It's been almost two years since COVID-19 began to batter the restaurant industry, forcing shutdowns and capacity restrictions that are now largely the stuff of memory. However, while federal stimulus money helped keep some businesses afloat through the pandemic, that buoy is no longer an option for bars and restaurants. Long-standing places — often family run — seem to have borne the brunt of the blow. From a decades-old Japanese restaurant in Huntington to a superlative Afghan eatery in Selden, an one of the best Thai eateries on Long Island, here are the places that called it quits during the last 12 months. They will be missed.
Sunny’s Riverhead Diner & Grill (Riverhead): This vintage diner on Main Street (Long Island’s oldest) had been in continuous operation since 1932. In August, it served its last order of eggs over easy with rye toast and well-done home fries; another casualty of COVID.
Pentimento (Stony Brook): After 27 years in the village, this atmospheric restaurant closed following a landlord dispute. Over the decades, it was consistently one of Long Island's top spots for Italian dining, run by chef Dennis Young and, later, his partner Lisa Cusamano. A market the pair opened in 2020 sold housemade meals and helped the business weather the pandemic, until the closure this fall.
Cricket's (Sayville): This 38-year-old tavern on Main Street was known for its popovers, French onion soup and other reliable pub fare; generations of families hosted special occasions in its dining room. On the eve of owner Peter Moreno's retirement in late September, Cricket's served its last pint.
Swell Taco (Patchogue): This popular Southern California-inspired taco joint ended its five-year run on Main Street in September, citing a confluence of the pandemic and staffing shortages leading to the closure. Crowds packed the tiny space for its short menu of bargain-priced tacos and margaritas. Swell Taco's original Babylon location remains open.
Jandi’s (Oceanside): This natural market had been around since 1976, part of a wave of so-called "health food stores" that opened on Long Island in the 1970s (others included Sherry's in Babylon and Rising Tide in Glen Cove). Jandi's served its last smoothie in 2021.
Black Forest Brew Haus (Farmingdale): This long-standing pub and biergarten operated for well over a decade. Each fall, its patio was the staging ground for a festive indoor-outdoor Oktoberfest celebration of German-style beers brewed on-site, plus wursts, schnitzels and live music. It was one of the few places to find German food on Long Island.
KuraBarn (Huntington): This pioneering, family-run Japanese restaurant closed in October. It had been serving gyoza and sushi since 1980, a time when Long Island was almost completely sushi-less. "We felt like it was time to really move on," said Risa Morimoto, daughter of original owners Nori and Noriko Morimoto, noting that the latest owners (her cousins Makoto and Ayano Yamada) had decided to retire.
The Chicken Coop (Huntington): This was the second incarnation of chef Alison Steindler's rotisserie-chicken focused eatery, and had the unfortunate timing to open just weeks before the first lockdown of the pandemic. The heart of the place was a 600-degree oven which burnished birds to a coppery hue in 25 minutes. The restaurant, which felt a bit like a farmhouse inside, closed at the end of October.
The Homestead (Farmingdale): Long a Ruby Tuesday, and, for a brief moment, The Tilted Kilt, this massive restaurant on Route 110 seemed destined for a stable life as the second location of The Homestead, the long-standing Oyster Bay tavern. But nearly two years after it began serving cheeseburgers, baby back ribs and pints, the restaurant permanently closed.
Simply Thai (Copiague): This cozy eatery, owned by Amy Wong and chef Nae Wipaporn Sittidej, served some of Long Island’s very best Thai food. It closed in September due to a lack of workers. We'll miss the creamy khao soi of simmered egg noodles buried beneath a coconut-based, yellow-curry broth.
S Prestano Bakery (Selden): This tiny bakery on Middle Country Road sold loaves of bread, cookies and cakes for 40 years before closing in September. It was the last remaining bakeshop of a Prestano baking dynasty that once dotted Suffolk County — with family-run bakeries in Patchogue, Ronkonkoma, Coram, Middle Island, Mastic, Nesconset, Wading River and Selden.
Cork & Kerry (Floral Park) Opened in 2015 and hidden behind a coffee shop, this dimly lit cocktail bar served some of the most imaginative mixed drinks on Long Island until it closed in October. Fortunately for cocktail lovers, the Rockville Centre C & K remains open.
Heritage Bakers (Glen Cove): Heritage Bakers rode out the worst of the pandemic, returning after a brief hiatus to keep Glen Cove supplied with fresh popovers, pastries and more. But at the end of September, owner David Shalam made the painful decision to close the bakery he opened four years ago. Shalam cited the rising cost of ingredients and staffing issues as reasons for the closure.
Choopan Grill (Selden) This unassuming halal eatery served some of the most quietly showstopping Afghan food on Long Island, from aushak (leek dumplings in a creamy yogurt sauce) to aromatic Kabuli palau, or braised lamb shank over raisin-dotted rice. Chef-owner Rona Mirzai is closing the restaurant on December 26 after an 11-year run.
Black Forest Bakery (Lindenhurst): Opened in 1970 by Herb Lorch and run by his son Tom, this German bakery on Wellwood Avenue was known for its filling breakfasts as well as cakes, cookies, pastries, pies and laugenwachen, or pretzel rolls. It closed in November but its specialty cake operation continues through the family's adjoining business, The Village Lanterne.
AJ’s Grilled Cheese (Bay Shore): This Bay Shore restaurant was started by Anthony Leis Jr. five years ago and was staffed by his family. It was devoted to grilled cheese sandwiches (and mac-and-cheese) in myriad forms, such as a Southern-style grilled cheese with pulled pork, barbecue sauce and melted cheddar. "We are sad to go but unfortunately, as a young business, we were unable to recover from the financial burden placed on us from the pandemic," Leis wrote in an email. "We loved being a part of the Bay Shore community and … we hope to bring that same vibe and delicious menu back to Long Island someday."
Taj Indian Fusion (Wantagh): Before its closure, Taj Indian Fusion (and its chef, Nirmal Gomes) had the lock on a unique fusion of Indian and Chinese cooking whose highlights included calamari stir-fried with curry leaves, Manchurian-style gobi (or fried cauliflower fritters) and whole snapper grilled in a clay tandoor oven.