Spring has sprung, vaccinations are rolling and the bar and restaurant curfew was just extended to midnight. All welcome news for the spring edition of Long Island Restaurant Week, which begins Sunday, April 25 and runs until May 2.
During the pandemic, restaurants taking part in the weeklong event (the last one was in late January) wisely focused their efforts on to-go meals. With some semblances of normalcy returning, takeout is still available at most places, but except more tables to fill up for $20 two-course, prix-fixe lunches or three-course dinners for $25, $35 or $42. Also expect more choices: Two weeks before the kickoff, 83 restaurants had signed on, more than the total during the winter. Each will offer the prix-fixe menu all night, every night, but are not required to after 7 p.m. on Saturdays.
So, what's good?
1. Consider a lazy lunch. Dining during the day really means major bang for your buck, or $20 bucks, as it were. For instance, at Bella Vie in Bay Shore, a Restaurant Week lunch could include veal Milanese or gnocchi in a fontina sauce with shaved black truffles, plus soup or salad. Not all places are offering lunch, so comb menus beforehand on the Restaurant Week website.
2. If you like steak, get your knife ready. There are at least 13 steakhouses (or steak and seafood places) participating, from all of the George Martin locations to Teller's in Islip and Chadwick's American Chophouse in Rockville Centre.
3. Chefs often get wild with spring produce, or try out new dishes — so maintain a sense of adventure. Spring Restaurant Weeks everywhere are high time to break out of your comfort zone. Be on the lookout for ramps, peas and asparagus folded into creative apps, pastas and fritters, such as the crispy chickpea fritters with braised fennel and grilled asparagus on the menu at Fifth Season in Port Jefferson. Garden Grill in Smithtown will dress grilled artichokes with Pecorino Romano, garlic, lemon, breadcrumbs and tzatziki. And is 5 de Mayo, a Mexican restaurant in Westbury, serving clams Oreganata? Well, yes, they are (as well as shrimp ceviche, Veracruz-style salmon and paella).
4. Three options for each course is required, but some places spoil you for choice. Ruvo West in Greenlawn has nine (!) choices each for apps and mains, from rice balls with fennel sausage and provolone to a crispy half-duck in a sweet and sour apricot glaze (for $42). Nine is also the magic number at Eric's Italian Bistro in Mineola, where you can segue from a starter of grilled octopus with cannellini beans to chicken scarpariello. There are multiple specialty rolls on the menu at Union Sushi & Steak in Southampton, such as one filled with fluke tempura, crab and scallop. At Shandon Court in East Islip, the five dessert choices include pumpkin cheesecake or sour-apple doughnuts with warm caramel sauce.
5. By eating out, you'll be giving back. As during the winter, portions of the proceeds from this edition of Restaurant Week will be donated to Island Harvest food bank and the Independent Restaurant Coalition. The IRC, founded a year ago, focuses on helping local bars and restaurants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and advocates on behalf of them at the local, state and federal level. Because despite all of the cheering news, restaurants are not quite out of the woods yet.