Best restaurants in Garden City: Critics' picks
Garden City has one of Long Island’s most walkable downtowns, with the wide-sidewalked district centered around the intersection of Seventh and Franklin avenues boasting copious free parking. The village also encompasses Roosevelt Field mall and, just south, the commercial stretch of Stewart Avenue. No matter where you go, there’s a terrific place to eat.
Primehouse Steak & Sushi
910 Franklin Ave.
At Primehouse, serial restaurateur Art Gustafson takes the steak-and-sushi concept and adds his signature razzmatazz. In a sprawling room that mixes glitz and glamour, you’ll find a raw bar, wedge salad, prime steaks with all the trimmings and, on Friday and Saturday nights, freshly carved prime rib. Also find Thai baby back ribs; butter-poached lobster; “silk-handkerchief” pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and goat cheese and a full sushi menu that ranges from combo platters to individual rolls to the eponymous Primehouse roll featuring spinach, avocado and asparagus with marinated skirt steak and barbecue sauce. More info: 516-416-4264, primehousegardencity.com
980 Franklin Ave.
One of Long Island’s few coal-oven pizzerias, Grimaldi’s traces its lineage to Patsy Grimaldi, the pizza titan who trained at Patsy’s in East Harlem and went on to found his own dynasty based in Brooklyn (the original store is now called Juliana’s). The Garden City store is now owned by the Ciolli family but it adheres strictly to the coal-oven code: The pies — available in 12-, 16- or 18-inch rounds — are thin crusted and lightly charred and are not available by the slice. Toppings here range from traditional (sausage, meatball, pepperoni, anchovy, roasted peppers, onions, olives) to quite a lot of chicken (barbecue, Parm, Buffalo, Cajun). More info: 516-294-6565, grimaldisgardencity.com
La Nonna Bella
660 Franklin Ave.
Scratch the surface of La Nonna Bella’s extensive pan-Italian menu and you’ll find plenty of specialties from Puglia, the heel of the boot, where chef-owner Lino DeVivo grew up. From his hometown of Conversano come the homemade cavatelli with caramelized onion, spinach and smashed fava beans. Or try the most famous Pugliese pasta, strascinate, leaf-shaped fresh pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage. (The menu also strays, deliciously, to Genoa for the trofie with pesto, to Rome for spaghetti cacio e pepe.) DeVivo elevates the peasant dish of fave e ciccoria (fava-bean puree and chicory) by stuffing it into crostini. This same duo accompanies the veal packets (bombette Pugliese) stuffed with provolone, pecorino and prosciutto. Feeling hungry but indecisive? There’s a daily four-course chef’s tasting menu where the chef really struts his stuff. More info: 516-248-0366, lanonnabella.com
931 Franklin Ave.
There’s no better place in Garden City for a glass of wine than La Plancha, sister restaurant to Salumi in Massapequa. There are dozens of selections by the glass and scores more by the bottle, many of them from lesser-known niche producers. Have a seat at the rustic bar and someone will be happy to act as your guide. The menu is largely small plates, classic Spanish tapas and meat and cheese boards comprising, again, lesser known selections such as Spanish Jamon Iberico and lomo, Italian bresaola and Speck, Caña de Cabra and Fourme d’Ambert. There are also a handful of large plates such as paella, shrimp and polenta and dry-aged steak. More info: 516-246-9459, barplancha.com
7 12th St.
Manny Voumvourakis' Garden City barbecue joint consistently turns out some of the finest brisket on the Island, along with excellent baby back and spare ribs, and juicy pulled pork. But Smok-haus' best-kept secret may well be its weekends-only pastrami — brined in-house, delicately flavored, and better than you’ll find at many delis specializing in it. (Get there before they sell out.) Other favorites include smoked chicken thighs, velvety brisket or carnitas tacos, a brisket cheesesteak sandwich and a pork belly-on-potato-roll sandwich that’s just as decadent as it sounds, served with coleslaw and pickle chips. Barbecued meats are served a la carte as well, as are the porchetta and smoked shrimp. Ever-popular mild, medium and hot wings are smoked before being fried and are a key component of the lively after-work bar scene here. In warmer weather, an outdoor patio beckons. More info: 516-400-7100, smok-haus.com
850 Franklin Ave.
Named after the creamy fish stew of Belgium, Waterzooi is a proper alehouse with a sizable selection of Belgian strong ales and tripels on tap. If you're eating, it's best to bring a friend because the portions here are enormous. Much of the menu is dedicated to the moule pot, a boatload of mussels doused in all manor of hearty sauces like smoked salmon tarragon, cheese fondue or creamy lobster sauce. These come with Belgian fries, of course, and mayonnaise for dipping. The namesake waterzooi ($49) is also on the menu, here prepared in the traditional style with an array of seafood like lobster, shrimp and littleneck clams, all in a creamy tarragon fennel broth. More info: 516-877-2177, waterzooi.com
The French Workshop
191 7th St.
