Long Island's must-try food experiences: Eat your way through summer

The double cheeseburger, quarter pounder with cheese and French fries at All American Hamburger Drive-In in Massapequa. Credit: Marisol Diaz

On this, the largest island in the contiguous United States — and one that prides itself in glorious Junes, Julys and Augusts — residents and vacationers alike expect to have fun, and lots of it, during the summer. This indefatigable reporter compiled a list of some of the delicious food and experiences he craves, and odds are you will, too.


Unlike a Long Island iced tea, which knows no season, the (slightly) less potent Fire Island invention, the Rocket Fuel, is distinguished by an irresistible frothiness that has long since skip-jumped Great South Bay and become an essential summer potable. Some routinely dismiss the Rocket Fuel as the colada you make when the Amaretto bottle needs dusting, but many others couldn’t survive summer without it. Just ask the day drinkers dancing on the deck at Flynn’s in Ocean Bay Park or fighting for bar stools at The Island Mermaid or CJ’s, both in Ocean Beach. For these folks, mainlining Fuels is the quickest, surest route to recovery — from beach days with cranky, sunburned children, from excursions to Sunken Meadow sunk by the threat of heatstroke, from misperceptions that fat-tire cycling on sand is fun and more.


Classic dishes like bratwurst and homemade potato pancakes are staples...

Classic dishes like bratwurst and homemade potato pancakes are staples at the German-American Restaurant Plattduetsche Park in Franklin Square. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Plattduetsche Park might conjure images of polka dancing and impressive steins of Krombacher Dunkel quaffed under twinkle lights in Franklin Square, but it’s really but one instance of an Islandwide genius for a summer must, the Biergarten. Such excellence is evident to anyone who’s ever spent a day at Manorville’s Long Island Farm Brewery sipping a summer lager or blonde ale from an Adirondack chair shaded by towering Norway spruce or inside the re-imagined potato barn as massive fans twirl lazily overhead. Such places are the reason summer Saturdays exist, and they exist for your enjoyment everywhere, including one in the far corner of an asphalt parking lot in East Meadow. There, just beyond a fence and attractive border of hornbeam trees, lies the loveliest of outdoor spaces at Garden Social Beer Garden & Kitchen.


Littleneck clams are served on the half-shell at Kingston's Clam...

Littleneck clams are served on the half-shell at Kingston's Clam Bar in West Sayville. Credit: Daniel Brennan

On the Nautical Mile in Freeport, Catcher’s Fish House may be haunted by the grillwork and Bourbon Street atmosphere of restaurants past but is spiffed up otherwise, with outdoor tableclothed seating opportunities worthy of a Venetian canal, not to mention a Woodcleft one. At Kingston’s Clam Bar in West Sayville, Saturday nights are for sun-scorched anglers trading stories over linguine and littlenecks. Meanwhile, the cooler waters of Greenport Harbor and the giant horseshoe bar at Claudio’s Waterfront draw a marginally cooler set, along with committed fans of garlicky, bacony baked clams and shrimp tacos and (separately) chocolaty mudslides.


You don’t become an Italian ice juggernaut for no reason, as anyone who’s noticed the proliferation of Ralph’s here can attest. But one ought not to overlook some of the madder scoops on this ice cream — mad Island or the sprinkles of quirk found on shores North and South. Denizens of the former champion the vibe at Port Washington’s Sweet Treats on the Wharf, where a yesterday-atmosphere meets today-flavors such as Colombian Coffee, Chunky Doughboy and Funfetti, and the only thing cooler is the Himalayan salt cave a few doors down. Another North Shore option is the liquid nitrogen — fueled Alkemy, a space-age parlor in Huntington that specializes in individual portions of wacky-slash-wonderful flavors such as Maple Bourbon with Candied Bacon, Matcha Green Tea and Roasted Strawberry with a sidecar of balsamic glaze. See Newsday's full guide to homemade ice cream shops for something close to your neighborhood.


Try the lobster roll with cole slaw at Southold Fish...

Try the lobster roll with cole slaw at Southold Fish Market. Credit: Doug Young

The larger world is riven by endless conflict, its lobster roll fans divided into neat, if mutually hostile, New England and Connecticut factions. We, on the other hand, remain agnostic, acutely aware that gustatory wonderfulness is a dish best served cold, but also warm, and no self-respecting Long Islander should summer without one or the other. Who doesn’t love the chilly satisfaction that is red claw meat and gentle Bayville mayo-ness at Schultzy’s, where a soupçon of town gossip at the bar and a French martini can turn an ordinary Tuesday into something revelatory? Or the warm, buttery satisfaction that Patchogue’s Catch Oyster Bar traffics in, not to mention those toasted buns overstuffed with meatiness? But let’s be honest. What we really love is not having to choose, which is just one reason families of mixed allegiance lean heavily on the menu at Southold Fish Market. That and the pile of skin-on French fries, the perfect accompaniment to lobster rolls of every temperature.


