How to eat your way through Farmingdale, Huntington and Bay Shore

Bird in the hand: Victoria D’Amato meets the Adult Chicken Fingers at Crabtrees New York & Main in Huntington. Credit: Linda Rosier

Progressive dinner parties—where a group of people go from home to home, eating a different course at each destination—have been popular for decades. Folks can have the same sort of fun going from restaurant to restaurant, and these days, when everyone knows exactly what they would like (or not), this strategy, with a little tweaking, can save the day—and maybe a friendship or two. Plus, it’s really fun.

Are there any dietary restrictions this evening? Oh, man, are there ever. Move over shellfish and gluten, we’re living through an entire Age of Dietary Restrictions large and small, wherein eating out in mixed company has become something of a zero-sum game. There’s your friend Katy, who has just today decided to cut back on red meat after an article she read, or Thomas, who loves Turkish “but just not tonight, you know?” These days, everybody has something they don’t want: high noise levels, bad lighting, automatic gratuities, credit card upcharges, even as restaurants are imposing restrictions of their own—on table time, separate checks, diners who still haven’t gotten the memo about T-shirts and cut-offs, etc.

And so, while we love our friends—really, we do—scheduling meals out these days is akin to solving one of those old Reader’s Digest brain teasers, except harder. Indeed, finding restaurants where folks of diverse tastes can happily dine together might be impossible if not for our Island home and its concentrated, something-for-everyone streets, where dining at several spots over a single evening is both possible and a gift to the conflict-avoidant. Here, then, are three great places to go when everyone in your party wants something different, and what to eat and drink when you get there.


BEST FOR GROUPS OF: Friends with completely different tastes in food

THE CREW: A vegan, a barbecue nut, a lover of Asian food, someone who only eats wings.

FOOD CRAWL: Working their way north, the group might start at 317 Main Street, where the wing lover—if convinced to expand her chicken parts repertoire—will enjoy chef Eric LeVine’s fine and formidable boneless thighs. (Pro tip: order them with the cilantro–Thai chili sauce.) A creative and satisfying brisket sandwich with melted Cheddar will work for the barbecue lover, while the Asian enthusiast can feast on LeVine’s soup dumplings of ground chicken in broth, and the vegan, his brown rice “meatballs” in a mushroom sauce, one of several nonmeat offerings.

Trekking just 300 hundred feet north, they might alight next on the warm and inviting Library Café, where barbecue choices are limited but the pretzel-bunned Smokehouse burger with bacon and Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce (presuming our bbq lover is still hungry after all that brisket) will more than suffice. Vegan dishes to watch out for include the Buddha Bowl, a quinoa-sponsored amalgam of roasted chickpeas, sweet potato, cauliflower and avocado, all of it tossed in a top-notch red pepper dressing. Dressing of a different sort—sesame-ginger vinaigrette—is also the star of the Library Café’s Asian salad, which features bits of chicken on a bed of cabbage and romaine. And no one will be happier than the wingnut, who will have her pick from among seven sauces before then stumbling 135 feet north to High Tide Taco Bar for the honey-sriracha-lime wings, which are large, juicy and good, especially for a taco place. The Korean and brisket tacos there feature large amounts of beef, and the menu also includes several vegan tacos, notably one stuffed with sweet potato fries, black beans and scads of avocado, an odd-in-theory choice that nonetheless works.

No one will have room for much more food at this point, but hey, Whiskey Down Diner is just across the street, so why not? There’s something on the menu for everyone, after all, and usually something fascinating at that. Asian-wise, consider the breakfast ramen, available at all hours and featuring smoked ham, sausage and two fried eggs on top of its noodles. Vegans will be equally intrigued by the Psycho Bunny sandwich, falling in love with its plethora of cucumber slices, chickpea spread, basil aioli and more, the whole shebang jammed between two muscular slices of multigrain toast. Whiskey Down serves wings that can be ordered with a thriller of a blackberry-habanero sauce, yet another innovative pairing, while the chopped Southwest salad, remarkable primarily for its size and beauty, comes with an interesting barbecue-ranch dressing. And come to think of it, even the most committed barbecue lover ought to countenance a salad after all that meat.

