Rockville Centre is South Nassau’s undisputed restaurant hub, with scores of eateries lined up cheek by jowl along the central blocks of Park and Village avenues, Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road.
And it’s been that way for a long time. RVC (as its residents call it) is not an up-and-coming downtown; it up and came decades ago.
If you’re driving to Rockville Centre, build in a little time to search for a parking spot. Most spots are free after 6 p.m., but despite the presence of multiple municipal lots, spaces are at a premium and many restaurants offer valet parking.
70 N. Long Beach Rd.
Frying up Ipswich clams since 1939, Bigelow's is a Long Island institution. The counter-service clam bar was recently renovated to include a proper seating area. New England and Manhattan-stye clam chowders; fried oysters; fish and chips made with either cod or flounder; grilled swordfish steak; fish sandwiches. More info: 516-678-3878, bigelows-rvs.com
George Martin The Original
65 N. Park Ave.
George Korten operates four restaurants on Long Island and they all grew out of his first one in Rockville Centre, George Martin, which opened in 1989 and spawned GM Burger Bar (a few blocks north) George Martin’s Grillfire in Merrick and George Martin’s Strip Steak in Great River. Now dubbed George Martin The Original, the well-appointed eatery offers an assured take on global comfort food, from Korean chicken tacos and rigatoni alla vodka to marinated Angus ribeye steak and shrimp Provençal. More info: 516-678-7272, georgemartintheoriginal.com
The Flour Shoppe Cafe & Bakery
486 Sunrise Hwy.
Breakfast is the draw at this tiny cafe--so you'd better get there early. Home-fried breakfast poutine with Parmesan, eggs and red-eye gravy; French toast with berries, chocolate ganache and whipped cream and a granola parfait. Mid-day eaters might up for innovative sandwiches or loaded burgers. More info: 516-536-2253, theflourshoppecafe.com
13 N. Park Ave.
Snaps' original location has flourished on a Wantagh side street since 2004, but for Scott and Patty Bradley’s second act, they chose a spot smack in the middle of Rockville Centre. The two menus are almost identical — American comfort classics elevated with international twists such as a 24-hour braised beef short rib “sloppy joe” on focaccia with Cheddar cheese sauce, or a crab empanada with mango and coconut. More info: 516-517-2525, snapsrestaurant.com
12 N. Park Ave.
Dodici is one of Long Island’s most durable Italian restaurants, with a menu that ranges from a humble white bean soup to the maiale Milanese, a massive bone-in pork chop pounded thin, breaded and fried, and topped with just the right amount of spinach, prosciutto and Fontina to complement and not overwhelm the meat. More info: 516-764-3000, dodicirestaurant.com
14 S. Park Ave.
Maurizio Vendittelli has spent a lifetime in Italian restaurants, working his way up from busser to general manager to owner. Toothsome homemade pastas include garganelli with Sicilian eggplant and ricotta, bucatini bound by an eggy, creamless carbonara and strozzapreti bathed in a verdant pesto along with cubes of potato and lengths of green beans—a Genovese preparation rarely seen on these shores. There are neo-Neapolitan pizzas (don’t miss the Calabrese with crumbled sausage and hot chilies) and a raft of crowd-pleasers that split the difference between the Italian food you find in Italy and the Italian food you find on Long Island: rice balls and baked clams, Caesar salad and fried calamari. More info: 516-447-6744, mangiabenervc.com
22 N. Park Ave.
Founded in 2002, this sandwich specialist features starters, salads, soups, burgers and terrific, hand-cut Belgian-style fries, but the emphasis is on the scores of hot-pressed sandwiches containing everything from roast pork to brisket to fried chicken to black-bean hummus. Heros can be had toasted or pressed, and you can also have a sandwich pressed between halves of a knish. Plus dozens of craft beers and hard ciders. More info: 516-536-1950, press195.com
Chadwicks American Chop House & Bar
49 Front St.
Just opposite the LIRR station, Chadwicks has been a village institution for more than 20 years. The restaurant is the place for both family gatherings and intimate dates. The menu covers all the bases, from clams casino and wedge salad, grilled steaks and chops, and orange-honey-lacquered duck. More info: 516-766-7800, chadwicksrvc.com
312 Sunrise Hwy.
You have to wonder why it took until 2019 for someone to open up a sit-down bakery in Rockville Centre that stays open until midnight. Peter Kambitsis did just that, transforming his Freshark juice bar into Sugarberry Bakery, a comfy-chic spot whose “dessert gallery” comprises more than a hundred single-serving desserts, including pastries (éclairs, Napoleons, baklava), cakes (red velvet, seven layer, triple chocolate mousse), cheesecakes, brownies, pies and more. More info: 516-764-2881, sugarberrybakery.com
