, and made porgy tacos, and produced passable crudo. They were bony little things, though, and the memory of tweezing out spindles added to my amazement when chef Zachary Rude rendered a lustrous porgy crudo (and presumably, many orders of it) inside his new izakaya joint, Bakuto in Lindenhurst. The fish was almost translucent and a little bit sweet, the torn shiso leaves kind of minty, the slivers of fried garlic like allium candy. And of course, nary a bone in sight. More info: 631-225-1760. bakutobar.com -- Corin Hirsch

 

Oyakodon at Teinei Ya

Oyakadon (chicken and egg over rice) at Teinei
Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Oyakodon at Teinei Ya (40 Jericho Tpke., Syosset): While ramen gets all the glory, another Japanese comfort classic, donburi, gets short shrift. Ironic since donburi ("bowl") is the original rice-bowl meal, a heap of some savory protein -- pork cutlet, beef with onion, grilled eel -- burying a mound of short-grain rice. My absolute favorite iteration is oyakodon, which means "parent-and-child bowl" and consists of chunks of boneless chicken simmered with egg and onions in a slightly sweet sauce. Best. Lunch. Ever. It absolutely must be made with thigh meat as it is at the new Teinei Ya, hidden at the back of the new Honamaru Market, which is hidden behind the Coldwell Banker offices on Jericho Turnpike in Syosset. More info: 516-921-0200  -- Erica Marcus

 

Lobster and mango salad at Anker

A starter of lobster meat with grilled mango,
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Lobster and mango salad at Anker (47 Front St., Greenport): A few years ago, if you'd offered me lobster anything, chances are it would be a hard pass. Unless I was working, I'd never felt drawn in by the spiders of the sea. And then something switched, with two of my favorites for the year are lobster; one of them is at Anker, which debuted its bright, beautiful self this summer in Greenport. I tumbled headlong into the charms its seafood, from oysters decked in yuzu foam to lobster bisque so light and pure it could almost float off the table, or fluke crudo popping with blueberries, radishes and beets. The prettiest and most seductive of them all was a painterly arrangement of sweet lobster meat with cubed, grilled mango, candied beets and a wide avenue of smeared, chili-laced avocado. Smoky, smoldering and just kind of itself, the essence of an August day. 631-477-1300, anker47.com -- Corin Hirsch

Connecticut-style lobster roll at Lazy Lobster

The warm Connecticut lobster roll with tarragon citrus
Credit: Daniel Brennan

Connecticut-style lobster roll at Lazy Lobster (10 Front St., East Rockaway): You might have to weave around strollers during the day or battle for a table by night, but either way, the Lazy Lobster is worth it. Picture a bar of repurposed shipping containers on one end, a permanent food truck on the other, and a garden of picnic tables, all of it across from a pretty cove. You wouldn't necessarily expect the food to be great in such a place, but it is, courtesy of executive chef Keith Gleason and his hustling team. The line gets long at the truck but it moves quickly; the lobster rolls that issue forth are studies in proportion, heaps of claw meat on deeply toasted, buttered split-top buns alongside crisp shoestring fries. The traditional version, barely touched by mayonnaise, holds its own, but the warm, Connecticut-style roll is truly decadent, glazed with butter and vibrating with tarragon. Eating one feels like going on a temporary vacation -- alas, one you'll have to wait until the cold weather clears as the spot is closed for winter. More info: 516-837-8484. lazylobsterny.com -- Corin Hirsch

Char siu bowl at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.

Char siu bowl at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.
Credit: Newsday/Corin Hirsch

Char siu bowl at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. (42155 Main Rd., Peconic.): In the spring, I had the good fortune to be assigned a story about breweries with chef-driven food, and the even better luck to spend part of it eating through the oeuvre of the very capable Greg Ling, executive chef at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. I had just missed the run on frogs' legs but scored with a rice bowl with char siu, or marinated, barbecued pork belly singed around its edges and fatty in all the proper places. This, Ling folded over some of the spring's first asparagus, then added slivered radishes, cucumbers, a seam of gochujang and a fried egg. Cool and creamy, hot and kind of sweet, crunchy and peppery all came to the party, a booming contralto in the current chorus of a thousand rice bowls. More info: 631-477-1100, greenportharborbrewing.com -- Corin Hirsch

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