Left: The Psycho Bunny sandwich at the Whiskey Down Diner in Farmingdale. Top: Boneless chicken thighs with thai chili sauce at 317 Main Street in Farmingdale. Bottom: The Smokehouse burger at the Library Cafe in Farmingdale. Photo credit: Linda Rosier


BEST FOR GROUPS OF: Multigenerational family members, each with age-specific atmospheric preferences 

THE CREW: An 84-year-old who likes restaurants to be pin-drop quiet; a 73-year-old who’s not a noise-lover but wouldn’t mind a little socializing at the bar; a couple, both 48 and on the prowl for something lively enough to make them feel young again; and a 27-year-old in the mood to rage.

FOOD CRAWL: The sheer number of dining possibilities in proximity is no secret in Huntington’s town center, which also deserves credit for running the sonic gamut. First order of business: Inform everyone they’ll be dining solo, then drop off the 84-year-old at Bistro Cassis, where every slurp of fine French onion soup may be heard from two tables away and the Serge Gainsbourg et ses amis soundtrack is drowned out whenever bartenders shake French martinis (vodka, crème de cassis, pineapple juice), which is often. BC takes its cues from the bistros of Paris, which, of course, are not known for their serenity, but the restaurant’s approach is otherwise by-the-book in every way, from its terrific frisée aux lardons—a salad chock-full of crunchy bacon cubes and topped with a poached egg—to steak frites, roast chicken and mussels marinière.

Second order of business: Drop off the 27-year-old, who will find cacophony and brio a mere 500 feet away at raucous-by-design Vauxhall, where a lively slice of humanity is nearly always in attendance and craving fried burrata, a hockey game plays on TV no matter the season, and ball caps are apparently mandatory. For some, Vauxhall is a burger temple, for others, a shrine to Kobe beef dogs—and only a 27-year-old would dare order both. The double-patty, triple-delicious Dan Smash spills caramelized onions from a brioche bun, and the over-the-top bacon-wrapped LA Street dog is served with sweet potato tots. The only question—what to drink with such a big meal—yields an obvious answer: the Big-32. This is one of several specialty cocktails—mojitos or bourbon peach tea, for instance—delivered in an oversized Mason jar. And yes, “32” refers to the beverages’ ounce count.

Next in line is the 73-year-old who likes things jovial yet under control and is therefore deposited at Crabtree’s, the longtime second-floor pub that hovers above the New York and Main intersection. From a distance, it may look like a levitated Applebee’s, but it’s anything but chain-ish up close. Crabtree’s owes its perennial popularity to a noisy band of regulars who all seem to sorely miss college, whatever their actual ages, but also to a wide-ranging food and cocktail menu that almost demands social interaction. Having snagged a seat at the long bar, our senior will discover a cocktail chalkboard that’s almost a conversation starter in itself (Winter White Negroni? The Most Interesting Man-Hattan? Something in the Orange?), and, with the help of a quick survey of fellow patrons, might opt for a plate of Adult Chicken Fingers (named for their large size and/or accompanying spicy “white” ketchup) or English meatballs, four pieces of spherical weaponry over a soul-sustaining bed of peas and egg noodles.

Their drop-off work finally done, our 48-year-olds can now saunter just 500 feet down Main to Osteria da Nino, where dividers are positioned between bar and dining area, making the latter relatively quiet, a perfect place to recover from family time with an assist from the wines on tap. The dining room, its walls decorated simply with wine bottles and the horns of various animals, is made for gossiping freely without fear of eavesdroppers, but also a place to enjoy first-rate pasta offerings such as Hay & Straw, a variegated dish of semolina and spinach pastas tossed with mushrooms, cream and truffle oil, or one of several puffy-crusted pizzas (although a white one was unnecessarily dry). And sharing a slice of ricotta cheesecake will make for a perfect end to the couple’s evening, one that’s equal parts dignified and fun.

Left: Victoria D’Amato, left, and Emily Rubenstein share an Adult Chicken Fingers at Crabtrees New York & Main in Huntington. Top: Wine on tap at Osteria Da Nino in Huntington. Bottom:  Fried Burrata at Vauxhall in Huntington. Photo credit: Linda Rosier


BEST FOR GROUPS OF: Weekend diners who can’t agree about which meal they’re in the mood for

THE CREW: Someone who wants breakfast, another brunch, a third lunch and a fourth dinner.

