You've driven up and down the same street 10 times, but, still, no sign of that kebab house you're looking for. Then your GPS piles on by announcing that you've arrived at your destination. Now you're hungry and frustrated.
Long Island's best-hidden dining spots are tucked away in parking lots, office buildings and apartment houses. Others are secreted away in alleys without proper addresses. All are worth seeking out, but trying to find them will be irritating — unless you know exactly where to look.
Farm Country Kitchen
513 West Main St., Riverhead
You'd never guess there's a restaurant in this small house overlooking the Peconic River, let alone an outdoor dining oasis in the backyard. Chef-owner Tom Carson offers a daily-changing lunch menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and pastas. At dinnertime, dishes like marinated sliced Crescent Farms duck breast and pan-seared sea scallops over linguine are on offer. Ingredients are mostly local. In summer, sit on the veranda or surrounding waterfront property, which is full of large, shaded dining tables and Adirondack chairs while taking in the idyllic view.
Find it: Near the Dodge dealership on Route 25, look for a brown Colonial and yellow barn with a chalkboard. Park on the gravel by either structure; follow the path to the restaurant. More info: 631-369-6311, farmcountrykitchenli.com
Crabtree's New York & Main
330 New York Ave., Huntington
Perched up on the second story above downtown Huntington's main crossroads, Crabtree's New York & Main is a late-night spot with a wide-ranging drinks menu and a caloric roster of gastropub fare, like Reuben potato tots and a beef brisket baguette sandwich.
Find it: The stairway entrance to Crabtree's New York & Main is on the southeast corner of New York Avenue (Route 110) and Main Street (25A), facing New York Avenue. Look for the red entrance wedged between Cactus Salon Express and Time Source Jewelers. More info: 631-923-0920, crabtreesnyandmain.com
76 South St., Oyster Bay
Open for dinner Tuesday — Saturday and for brunch on Sundays, Stellina took over the former Osteria Leana space highlighting chef and co-owner Fabrizio Facchini's delightful Italian cuisine. The 40-seat room is intimate and warm. The open kitchen is inviting. The brick oven is putting out some perfect pizzas, calzones and soft-as-butter steaks, while a bounty of fresh pastas like cacio e pepe, pappardelle ragu and a unique paccheri in a creamy saffron and pistachio pesto sauce await.
Find it: On South Street, look for the small blue Stellina sign on the building at the corner where you turn into a parking lot. The restaurant's entrance in the back of the building. More info: 516-757-4989, stellinany.com
140 Jericho Tpke., Unit C, Syosset
Some of Long Island's best noodle soups can be found at a little counter in the back of a Japanese grocery store. Teinei Ya's menu focuses on ramen with three varieties of spicy red broth, but a steaming bowl of kitsune udon soup had a delicate dashi broth and soft spongy tofu. During the summer, the restaurant also serves bowls of the Korean buckwheat noodle soup naengmyeon, swimming with crisp cucumbers and pears that give the icy broth a fresh flavor.
Find it: The store is tucked into the back of Hanamaru Japanese Mart off Jericho Turnpike in Syosset. (You're not going to find a sign for Teinei Ya on the street, so look for Hanamaru.) The parking lot is also tricky to access, so you might have to pull into Hilltop Kitchen and Bar next door and drive around the back. More info: 516-921-0200, hanamarumart.us
West End Cafe
187 Glen Cove Rd., Carle Place
This eatery is a reliable stop for New American fare, with some Euro and Asian side trips. Good choices include the grilled pork chop with buttermilk-whipped potatoes, spinach and bourbon-glazed peaches; Asian crispy duck tacos, lobster-and-shrimp ravioli; the salmon club; and the house burger.
Find it: Find the busy Clocktower Shopping Center (on the east side of Glen Cove Road, north of the Long Island Rail Road trestle), then look for the inside corner. More info: 516-294-5608, westendli.com
3601 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown
Once upon a time, the Nassau Mall was actually a mall: a shopping center with an interior atrium that allowed shoppers to access its stores without going outside. Back then, it was hard to miss The Fortune Wheel, one of Long Island's oldest Cantonese eateries. Many renovations later, the complex now looks more like a traditional Long Island strip mall, awash in big box national chain retailers. Fortune Wheel still serves classic dim sum, complete with steam cart staples such as chicken's feet, dumplings and lotus-wrapped sticky rice. At lunch and dinner there's an encyclopedic menu with more nuanced dishes interspersed with Chinese American staples. Recommended: stir-fried snow pea shoots with garlic sauce and salt-and-pepper-style whole flounder.