17 S. Park Ave.
One of the village’s prettiest eateries, 8 Ramen is a jewel box containing a handful of bleached-wood communal tables, open shelving for knickknacks and lots of greenery suspended from the walls and ceiling. The menu includes classic shoyu ramen, miso ramen and tonkotsu ramen along with some less familiar items such as tom yam lobster ramen. Also: gyoza dumplings, takoyaki (octopus), shrimp tempura and Chinese sausage. More info: 516-632-8288, 8-ramen.business.site
Tum Thai Cuisine
274 Merrick Rd.
Tum Thai’s distinctive, fanciful design — hangings of shimmering gold leaves, crystal chandeliers set within gilded birdcages — is a fitting metaphor for the complex and layered flavors of Thai cuisine. That complexity comes through in the restaurant’s version of the chicken-lime-coconut soup called tom kha gai, as well as in the hot-and-sour tom yum goong, a crimson brew with shrimp and mushrooms, and beautifully nuanced red curry with eggplant, basil and coconut milk. More info: 516-543-5078, tumthainy.com
43 N. Village Ave.
A dependable spots for authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. The restaurant is named after Naples' area code, and the pies have the city's signature puffy rim and floppy crust. The roster of almost 20 pies includes classics such as Margherita and Diavola, ignited with spicy salami and Calabrian chili oil, to the Michele, topped with bacon marmalade, caramelized onions and burrata. Pasta, panini and entrees, too. More info: 516-442-5858, vulcano081.com
212 Merrick Rd.
A rollicking establishment devoted to Mexican eats and drinks, Mesita delivers on all fronts: tableside guacamole, ceviche, nachos, tamales, quesadillas, street-style tacos in soft-corn tortillas, “torta” sandwiches served with yuca fries, mole poblano and fajitas served on a sizzling cast-iron skillet. Plus a handful of more north-of-the-border dishes such as seared salmon and grilled rib-eye steak. More info: 516-282-9900, mesitarestaurants.com
226 Merrick Rd.
At the nutty-science-themed Burgerology, many of the specialty burgers name-check scientists: the Einstein burger is an eight-ounce patty topped with braised short rib, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and cabernet gravy — just the way the Nobel laureate liked it. But since it opened in 2017, the eatery has become just as popular for the zany “monstrosity” shakes such as the the “Campfire,” a graham-cracker-coated glass filled with vanilla ice cream, more crackers, chocolate syrup and roasted marshmallows. More info: 516-600-9720, burgerologyusa.com
242 Sunrise Hwy.
In a town long on Italian and Mexican, Aperitif constitutes the sole French eatery. It’s got a classic bistro look — globe lights, dark wood, red upholstery — and a menu of Gallic classics such as steak frites, escargot, mussels mariniere, roast chicken. There are dozens of wines by the glass, including a few curated flights, plus French aperitifs such as Pernod, Ricard, Dubonnet and Lillet. More info: 516-594-3404, aperitifbistro.com
Front Street Bakery
51 Front St.
Founded in 1946, Front Street Bakery is one ofRockville Centre’s oldest food-service establishment. The moment you walk in, you can tell: The staff seems to know every customer; the shelves are packed with cakes, pastry, cookies, muffins and breads; most tellingly, it smells great. While the bakery has embraced the current trend of elaborately decorated specialty cakes, many of the recipes are as old as the store: heavily crumbed crumb cakes, superlative black and whites, raspberry tarts filled only with jam and, most famously, dot cookies, little butter cookies decorated with a blob of frosting, one of which is given to any kid who crosses the threshold. More info: 516-766-1199, frontstreetbakery.com
Kasey's Kitchen & Cocktails
23 N. Park Ave.
In the two decades that Kasey’s has been serving Rockville Centre, the footprint has expanded out into a neighboring building and up into the rooftop bar, Rooftop 32. The menu has evolved too, from a simple bar and grill to Kasey’s Kitchen & Cocktails, serving everything from burgers and wings to potstickers and king salmon with carrots, mushrooms and sauce vierge. In the warm weather, Rooftop 32 provides as panoramic-as-possible view of downtown RVC; when it’s too cool to drink or dine outside, take refuge in the well appointed bar, lounge or dining room. More info: 516-766-5049, kaseysrvcny.com
Mad for Chicken
318 Sunrise Hwy.
Living up to its name and then some, Mad for Chicken offers myriad ways to enjoy the bird. The Korean chicken chain's wings and drumsticks come in two flavors: soy garlic and a spicy version of the same. Good Korean restaurants are few in number on Long Island; this one offers competent takes on a bulgogi bowl topped by a fried egg, bulgogi mac ’n cheese, japchae, fries topped with a ladle of kimchi and tteok-bokki. More info: 516-208-6931, madforchicken.com