On the map, downtown Huntington is a splash of olive oil from the Nassau line, but, on the plate, it’s the center of eating and drinking in Suffolk.
Patchogue and Bay Shore are having a rebirth. Stony Brook’s attractions are growing, as are Greenport’s. Port Jefferson keeps up to date. East Hampton always does. But the hub of Huntington has been the paradigm for decades.
Walking distance separates most of the destinations in what’s often called Huntington Village. And just a cross-section of the cuisines makes for a mini-United Nations. Using High and Fairview streets as a southern border, so your trip doesn’t get too unwieldy, head north and bring an appetite.
A big one.
For starters, if you want to dine Italian, there are Jonathan’s Ristorante, Osteria da Nino, Tutto Pazzo, and Porto Fino. Pizza stalwarts include DiRaimo, Rosa’s, Little Vincent’s and Junior’s. For steak: Mac’s, Prime, IMC.
Thai comes via Tum Thai and Thai Thai. Japanese, raw and cooked is at Samurai; Japanese and Chinese at Mandarin Gourmet. House of India is exactly that; Spice Village Grill, Indian fusion. Mexican spans Besito to Quetzalcoatl to Oaxaca to Pancho Villa’s.Tex-Mex: Faz’s Grill. Consider Middle Eastern at Mazzar Grill and Argentine at Sur Argentinian Steakhouse. Jamaican specialties are prepared at Mobay Breeze South Asian headlines Plates.
Southern fare? Radio/Radio and Hush Bistro. The independent bookstore, Book Revue, has a cafe. Greek cuisine is at Parea and Neraki. Have fries at European Republic; fudge, chocolate, candy, and caramel apples from Kilwins,tea from Tea Bar by Clipper Ship Co. For breakfast with a vibe between diner and deluxe, head to Toast & Co.
Looking for a bar, you’ll find plenty, most with more than respectable food, from traditional to contemporary, from Meehan’s, Finnegan’s, Nag’s Head Ale House, F.H. Riley’s and McKeown’s to The Rust &Gold, Brew Brothers Grille, Honu Kitchen & Cocktails, and the wine bar Bin 56. Seeking a luncheonette, visit Munday’s. Ice cream: Herrell’s and Ben & Jerry’s. In the market for seafood: Marty’s Gourmet Seafood and Jeff’s Seafood. And if the goal is live eels or fresh bunker, stop by Harbor Bait & Tackle.
Basically, you’re covered.
In addition to those just mentioned, here are more essential tastes of downtown Huntington.
The Breakfast Club: Hatch
Hatch (286 Main St.): Hatch opened in April and immediately became the hottest table — for breakfast. Actually the playful, packed newcomer is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., so expect a line around midday, too, at this corner of Main and Wall Streets, fondly remembered for long-departed Hamburger Choo Choo. In shades of sky blue and egg yolk, Hatch is a destination for all ages. On a typical Saturday morning, the TV is tuned to cartoons and the tables full of egg dishes, including the Benedict Arnold, wherein an American classic collaborates with an English muffin. There are more Benedicts; mascarpone-packed French toast; avocado toast; numerous pancakes, among them pineapple upside-down, cinnamon roll, and blueberry Danish; plus sandwiches from a Reuben to grilled cheese with applewood-smoked bacon, tomato, and Vermont Cheddar. Fine coffee, too. Worth the wait.More info: 631-424-0780, hatchbrunch.com
La Dolce Vita: Fiorello Dolce
Fiorello Dolce (57 Wall St.): This patisserie has sweetened downtown since 2006. Baker and co-owner Gerard Fioravanti created the Frenagel in 2015, a whimsical and savory union of bagel and French doughnut, best filled with scallion cream cheese with fleur de sel, that may make you forget the much-publicized Cronut alliance of croissant and doughnut. Fioravanti also makes some of the best croissants, brioche, pastries, scones, biscuits, cakes, tarts, cookies, and quiches in the town and on the Island. His flourless chocolate cake is the peak version. And, with the holidays approaching, order a grand croquembouche, a Christmas tree of pastry puffs bound with strands of caramel and filled with vanilla or chocolate cream. More info: 631-424-0803, fiorellodolce.com
Antipasti, pasta, secondo to none: Mr. Sausage
Mr. Sausage (3 Union Pl.): The Baldanza family came from Calabria 35 years ago. Four brothers, Sal, Joe, Rocco, and Alberto oversee this destination for fresh pasta, including scores of ravioli; cavatelli, gnocchi, and lasagna with house-made sauces to go with them. “Sunday sauce” means braciola, meatballs, and yes, sausages. Naturally, the shop is devoted to them, thin and plump, pork and not, spreading along a major meat counter. You may spot a whole provolone being aged for a customer, and definitely will find fresh mozzarella, cured meats, Italian imports and flavor-packed caponata. The market is a popular stop for sandwiches, Italian breads, and a large assortment of prepared foods. More info: 631-271-3836, mrsausagefinefoods.com
Near The Paramount, another show: Swallow
Swallow (366 New York Ave.): Small plates go big-time at Swallow, a downtowner designed with care and with wit on the former site of Kozy Kettle, the soup specialist. Swallow may remind you of the old spot with its butternut squash cappuccino. Then, nibble on burrata, asparagus fries, Cotija cheese-and-chipotle slathered street corn, a duck confit pizza, beef sliders, and, at brunch, avocado toast, eggs Florentine, and easygoing mimosas and Bloody Marys. More info: 631-547-5388, swallowrestaurant.com
What’s brewing: Six Harbors Brewing Co.
