Perhaps the best way to think of Long Island Restaurant Week, the fall version of which starts Sunday, Nov. 3, is as an invitation to an expedition. Among the nearly 250 participating restaurants this year are a number of places you’ll likely be familiar with, but many more that you won’t be — and Restaurant Week is nothing if not a cost-effective way of addressing that imbalance. For $29.95, you can have a three-course prix fixe dinner at any establishment listed on longislandrestaurantweek.com (note: reservations are highly recommended). All restaurants will offer a minimum of three choices of appetizers, entrees and desserts every night of the week (save Saturday, when dinner must be offered only until 7 p.m.), and many have posted their menus on the site for your perusal.
The list of restaurants is so long, and the opportunities for adventurous dining so many, eager eaters might be forgiven for not knowing where to start. So Newsday’s food critics are naming some of the Restaurant Week eateries and menus that most intrigue them.
Anchor Down Seafood Bar & Grill (1960 Bayberry Ave., Merrick): Tucked away on Merrick’s waterfront (yes, Merrick has a waterfront) is Anchor Down, a friendly little bar and grill with serious seafood cred. For Restaurant Week, chef-owner Stephen Rosenbluth and chef de cuisine John Kaunas have put together a wide-ranging menu whose starters include house-cured gravlax with herbed crostini and all the trimmings; cod tacos with corn and black-bean salsa; saffroned lobster arancini with roasted red pepper sauce ($4 upcharge). Mains include horseradish-crusted salmon with roasted spaghetti squash; seafood cioppino with shrimp, clams, mussels and cod in a roasted garlic lobster broth; grilled 10-ounce strip steak with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and shaved Brussels sprouts. For dessert: key lime pie, pumpkin cheesecake or chocolate mousse cake with sea salt and caramel. More info: 516-544-4334, anchordownny.com
Bar Agave (4902 Merrick Rd., Massapequa Park): Make your way past the guacamole bar into the new Mexican tile-walled dining room of George Korten’s former burger place and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a chic cantina. Similarly upscale are some of the eatery’s Restaurant Week offerings, which include entrees like grilled salmon with a fruit mole, and steak enchiladas with spinach and mushrooms. Appetizers and desserts are a bit more standard, from tortilla soup and chicken flautas — although the duck empanadas are an intriguing option — to churros coated in cinnamon sugar and dripping with caramel sauce. But the combination of new and old might just make for a grand night in Massapequa Park. More info: 516-308-7722, baragaveny.com
Gatsby’s Landing (1362 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn): Roslyn Village pulses with bustling, high-profile eateries; Gatsby’s Landing provides an intimate, frenzy-free experience — with terrific food and, if you snag a seat in the backroom, a view of the pond. Founding chef Juan X. Pareja has recently been succeeded by his deputy, Jose Monge, whose three-course Restaurant Week menu features your choice among three appetizers (steamed mussels with chorizo and chardonnay; roasted beet salad with arugula and goat cheese; butternut-apple soup), three mains (mahi mahi with shrimp, clams and calamari; an 8-ounce strip steak with au gratin potatoes; rosemary-garlic chicken breast with black-eyed pea risotto) and three desserts (wild rice pudding with golden raisins; apple-cherry tart and s’mores sundae). More info: 516-277-2318, gatsbyslanding.com
Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant (Kingfish Oyster Bar & Restaurant, 990 Corporate Dr., Westbury): Chef Tom Schaudel's sole Nassau County restaurant is a modernist showstopper of pearly hues, luxe leather booths and a centerpiece bar brimming with oysters. During Restaurant Week, those oysters will come fried with smashed avocado and passion fruit fire oil (an appetizer, $3 extra) and larger plates are rife with Asian-fusion detailing, such as almond-crusted swordfish with coconut squash puree and curry oil, or togarashi-spiced tuna with baby bok choy, forbidden rice, mango salsa and Thai-curry vinaigrette ($5 upcharge). More info: 516-640-5777, kingfishoysterbar.com