The double cheeseburger, quarter pounder with cheese, French fries and...

The double cheeseburger, quarter pounder with cheese, French fries and a shake are on the menu at All American Hamburger Drive-In in Massapequa. Credit: Marisol Diaz

Summer is simply not summer without a visit to one of the Island’s multi-patty burger joints, each a tribute of sorts to Massapequa’s legendary All American Drive-In, with its siren song of nostalgia and its bags and bags of hand-cut fries and spatula-flattened burgers wrapped in foil. A remembrance of patties past also drives the throngs at Burger City in East Meadow, that and its marquee-lit faux circus tent and, of course, the burgers themselves, each a sloppy-delicious tower of distinctly non-earthquake-proof construction. Judging by its many fans, the threat of imminent burger collapse is no deterrent at Westhampton Beach’s Boom Burger either, where the walls are plastered with superhero comics and sky-high sandwiches are offered in dozens of variations, along with creative sides such as corn fritters and indulgent shakes, all of them a study in ZING! and POW!


Forget the hoe and the trowel. Is there any more useful tool to wield in summer than the cocktail fork? Just try to imagine life without that tiny tined marvel and some lemon wedges. What would afternoons at Dockers Waterside in East Quogue be like, for instance, without coaxing peach-pink splendor from umpteen littlenecks to the accompaniment of color-matching Spicy Summer Flings (tequila, jalapeño, watermelon juice) and matchless views of the Shinnecock Canal? Or consider Aquebogue’s On the Docks, with its views of Lighthouse Marina and Meeting House Creek, a beautiful backdrop made even more so by a plate of Blue Points on ice. And at Blue Point Brewing Company, the oysters — Great Guns from East Moriches and Maris Stellas from Great South Bay — pair perfectly with toasted lager, not to mention the Patchogue haunt’s lively Friday night crowds skewering away under Japanese lanterns as live music plays. And what’s better for extracting sweet succulence from a Jonah crab claw or the shellfish served up by Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market, where forks are far easier to come by than picnic tables or bar stools, but the persistent are rewarded with the finest of Greenport summer afternoons?


North Indian thali at Village The Soul of India, a...

North Indian thali at Village The Soul of India, a new vegetarian Hicksville eatery. Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

Using hot spices to cool the body may be one of the more paradoxical elements of Indian cooking, but our desi kitchens have a genius for paradox that Islanders of all sorts should embrace in summer. Village — The Soul of India possesses one such genius kitchen, a newish vegetarian Hicksville spot serving up a whole subcontinent’s ideas for beating the heat, from a terrific samosa chaat that fights fire with fire and explodes like Pop Rocks in the mouth, to dahi vada (lentil fritters in creamy whipped yogurt) and crunchy bhel puri. At dessert time, rice-based kheer and almondy badam halwa (the latter meltingly good) further assist in temperature reduction. Those inclined toward a more Sichuan-style cool-down, meanwhile, ought to head to Commack or Farmingville to find Spicy Home Tasty for plates of cold noodles richly turned with chilies and sesame seeds, or bright green cubes of cucumber doused in a garlicky sauce. For still others, taming summer means embracing the season’s fun, doing as the Koreans do, trading kalbi for corn dogs, although that country’s take on the amusement park staple, as demonstrated by dogs coated variously with Hot Cheetos powder or injeolmi (rice cake) powder at Kong Dog in Hicksville, are a marriage of freaky and cheeky.


Given the abundance of nature showcased by the Island’s farm stands, not to mention the abundance of farm stands, period, particularly on the North Fork, multiple visits in summer are mandatory. Like the swallows of Capistrano, each year we find ourselves drawn to the big establishments of Riverhead and along Sound Avenue, the ones called Briermere and Sound Shore and Harbes, but also to tinier roadside ones like those along Route 25 in Southold, from Deep Roots to Country View to KK’s. Tinier still are the residential streets and lanes snaking around them, and we prowl these, too, in search of hand-painted wooden signs and their advertised eggs, oysters, flowers and more. Such trips kindle not only an appreciation for the freshest food but a whole new way of marking time. Hence our speaking of strawberry and blueberry weeks rather than June, peach and sweet corn ones instead of July, watermelon and pear time, not August.