Six Harbors Brewing Co. (243 New York Ave.): The village’s first microbrewery, Six Harbors quenches thirst by filling growlers, picking up cans, and savoring the tasting room for pints and flights. The craft brewery, named for bodies of water and hamlets in the area, was established earlier this year by Mark Heuwetter, family, and partners. Heuwetter said the wort, or an infusion of ground malt or other grain, is from New Zealand. The beer is finished here. The repertoire includes fruit beers such as Captain Blood Orange Wheat and Bay Hill Blues Blueberry Wheat; Buddy’s Golden Lager; YPA, a New England-style IPA; KAOS Left Coast IPA; Octoberfest beers; Pumpkin Session IPA; and Walt Whitman White XPA, a white IPA. More info: 631-470-1560, sixharborsbrewingcompany.com
Tapas and tango: Cafe Buenos Aires
Cafe Buenos Aires (28 Wall St.): Named the best Latin restaurant on Long Island in Newsday’s Top 100 listing for 2018, the festive establishment serves excellent food and a good time. Hugo Garcia, the attentive and accommodating overseer of the dining room, ensures both. The bar is spirited and tango dancers are expected to return for showtime in winter. Year-round: appetizing Argentine tapas, empanadas, tacos, baked oysters, patatas bravas with chorizo, ropa vieja, ceviche, Serrano ham with manchego cheese and olives (in photo) as well as seafood paella, and a knockout mixed grill for two with chicken, short ribs, sausages, smoked bacon, and top sirloin. The selection of Argentine wines is exceptional. Churros with dulce de leche ice cream and flan are the ideal finales. More info: 631-603-3600, cafebuenosaires.net
Liberty, equality, frisee: Bistro Cassis
Bistro Cassis (55 Wall St.): The bistro has been attracting Francophiles and stirring memories for more than 15 years. It’s cozy and evocative, with a touch of romance that will have you humming Piaf. Accordingly, a rarity on Long Island. So, brace yourself with onion soup gratinee and mussels mariniere, refresh with frisee aux lardons and salade Nicoise, slice into hanger steak Bordelaise and strip steak au poivre. And share the juicy, roasted whole chicken for two, with fried and seasonal vegetables. There’s a plat du jour, including duck a l’orange on Tuesday and navarin of lamb on Sunday. At lunch and brunch: a croque monsieur, chicken and waffles, a lobster club sandwich are among the appealing choices. More info: 631-421-4122, restarinc.com
Chocolate chocolate chocolate: Bon Bons Chocolatier
Bon Bons Chocolatier (319 Main St.): You’ll know Valentine’s Day, Easter, and more holidays have arrived simply by spotting the line at Bon Bons. Since 1979, it has been chocolate central, small batch and fork dipped by hand preparing delicate creams, caramels, mints, and truffles; strawberries, orange sections and peel, bananas and grapes, all deftly dipped; nuts and marzipan; almond and peanut brittle; fudge; nonpareils; chocolate covered Oreos — you get the idea. Pretty wrapping, finished with satin ribbons. Do not go on Feb. 13 unless you plan to spend a while. More info: 631-549-1059, bonbonschocolatier.com
South of the border: Oaxaca
Oaxaca (385 New York Ave.): Mexican restaurants go from high-end Besito, with grand guacamole and margaritas to Quetzalcoatl, with refined and soulful fare. And then there’s homey Oaxaca, with modest prices and ambitious cookery for the whole family in a tight space . Relax and dive into pozole and tortilla soups, crisp tostadas with chicken or beef, hefty burritos, chicken chimichangas, pork tamales, assorted enchiladas, earthy chicken mole, and zesty Mexico City tacos with grilled pork or grilled steak. Conclude contentedly with rice pudding, flan, tres leches cake, or fried sweet plantains. More info: 631-547-1232, oaxacarestaurantli.com
Gone fishing: Neraki
Neraki (273 Main St.): Seafood shines at Neraki, a refreshing, sleek Greek and Mediterranean grill with a hint of Santorini and a tint of Aegean blue. In 2018, it made Newsday’s Top 100 list for fine whole, grilled fish, such as fagri, or Greek snapper; red snapper, orata, black sea bass, and porgy, all simply and perfectly prepared. Monkfish in lemon sauce, center-cut swordfish steak, sushi-grade tuna, and meaty grilled octopus expand the catch. Precede them with a Greek salad, barrel-aged feta cheese, stuffed grapes leaves, and Greek spreads including taramasalata with roe and melitzanosalata with eggplant. Uncork a bottle of Assyrtiko or Moschofilero. More info: 631-385-3474, neraki.com
Our weekly bread: Duck Island Bread Co.