This spacious, light-filled shop opened in 2018 on the primest corner of Garden City, a second location for the Pantelatos family whose first was in Queens. Half of the store is devoted to a long counter displaying a gallery of baked goods: fancy pastries (such as opera cake, éclairs and “craquelino,” a decadent morsel made with chocolate cake, caramelized almonds, chocolate ganache and white-chocolate mousse), brownies, cookies, loaf cakes, cupcakes, sweet and savory tarts, pies, cakes, croissants, and sandwiches. The other half accommodates more than a dozen round, marble cafe tables with plush chairs and banquettes. In fine weather, the tables spill out onto the sidewalk. More info: 516-248-6800
Stone Street Grille
630 Stewart Ave.
When Art Gustafson took over the 5,700-square-foot space on Stewart Avenue that used to be Hurricane Grill & Wings, he needed a concept that would fill the nearly 200-seat dining room. The crowd-pleasing menu relies heavily on an industrial rotisserie from which issue rib roasts (sliced to order) and whole chickens that are either served simply or slathered with Korean barbecue sauce and finished on the wood-fired grill. From the grill: skirt steak with chimichurri, cedar-planked salmon with agave glaze, shrimp tacos, a 14-ounce cowboy pork chop with roasted peach jam. There’s also a burger boasting two griddled patties stacked with cheese and bacon on a sesame bun plus peanut-butter-chipotle spareribs, tuna nachos and a salad of fried calamari with cabbage, orange segments and wonton chips. The soaring dining room marries industrial chic with Hard Rock Cafe. More info: 516-280-9414, stonestreetgrill.com
Red Salt Room
45 7th St.
In 2018, the Garden City Hotel’s food service was taken over by David Burke, a superstar chef who also has a reputation as the P.T. Barnum of fine dining. He transformed the former Polo Steakhouse into the Red Salt Room, so named because Burke ages his meat in a chamber lined with bricks made of red Himalayan salt. Beyond the prime steaks and chops is an exuberant menu including Burke’s signature “clothesline bacon” (footlong strips suspended from a wire by a clothespin and spot-torched to bestow just the right amount of char), Gruyere popovers, day-boat scallops with caviar, 2-pound lobsters and seafood or vegetable paella. And that’s just dinner. The Red Salt Room also hosts one of Long Island's most lavish Sunday brunches, Saturday tea (every other week) and the clubby King Bar or the Patio Bar for chilling on the hotel's front lawn, both of which have their own menus. More info: 877-549-0400, gardencityhotel.com
Kyuramen x TBaar
988 Franklin Ave.
A rapidly expanding Queens chain of sleekly designed ramen shops gets its first Long Island location. Private wood-paneled tatami rooms take up most of the space. Browse the picture menu and push a button on the wall to summon your server, who brings delicate bowls with snappy noodles and 18-hour broth in unique styles like Japanese curry ramen and Kyushu spicy tonkotsu. Followers of omurice, a Japanese Instagram sensation, will find an excellent version here. A server splits the omelet bundle at the table, letting the runny egg pool out over the fried rice before they top the whole thing with copious amounts of savory demi glace. The Garden City location also has a bubble tea bar at the front, so make sure to order an intricately layered matcha crepe cake, cutting through the creamy layers with whimsy and delight. More info: 516-385-8887, kyuramen.com
For Five Coffee
147 7th St.
This Queens-based chain of cafes also has a substantial food menu and pastry selection with vegan and gluten-free options. Breakfast sandwiches come in several varieties with ingredients like bacon jam and skirt steak with parmesan pumpkin pesto sauce. But if you're just having a cold brew, don't sleep on the chubby cookies available in a spectrum of bright rainbow. In a miracle of modern science, they're all stuffed with a chunky cookie dough center, which maintains its rawness despite being surrounded by a finished cookie. More info: 516-271-9100, forfivecoffee.com
9 Nassau Blvd., Garden City South
This Italian spot, a newish addition to the neighborhood as well as the second installment of a growing local chain, earns its popularity with a winning formula of pastas (including rigatoni deliciously drenched in spicy vodka sauce, $26), fun cocktails (basil gin lemonade, rainbow cookie martini, both $18) and lots of wild and wonderful things in between, including irresistible housemade and truffle-coated mozzarella sticks offered at happy hour, as well as egg rolls stuffed with sausage and broccoli rabe ($16), risotto balls with pesto ($16) and a grilled pork chop massive enough to feed the whole table ($32). It all adds up to a fun and lively evening for all, from date-night couples to extended families of every size. More info: 516-485-4848, itakitchen.com