Dining at small, semi-sturdy structures on the water is a ritual not to be missed, if only because they’re hard to avoid. There’s John Scott’s Surf Shack for one, a Westhampton Beach hangout “where debris meets the sea,” tenders meet barbecue sauce, stuffed quahogs meet drawn butter and vodka meets lemonade, all of them joining hands while watching sunsets over Moriches Bay. On cozy Corey Beach in Blue Point, chicken fingers with fries and Aunt Fran’s Baked Clams are among the most popular items at Bodhi’s Beach Shack, eclipsed only by a fleet of colorful Adirondack chairs, cups of Montauk Wave Chaser IPA and a shaded swing set for adults at the adjacent bar. And it’s tenders on a roll at Gilgo Beach Inn, a mecca for shoeless and shirtless types who’ve been ordering “grub” without pejorative intent since 1935, along the way enjoying burgers, Sabrett’s dogs, vintage photos of lost Gilgo, frozen piñas and Painkillers, and picture-perfect Great South Bay days.


Yes, it’s one of London’s trendier districts, but given our commitment to battered and fried sea creatures, isn’t it we who deserve to be called Battersea? For proof, you have only to visit Bigelow’s in Rockville Centre, where for more than 80 years innocent inhabitants of the Atlantic — whole belly (Ipswich) clams, oysters, shrimp and so much more — have found themselves dredged to perfection for a date with the Fryolater. Indeed, ’tis the season for artery-hardening fare among all Islanders, from the sometime-residents of East Hampton lured to Bostwick’s Chowder House for flounder and Block Island cod encased in golden crunchiness to Fire Island’s ferry faithful, for whom no annual trip from Bay Shore is complete without gladly missing the boat in favor of temptation-adjacent Nicky’s Clam Bar. There, the fried seafood is served by the barge (yes, they really call it that) and then devoured under the tent-shaded, aptly named Nicky’s Hot Spot. Can’t such things be consumed year-round, you ask? Of course. But summer’s active lifestyle mitigates its effect on our waistlines, or so we lie to ourselves.


Long Island is more than 2,000 miles from Mexico, the growing Latin population mostly tracing its roots to other countries. Still, our unfettered access to tacos and burritos — living on this isle means you’re never far from either — bespeaks a long-standing love affair during the hot months. For Islanders, the summer sight of garage doors opening routinely elicits a Pavlovian reaction, or should, signaling as it does the blurring of inside and outside at places like Dirty Taco and Tequila. The happening spot’s growing reach — six locations in two counties — is far from accidental. Nor is the popularity of peace sign — and skateboard-loving Swell Taco in Babylon, where crowds swell in anticipation of buzzy cocktails such as the Surf Wax rum punch, with its gathering of pineapple, cinnamon and coconut flavors under a tipsy umbrella, and its 3 Amigos taco plate, which does the same for carne asada, chicken and mahi-mahi. And over at the Tepache Taste of Mexico in Valley Stream, the draw is an ancient, eponymous pineapple cocktail that threatens to become an instant classic, but also superbly marinated and grilled meats that grace its fajita platters — all best enjoyed behind the restaurant, a festive outdoor area of canopies and candy-apple-red metal chairs.


The Crazy Kebab is served at Kabab Platter and Burger...

The Crazy Kebab is served at Kabab Platter and Burger in Deer Park. Credit: Randee Daddona

You don’t have to be an observant Muslim to appreciate the sheer number of halal restaurants that have opened of late, particularly now, when sizzling meats sing a summer siren song to those of every persuasion. Over at Deer Park’s Kabab Platter & Burger, the Crazy Kebab has become the stuff of grab-and-go legend, the uber-irresistible sausage roll that saved a restaurant. And while not new, Kebab Express in Huntington Station has garnered fan-favorite status for its take on that halal classic, chicken over basmati rice, as well as tender chunks of lamb kofta and other plates of dependable deliciousness.

