Long Beach refuses to slow down. Nassau’s surfside restaurant epicenter is constantly reinventing itself, and this summer there are no fewer than six new or relaunched establishments serving everything from authentic Mexican tacos al pastor to vegan avocado wraps. Here, heading from east to west, are some of the season’s newest hot spots.
Steven’s Pasta (150 E. Park Ave., Long Beach): Longtime Long Beach residents know that Steven’s Pasta isn’t really new: it’s the second incarnation of a restaurant that opened in 1989 and closed, due to fire, 20 years later. Partners Steven Guasco, the chef, and Louis Corcione, the general manager, went on to open Fresco Creperie (locations in Long Beach and Williston Park) but the pull of pasta was too strong and, in May, they reopened their pasta-centric eatery a few doors down from the original. “We took over John Henry’s Pub,” said Corcione, “and we wanted to keep that pubby feel — dark wood, a friendly bar. At the original Steven’s we didn’t even have a bar.” The bar is indeed friendly, with patrons enjoying Steven’s 20 well-chosen wines by the glass, six beers on tap and two “slushy” drinks: frozen rosé and Bellinis with either peach or strawberry purée? Enjoy a quiet meal here, solo or à deux. There’s also a large communal table in the bar area, but most of the eating happens in the more formal dining room. As promised, the menu is long on pasta, 18 in all, ranging from classics such as fettuccine Bolognese, pesto Genovese, rigatoni alla vodka and linguine with clam sauce to more inventive creations such as the satisfying but enigmatic tutta da fava, an old favorite that contains no fava beans but, instead, combines cannellini beans with shrimp, pancetta and spinach with farfalle. There are also appetizers and salads ($8 to $12) and a handful of entrees. Almost all entrees and pastas are less than $20. More info: 516-992-8400, stevenspasta.com
Patrons at the bar sip drinks at Steven's Pasta in Long Beach.
Copper and Clay
Copper and Clay (6 W. Park Ave., Long Beach): Long Island is having a taco moment, and Copper and Clay has arrived just in time. This super-casual eatery, from the owners of nearby Wild Feast, opened in May and has two legs up on much of the competition: tortillas made by hand throughout the day, and real tacos al pastor, filled with spiced pork that rotates, gyro style, on a vertical rotisserie. Thanks to an open kitchen, you can watch the show. The taco roster also includes braised beef barbacoa, chicken mole, carne asada and, for vegetarians, avocado with refried beans and cotija cheese, as well as seaworthy tacos filled with seared local monkfish, Gulf shrimp, yellowfin tuna and octopus. Tacos are $4.50 to $5.50 each. Beyond tacos are tostadas, nachos, tamales, quesadillas, guacamole and salads. Nothing is more than $10. More info: 516-992-0628, copperandclaylb.com
Tacos al pastor made with Berkshire pork and topped with pineapple, jalapeno salsa and cilantro at Copper and Clay in Long Beach.
JJ Coopers (124 W. Park Ave., Long Beach): After 17 years, Rob Richards decided his Park Avenue restaurant, Sutton Place, needed a reboot. “In our business, you need to make a change every seven to 10 years — we were overdue,” he said. And so, Richards knocked down walls, replaced dark mahogany with reclaimed wood, and, after a monthlong renovation, opened JJ Coopers in November. Richards’ partners in the venture are chef Matt Serra and general manager Matt Vascellaro. Serra, who also ran Sutton Place’s kitchen, has kept the burgers and wings, but has added New American and Italianate dishes such as sesame-crusted tuna satay, watermelon and feta salad, crab-crusted filet mignon and lobster Bolognese. Starters range from $9 to $16, sandwiches and burgers from $12 to $16, mains from $23 to $30. Weekly specials include ribs on Mondays, wings on Wednesdays, steak on Thursdays. One thing that hasn’t changed is this restaurant’s size: It sprawls over five distinct dining areas: sidewalk tables, a big bar with sports on TV, a quieter adjoining dining room, a patio out back and, for parties or overflow, another dining room upstairs. More info: 516-431-3133, jjcoopers.com
Coconut-curry mussels with toasted garlic bread at JJ Coopers in Long Beach.