987 Stewart Ave.
You can have a good time almost any night of the week at this Latin mainstay, thanks to an overachieving entertainment schedule, from mariachi Mondays to live music and dancing most Saturday nights. It all makes for an unavoidably raucous bar or dining room experience, and the food and libations are similarly fun. The house mojitos are deservedly popular, as are tropical drinks, like the colada-esque coquito mojito. There are mucho appetizers to pair and share, and a mixto platter ($22.50) with many of them — yuca frita, chicharrones, potato croquettes and fried chorizo. A wide selection of ceviches ($17.50-$19.50) and classic Cuban dishes completes the main menu, but don’t overlook the happy hour menu, which features discount drinks and apps, More info: 516-222-0295
The Capital Grille
630 Old Country Rd.
When it comes to décor, the Island’s sole outpost of this national chain doubles down on every steakhouse cliché you can think of, from hunting lodge paintings on wine-colored walls to chocolate banquettes and moody lighting, and yet the place still manages to impress, thanks to fine cuts of meat, generous portions and fast, efficient service. The dry-aged New York strip steak ($57) is an imposing, 14-ounce slab, but a good value too, its juiciness bursting through a sturdy sear. Also seared is a plank of sesame tuna ($52) that squats atop a nice bed of gingered rice. The large bread basket features a similarly large selection of goodies, while sides are tasty, if overcomplicated, from Brussels sprouts (with bacon and a sticky-sweet soy glaze, $13) to asparagus (grilled and drizzled with lemon, $13). A well-executed creme brulee ($12) is worth saving room for. More info: 516-746-1675, thecapitalgrille.com
860 Franklin Ave.
The team behind Croxley's Ale House and the Belgian restaurant Waterzooi try their hand at modern Italian, with an impressive tap system that allows them to offer 100 different wines by the glass. The dining room itself has an equal draw, with its many wraparound booths that offer privacy and comfort, ideal for a dinner date or business meeting. Novitá's menu is approachable, with Neapolitan pizzas that are more constrained and cracker-like, and inventive pasta combinations like black linguine with charred octopus, pancetta and crispy capers. More info: 516-739-7660, novitany.com
ROOSEVELT FIELD RESTAURANTS
630 Old Country Rd.
Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s sole Long Island restaurant has been consistently on point since opening in 2019. Its kitchen turns out bistro food of the highest echelon, some of it underpinned by vegetables and seafood from Long Island and accented by East End wines. The open kitchen overlooks an elegant, airy farmhouse-style dining room where Peeko oysters from Little Peconic Bay are the house bivalve, arriving on the half shell or grilled with Calabrian chili and lemon. Other plates turn comfort food up a notch, from veal-ricotta meatballs (a starter) and fried hot-chicken sandwiches to braised Niman Ranch heirloom pork chops with braised mustard greens and grits. The handsome bar trades in inspired combinations, including a riff on Long Island iced tea with Earl Grey-infused vodka, reposado tequila, aged rum and limoncello. More info: 516-548-8162, smallbatchrestaurant.com
2 South St.
Once upon a time, Long Island was an Indian food wasteland. Happily, that time was 50 years ago, which is when this mainstay decamped from Manhattan and quickly became an Island standard-bearer. As such, Akbar is known for its definitive takes on enduring favorites such as chicken tikka masala, a tender and creamy treat; cloudlike naan and a garlicky fried cauliflower, not to mention the lemon-and-cilantro wondrousness that is Akbar's lamb chops, and the tart garlic-chili sauce glazing fried cauliflower florets in its Gobi Manchurian. Owner Meena Chopra presides over an on-premises events business. More info: 516-357-8300, theakbar.com
630 Old Country Rd.
Osteria Morini focuses on the cuisine of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, birthplace of prosciutto di Parma, Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar as well as tortellini, tagliatelle and lasagna. Morini’s kitchen breathes new life into simple dishes such as spaghetti pomodoro, while stuffed cappelletti reveal an artist’s skill. The Bolognese ragù here is the meaty, virtually tomatoless sauce that they make in Bologna. Pasta avoiders will enjoy the mortadella-enriched meatballs or any of the chops. At the comfortable bar, you can chat about the negronis on tap, the terrific all-Italian wine list and the finer points of Emilia-Romagna’s singular red sparkler, Lambrusco. More info: 516-604-0870, osteriamorini.com
630 Old Country Rd., Unit #1148B
This year-old sushi spot offers an omakase tasting experience at the Roosevelt Field mall. With only 75 seats and a muted color scheme, the intimate room is rather understated, keeping the focus on beautifully prepared and delicately sourced nigiri. Chef James Choi sources rare bites such as kinmadai goldeneye snapper and shima aji striped jack. The restaurant also sports a well curated list of mostly junmai sakes. More info: 516-916-2923, nomiyastation.com
True Food Kitchen
630 Old Country Rd., Suite 1040B
The menu at this Phoenix-based restaurant concept was created by integrative medicine doctor Andrew Weil with an eye toward nutrition and healthy eating. Originally a Fox Restaurant, the menu is executed very well, showcasing well-balanced plates brimming with grains and veggies. On the menu since the beginning, the spaghetti squash casserole is the dish you want to get. The strings of squash are baked with lush Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes and a topper of melty mozzarella cheese. More info: 516-559-4728, truefoodkitchen.com