Find it: There's no shortage of parking in the Nassau Mall. Look for Fortune Wheel's tiny storefront with the neon sign in the window. If you pass BJ’s twice you’ve gone too far. More info: 516-579-4700, fortunewheelrestaurant.com
40 McDermott Ave., Riverhead
At this charming spot, you can look out at the Peconic River from a table on the front porch or a picnic table on the lawn. But the real draw is the Turkish food: a vibrant shepherd's salad, an assortment of lively meze (small plates), as well as fine grilled marinated kebabs.
Find it: The restaurant is situated off the municipal lot that fronts the Peconic River. It's at the end closest to the Riverhead Aquarium. More info: 631-591-1757, turkuazgrillriverhead.com
2 South St., Garden City
Akbar used to have a central location on Ring Road in Roosevelt Field. Now, the opulent Indian restaurant requires a few quick turns. This handsome spot specializes in northern Indian fare. Recommendations include the samosas, tandoori chicken, tandoori lamb chops, lamb vindaloo, rogan josh; channa masala or chickpea curry; sauteed yellow lentils; and simmered black lentils.
Find it: The restaurant is now tucked into the bend of South Street just before the road merges with the busy Ring Road that circles the mall. If you miss it the first time, all you can do is loop around and try again. More info: 516-357-8300, theakbar.com
Biscuits & Barbecue
106 E. 2nd St., Mineola
In an atmospheric 1940s vintage railroad car is a diner specializing in satisfying Louisiana fare as well as slow-smoked chicken and ribs. Not to be missed is the flaky hot biscuit with andouille sausage gravy. Or fiery-sweet blackened catfish. Shrimp and grits, fried chicken, mac and cheese and a warm peach cobbler all add up to major comfort.
Find it: The place is secreted away in an industrial section of Mineola. Although the numerical address is correct, it's easy to drive right past, since the place faces sideways. More info: 516-493-9797, biscuitsandbarbeque.com
131 Creek Rd., Wading River
French, Italian and American influences mark chef Wayne Waddington's menu at La Plage, which takes in dishes such as smoked beef carpaccio, English pea-and-mint ravioli in lamb's shoulder ragu, duck leg confit with chive risotto, gold-and-red beet salad with goat cheese, braised short ribs.
Find it: From North Country Road, head north on Sound Road and make a left on Creek Road to the beach. La Plage will be on your left, across the street from the beach. More info: 631-744-9200, laplagewadingriver.com
135 Deer Park Ave., Babylon
No secret here: This jaunty spot offers great margaritas — a bonus, since there's always a wait — and a strong selection of taco fillings served on your choice of soft or hard corn or flour tortillas. The fish taco is mighty fine, ditto the "crunch and munch" ground beef taco featuring a hard corn tortilla wrapped in a soft flour one. The quesadillas are loaded with stringy cheese and the taco salads, served in a tortilla shell, are a satisfying throwback. Swell recently opened a second spot (also difficult to find) in West Babylon at the Bergen Bay Docks.
Find it: The place isn't on Deer Park Avenue but behind it, reachable via an alleyway next to Fitness Incentive. It faces a municipal parking lot and is situated between the rear entrances of the gym and Mary Carroll's Bar & Beer Garden. More info: 631-482-1299, swelltacoli.com
Izumi Sushi & Hibachi Steakhouse
6550 Jericho Tpke., Commack
A cavernous house of hibachi and sushi, Izumi keeps the knives clanging and the vegetables flying. The hibachi menu ranges from single item choices (chicken, shrimp, lobster, calamari, filet mignon, Chilean sea bass) to more ornate combinations. You'll also find a full sushi menu, as well as Japanese kitchen items.
Find it: The place looks absolutely minute from the outside. In fact, the entryway is barely visible, squished into a corner of a Commack strip mall perpendicular to Five Guys Burgers and Fries (with whom it shares signage). Stepping inside, you'll gasp to find a lobby with a pond and Buddha statue. The rest of the place is the size of a hockey arena. More info: 631-499-8088, izumicommack.com