More restaurant information

ALKEMY 260 Main St., Huntington; 855-255-3690, alkemyicecream.com

ALL AMERICAN DRIVE-IN 4286 Merrick Rd., Massapequa; 516-798-9574, allamericanhamburgerli.com

BIGELOW’S: 79 N. Long Beach Rd., Rockville Centre; 516-678-3878, bigelows-rvc.com

BLUE POINT BREWING COMPANY 225 W. Main St., Patchogue; 631-627-8292, bluepointbrewing.com

BODHI’S BEACH SHACK 1 Corey Ave., Blue Point; bodhisbeachshackny.com

BOOM BURGER 85 Montauk Hwy., Westhampton Beach; 631-998-4663, boomburgerwhb.com

BOSTWICK’S CHOWDER HOUSE 277 Pantigo Rd., East Hampton; 631-324-1111, bostwickschowderhouse.com

BRIERMERE FARMS: 4414 Sound Ave., Riverhead; 631-722-393, briermerefarms.com

BURGER CITY 1900 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow; 516-385-3355

CATCH OYSTER BAR 63 N. Ocean Ave., Patchogue; 631-627-6860, catchoysterbar.com

CATCHER’S FISH HOUSE 301 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport; 516-600-9698, catchersfishhouseny.com

CJ’S: 479 Bay Ave., Ocean Beach; 631-583-9890, cjsfireisland.com

CLAUDIO’S WATERFRONT 111 Main St., Greenport; 631-477-0627, claudios.com

COUNTRY VIEW FARM STAND 57995 Main Rd. (Route 25), Southold; 631-903-1335

DEEP ROOTS FARM: 57685 Rte. 25 (Main Road), Southold; 631-745-7928, deeprootsfarmnofo.com

DIRTY TACO & TEQUILA Wantagh, Rockville Centre, Woodbury, Patchogue and Smithtown; dirtytacoandtequila.com

DOCKERS WATERSIDE 94 Dune Rd., East Quogue; 631-653-0653, dockerswaterside.com

FLYNN’S FIRE ISLAND: 1 Cayuga St., Ocean Bay Park; 631-583-5000, flynnsfireislandny.com

GARDEN SOCIAL BEER GARDEN & KITCHEN 1964 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow; 516-750-5338, gardensocialli.com

GILGO BEACH INN Gilgo Beach parking lot (Ocean Parkway); 631-826-3339, gilgoinn.com

HARBES FAMILY FARM: 715 Sound Ave., Mattituck; 631-482-7641, harbesfamilyfarm.com

THE ISLAND MERMAID 780 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach; 631-583-8088, islandmermaid.com

JOHN SCOTT’S SURF SHACK 540 Dune Rd., Westhampton Beach; 631-288-5810, johnscottssurfshack.com

KABAB PLATTER & BURGER 297 Bay Shore Rd., Deer Park; 631-522-1002, kababplatterandburgers.com

KEBAB EXPRESS 10 Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington Station; 631-923-3085, kebabexpressny.com

KINGSTON’S CLAM BAR 130 Atlantic Ave., West Sayville; 631-589-0888, kingstonsclam.com

KK’S THE FARM: 59945 Main Rd. (Route 25), Southold; 631-765-2075, kkthefarm.com

KONG DOG 358B N. Broadway, Hicksville; 347-523-0016, kongdog.us

LITTLE CREEK OYSTER FARM & MARKET 37 Front St. (down Bootleg Alley), Greenport; 631-477-6992, littlecreekoysters.com

LONG ISLAND FARM BREWERY 663 Wading River Rd., Manorville; 631-909-1864, longislandfarmbrewery.com

NICKY’S CLAM BAR: 99 Maple Ave., Bay Shore; 631-665-6621, nickysclambar.com

ON THE DOCKS 177 Meeting House Creek Rd., Aquebogue; 631-886-1160, onthedocksgrill.com

PLATTDUETSCHE PARK 1132 Hempstead Tpke., Franklin Square; 516-354-3131, parkrestaurant.com

SCHULTZY’S RESTAURANT 265 Bayville Ave., Bayville; 516-588-6240, longislandrawbar.com

SOUTHOLD FISH MARKET 64755 Rte. 25 (Main Road), Southold; 631-765-3200

SPICY HOME TASTY 1087 Jericho Tpke., Commack, 631-543-8880; and 1260 Waverly Ave., Farmingville, 631-698-6550, spicyhometastylongisland.com

SWEET TREATS ON THE WHARF 405 Main St., Port Washington; 516-708-1706

SWELL TACO 135 Deer Park Ave., Babylon; 631-482-1299, swelltacoli.com

TEPACHE TASTE OF MEXICO 47 Franklin Ave., Valley Stream; 516-400-9238, tepachetasteofmexico.com

VILLAGE — THE SOUL OF INDIA 11 W. Marie St., Hicksville; 516-506-3655, villagesoulofindia.com

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