Lola's Craft Kitchen and Cocktails
Lola’s Craft Kitchen & Cocktails (180 W. Park Ave., Long Beach): A Long Beach stalwart, Lola’s Kitchen & Wine Bar had occupied this corner since 2008. It was one of the first restaurants to come back after Sandy, reopening three weeks after the superstorm left 3 feet of water in the dining room. But in January, owner Marco McCarthy closed the place; when it reopened in May, the tropical décor had been replaced with a “more local beachy theme that reflects Montauk, the Hamptons — and Long Beach.” Palm fronds have given way to bleached wood and seascapes. The kitchen got an upgrade too, with new executive chef Jeffery Slade, formerly of Madison’s on Hillside (Williston Park) and The Farmhouse (Greenport), among other local kitchens. His menu is dominated by “share plates” ($11 to $18) such as mint-glazed lamb chops with fennel ragout, braised short ribs with steak fries and watercress puree, fried calamari with gazpacho broth. There are also a handful of mains ($19 to $34), soups, sandwiches and sides. On the drinks front, McCarthy is bullish on half bottles of wine: he stocks 16 of them, along with a comparable number of full bottles and wines by the glass. More info: 516-442-1090
The signature Lola's Burger is topped with Cheddar cheese and thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon at Lola's Craft Kitchen and Cocktails in Long Beach.
Baked by the Ocean
Baked by the Ocean (919 W. Beech St., Long Beach): With such ambitious eateries as Lost & Found, Lost at Sea and Blacksmith’s Breads, the West End of Long Beach has emerged as one of the Island’s hippest culinary scenes. Baked by the Ocean is the pastry shop that was destined to open here. It represents a homecoming for its owner, Catherine Schimenti, who grew up in Lynbrook but left after high school to pursue a high-flying career as a pastry chef on both coasts. Among other restaurants, she ran the pastry departments at Tom Colicchio’s Craft Steak in New York and Michael Mina in San Francisco. Light streams into this month-old corner location, and the décor has a playful chic. White and wood tones predominate, with winks of pink and gold. Schimenti said she wanted to create “a more relaxed environment” than at the restaurants she worked at, and “to make more approachable food.” She’s taken her signature olive oil pound cake and instead of serving, restaurant style, with macerated strawberries and olive oil gelato, she frosts it with pink icing and sells it by the fat slab. Yeast doughnuts are sprinkled with sugar and stuffed with their own holes, and rainbow cookies stick to a limited, ombre palette of intensifying pinks. There are cookies and brownies and whoopie pies, cupcakes and linzer tarts and lemon bars. The gluten-sensitive Schimenti always has some gluten-free options on hand. Most items are in the $3 to $3.50 range. Coffee is from local roaster Gentle Brew, and wine service is forthcoming. More info: 516-889-2253
Olive oil pound cake at Baked by the Ocean in Long Beach.
Island Thyme (780 W. Beech St., Long Beach): “Catering to every dietary restriction” doesn’t sound like the most promising foundation for a restaurant, but Island Thyme makes it delicious. Owners Jonathan Keyser and RJ Moulton have dedicated this casual spot, which opened in May, to “clean eating,” which has them making their own ketchup, turkey sausage, vegetarian burgers and gluten-free, dairy-free muffins. Breakfast is a big deal here, served until 11 a.m. on weekdays, 2 p.m. on weekends. The “butcher’s breakfast,” served on a wooden cutting board, features turkey sausage, scrambled eggs, peppers and onions, greens and sweet potato hash. There are burgers (beef, turkey, salmon, veggie and bean), wraps and salad. Of course, you’ll find fresh juices, smoothies, acai bowls and kombucha on tap. Mains, such as roast chicken and grilled hanger steak, range from $15.50 to $21; almost everything else on the menu is less than $14. The walls of this corner spot open to let in the beach air. The décor, with lots of reclaimed wood and greenery, would be at home in Long Beach, California. More info: 516-665-8547, islandthymelbny.com
The "butchers breakfast" features house-made turkey sausage, scrambled eggs, peppers and onions, greens and sweet-potato hash at Island Thyme in Long Beach.