FOOD CRAWL: Just as weekend mornings seamlessly slip into afternoons, there’s a fluidity to the brunch offerings and menus in and around Bay Shore’s most happening street starting just after daybreak on Saturdays and Sundays. Breakfast lovers can get their fix at Flour Shoppe Cafe on West Main, ordering a deluxe breakfast sandwich that includes maple-pepper bacon or turkey sausage and two eggs any style. (Be advised that asking for over-easy will lead to a scene of epic yolk-letting that no number of napkins can stanch.) And don’t miss Flour Shoppe’s display case of fancy baked goods either, especially one item that resembles a baked apple but turns out to be an apple crumb doughnut of the most delicious sort.

Bay Shore’s reputation as a brunch mecca is also well earned, as evidenced by Toast Coffeehouse, around the corner on South Park Avenue. Most weekend mornings, the local chain is jammed, and the roar of the crowd can be heard before even crossing the threshold. Bay Shore’s Toast is decorated with a carnival theme (merry-go-round horse, posters advertising flea circuses and fortune-tellers), and nothing could be more apropos, given the circus-like atmosphere of the place. The menu is similarly fun, from the irresistible Tennessee Chicken and Waffle—sweet-and-spicy fried thighs and sweet potato waffles sprinkled with cinnamon sugar—to a Creole-spiced quesadilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, chorizo and shrimp.

Those in search of somewhat heartier fare (a.k.a. lunch) will find it just a few steps down East Main at Coastal Kitchen & Daiquiri Bar, where one might start with an espresso martini made with Tahitian vanilla–infused rum—a worthwhile concession to brunch genre demands—before getting to the meat of the matter with a serious Denver steak dressed with plantains, fried queso blanco and two eggs any style. True though it is that Coastal is far better known for its relentless tropicality, “travel inspired cocktails,” neon flamingo and overall devotion to Margaritaville-ness, weekend days see a more restrained, quieter restaurant, albeit one with plenty of Daiquiris, mojitos and eight—count ’em, eight—different mimosas, including guava and dragon fruit.

Given its later opening hours (11:30 on Saturdays, noon Sundays), Salt & Barrel sometimes feels like the province of brunch-lovers who slept through brunch and couldn’t care less. Yes, you can get shakshuka and egg sandwiches and bottomless peach Bellinis well into the afternoon at this attractive spot on West Main, but you can also head straight for dinner and silky, bacony clam chowder (skip the oyster crackers and pair it with S&B’s tarragon Cheddar biscuits), a prodigious raw bar menu featuring 10 or so different East Coast oysters, generous plates of baked clams and an overachieving fritto misto, its riot of calamari, rock shrimp, vegetables and pickled peppers battered, fried and served with a tangy garlic aioli and one spiked with Calabrian chili. Less known for its sandwiches than seafood, the menu does serve several handheld winners, among them shrimp tacos, a burger and a chicken club, a fabulously melty mélange of breast meat, Gruyère, thick slabs of bacon and avocado on toasted ciabatta.

To be sure, Farmingdale, Huntington Village and Bay Shore aren’t the only Island towns teeming with restaurant rows, but this particular trio distinguishes itself by the terrific number of food options and soundscapes on offer, each located within minutes of the other. They’re Long Island as theme park, decibel and dining Disney Worlds.

Left: BKYLN French toast at Toast Coffeehouse in Bay Shore. Top: Frito Misto at Salt and Barrel in Bay Shore. Bottom: Apple crumb doughnuts at Flour Shoppe Cafe in Bay Shore. Photo credit: Stepanie Foley

Restaurant information

BISTRO CASSIS 55B Wall St., Huntington; 631-421-4122,

COASTAL KITCHEN & DAIQUIRI BAR 12 E. Main St., Bay Shore; 631-665-3030,

CRABTREE’S NEW YORK & MAIN 330 New York Ave., Huntington; 631-923-0920,

FLOUR SHOPPE CAFE 19 W. Main St., Bay Shore; 631-776-3033,

HIGH TIDE TACO BAR 257 Main St., Farmingdale; 516-586-5255,

LIBRARY CAFE 274 Main St., Farmingdale; 516-752-7678,

OSTERIA DA NINO 292 Main St., Huntington; 631-425-0820,

SALT & BARREL 61 W. Main St., Bay Shore; 631-647-8818,

317 MAIN STREET 317 Main St., Farmingdale; 516-512-5317,

TOAST COFFEEHOUSE 9 S. Park Ave., Bay Shore; 613-647-9560,

VAUXHALLL 26 Clinton Ave., Huntington; 631-425-0222,

WHISKEY DOWN DINER 252 Main St., Farmingdale; 516-927-8264,

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