Duck Island Bread Co. (201C E. Main St.): Duck Island is a bit east of downtown Huntington, but under no circumstances can it be overlooked. The bakery is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Order online for pickup, or just be in the neighborhood at the right time. Founder and head baker Robert Biancavilla is a lawyer, specializing in forensic litigation and former deputy bureau chief of the homicide bureau with the Suffolk District Attorney. He wins every time at this little bakery with big results. Outside, a sign alerts visitors about Vespa parking and a vintage Hobart mixer is repurposed as a planter. Inside, pick at random. Biancavilla’s greatest hits include baguettes, sourdough, a Kalamata olive-filled loaf, onion rye, brioche, croissants, cinnamon buns, scones, and a classic fougasse, Duck Island bread also is sold at the Northport farmers’ market on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. More info: 631-223-2799, duckislandbreadcompany.com
‘Cue shot: Old Fields Barbecue
Old Fields Barbecue (15 New St.): Long Island’s barbecue boomlet is rife in Huntington. Old Fields, the offspring of restaurants in Greenlawn and Port Jefferson, is a leading entry, earning your appetite with beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, sausage, cornbread, pickles and, lately, hamburgers. Sauces range from peach-habanero to Carolina vinegar, bourbon to “smokey & sticky.” Messy and mandatory. More info: 631-923-1515, ofbarbecue.com
Vauxhall (26 Clinton St.): The competition for best hamburger is intense around here. But Vauxhall bids fair for the title. Stellar chef Michael Meehan, who also directs next door Radio/Radio and nearby Finley’s Seafood, fashions a crowded, buoyant. hipster magnet joint for super burgers, a chalkboard of craft brews, snappy cocktails, and a late-night menu. The half-pounders include the The Kitchen Sink, festooned with bacon, short rib, pepper jack cheese, mac and cheese and crumbled barbecue chips; and Evil Sal, jump-started with ghost-pepper marmalade. Meehan and the owners are musicians and must be fond of Morrissey. More info: 631-425-0222, vauxhallhuntington.com
Vintage site, new way: The Shed
The Shed (54 New St.): The Shed succeeded True North and the long-lived Abel Conklin’s here. True North was modernist; Conklin’s, clubby, dark, steak-centric. The Shed lightens and warms things up, with welcoming style and dependably satisfying food morning, noon, and night. Or just have breakfast all day. In the a.m., a Belgian waffle, avocado toast, corned beef hash, and brioche French toast are highlights; midday, a grilled chicken club sandwich, a Reuben, or a burger electrified with cherry pepper crisps; later, chicken and waffles or strip steak with chimichurri. Full-flavored cocktails, starting with a serious Bloody Mary. More info: 631-385-7433, intheshed.com
High spirits: Honu Kitchen & Cocktails
Honu Kitchen & Cocktails (363 New York Ave.): Big enough to host a small convention, Honu boasts impressive size, eclectic food, and first-class drinks. The downtown mainstay’s bar and the mixologists guarantee imbibing with style via handcrafted cocktails. To satisfy your other appetite: duck spring rolls, tandoori cauliflower steak with mango yogurt, vegetable tacos, blue cheese-crusted strip steak, filet mignon au poivre, swordfish with polenta, and a Cuban sandwich. More info: 631-421-6900, honukitchen.com
Gold Coast, 18-karat: Prime, An American Kitchen & Bar
Prime, An American Kitchen & Bar (117 N. New York Ave.): Perched at Huntington Harbor, Prime is a restaurant with a view and a viewpoint. The place almost glitters from the Italian sports cars in the parking lot to the fashions of the evening crowd. It’s also a popular destination for brunch, alfresco dining, and the newly installed oyster bar, shucking Blue Points and Kumamotos. But even with none of that, Prime would still be the top table in town for seafood, cooked and uncooked, from steamed lobster to sushi; a very upscale veal Parmesan; and steaks such as the dry-aged rib eye and porterhouse for two — no surprise since Prime’s owner, the Bohlsen Restaurant Group, also owns Tellers: An American Chophouse in Islip. More info: 631-385-1515, restaurantprime.com