Roc & Olive (180 W. Park Ave., Long Beach): It was in May that Sandra Prado, a former server at Lola’s, took over the Long Beach eatery, changing most of the menu and renaming the place for her two children. A stronger American focus is evident on the Roc & Olive Restaurant Week menu, whose appetizers include roasted cauliflower, mussels steamed in white wine and sweet vermouth, and a jumbo lump crabcake fashioned with corn flake crumbs. The hearty entrees include short rib ragu with rigatoni, roasted half-chicken, halibut in mushroom broth, and grilled pork chop (the latter two are $3 extra). And all’s well that ends well with a chocolate mousse and pistachio ricotta cake. More info: 516-442-1090, rocandolive.com
Athenian Greek Taverna (2188 Jericho Tpke., Commack): This summer, the Commack stalwart celebrated its 25th anniversary by becoming bigger than ever — literally, by moving to a larger space across the street. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new dining room, there’s no better time than the present. Appetizers to watch out for include mussels a la Mykonos, in which the shellfish are steamed in a tomato-based broth laced with mushrooms and spinach, and Athenian’s self-proclaimed “famous” baked eggplant. In addition to the requisite gyro, there are entrees with chicken, shrimp, octopus and tilapia, and baklava is just one offering among a dessert list that includes the sublime custardy pastry known as galaktoboureko. More info: 631-499-7660, atheniangreektaverna.com
The Fish Store (836 Montauk Hwy., Bayport): Tucked away in the back of this venerable fish store is a charming dining room where the shop’s fresh wares are prepared to great advantage. Starters include bacon-wrapped Montauk sea scallops with honey-horseradish-mustard drizzle; fried calamari tossed in Thai chili sauce; sauteed lump crabcakes in a sherry-scallion sauce. Mains include pesto-crusted salmon with garlic mashed potatoes; grilled local striped bass with mango sauce and yellow rice; for landlubbers: grilled flat iron steak with cheese-stuffed baked potato. There are three desserts: homemade rice pudding, Junior’s cheesecake and chocolate fudge cake. More info: 631-472-3018, thefishstoreonline.com
Lulu Kitchen & Bar (126 Main St., Sag Harbor): Planning to be in the Hamptons during Restaurant Week? Snag a table at Lulu and enjoy the elegant, multiroom space and wood-fired stylings of chef Philippe Corbet. The three starters are soy-braised and wood-grilled calamari with whipped, smoked tarama; sauteed butternut squash with caramelized shallots, harissa honey and horseradish cream; and paella croquettes with smoked piquillo-pepper aioli. The mains: wood-roasted meatballs with marinara and goat-cheese risotto; poached haddock with Chinese vegetables in a ginger-lemon-coconut-milk broth; mussels a la plancha with hand-cut fries. For dessert: profiterole, sorbet or ice cream, and the intriguing-sounding half-baked cookie with creme fraiche ice cream. More info: 631-725-0900, lulusagharbor.com
Maria's (211 Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset): This unpretentious spot has held court on the corner of Lake Avenue and Smithtown Blvd. for close to a decade with a menu that spans Mexico, central and South America, and Spain. For Restaurant Week, Maria's will roll out a lengthy roster of its greatest hits, from tender ropa vieja to paella ($7.95 extra) to a chili-crusted skirt steak with chipotle butter, spicy fries and Mexican-style corn ($6.95 upcharge). The kitchen puts a seasonal spin on a Latin classic with creamy pumpkin flan, and the margaritas and sangria are always flowing. More info: 631-979-7724, marias211.com
Mirabelle (150 Main St., Stony Brook): Chef Guy Reuge's ginger-almond tart is practically legendary, and it's part of the lineup during Restaurant Week at Mirabelle, a romantic spot inside the Three Village in Stony Brook. Theirs is a menu that throws down some difficult decision-making: Should you start with red-wine braised short rib over roasted sweet potato, or a more virtuous baby-spinach salad with roasted pears, duck prosciutto and hazelnuts? Segue to coq au vin or fettuccine with rabbit confit and chanterelle mushrooms? Whichever eating adventure you choose, the serene ambience and stellar service are bound to leave you with a warm glow. More info: 631-751-0555, mirabelletavern.com