The heart is a lonely hunter, but the stomach may be even lonelier still, especially after 10 o’clock and in search of a proper meal. This I know. The shift jobs I worked in my 20s and the inconsistent hours of journalism have, over time, conspired to bump my supper time later and later. Long after most people have washed and dried their dinner dishes, I might be on the prowl for food — usually, around 9:30 or 10 p.m., when the streets grow hushed and restaurant kitchens are closing one after another, like dominoes.
Missing that cutoff time, at least outside of big cities, often meant taking a booth in a diner, turkey club in hand, pondering the tyranny of an early suppertime. The fortunes of eleventh-hour eaters like me have gradually turned, though — buffalo wings giving way to grass-fed burgers, Parm sandwiches to cacio de pepe, until — one night, at a restaurant in Massapequa — I came to with a warming bowl of braised lamb neck in front of me and a glass of Rioja rosé at my elbow.
At 10:45. On a Wednesday. How did this happen?
“It can be very difficult to find good food, good wine and good knowledge from [restaurant] staff after 10 p.m. During the week, forget about it,” said Rick Wenthen, a mortgage banker who often works late and, consequently, seeks his dinner after 10. His local of choice is the place that plated my braised lamb: the bustling charcuterie, wine and cheese spot called Salumi Tapas & Wine Bar in Massapequa.
“Instead of going home and watching TV, I can be there, talking about various terroirs,” Wenthen said. (The bar at Salumi is a friendly place.)
Salumi sommelier Andrew Isaacson, who is always up for talking terroir, said the ranks of late-night diners have swelled since the place opened seven years ago. “It can be tough to find a high caliber of food after 10 or 11, and we draw crowds for that reason,” he added.
“Late” can mean different things to different people, depending on locale. In sleepy off-season Greenport, Brix & Rye slings cocktails and wood-fired pizzas until 10 p.m. at least, when the rest of the town seems deserted. In bar-saturated Huntington, late means 3 a.m. at Vauxhall, which serves a burger menu until that witching hour. At Crabtree’s NY & Main, a second-floor hangout in the center of town, the full menu runs until midnight during the week and 1 a.m. on weekends.
That means, if you have a hankering for blue-crab bisque, mac and cheese with short ribs, a New York strip steak or Montauk swordfish as the night winds down, chef-owner Andrew Crabtree has you covered. The bar at Crabtree’s might be thronged with a youngish crowd sipping mezcal and gin cocktails, but a lifetime in the kitchen has lent this chef empathy for those who get off work at odd hours.
“I think people appreciate the late-night menu,” Crabtree said. He even has something called the late-night sandwich on the menu — eggs with mortadella, provolone and basil aïoli on a roll. “It’s for people like us who work a little bit later and get out at 10 o’clock.”
Sure, but since Crabtree himself doesn’t throw in the towel until after 1 a.m., where can he go when it’s so darned late?
West on 25A, down the Sagtikos to Montauk Highway and onto the eerily empty streets of West Sayville, that’s where. There, one of the Island’s latest (and possibly smallest) kitchens serves until 2 a.m. each night.
“We get a lot of industry people, especially after 11,” said Nicholas Petro, the general manager of South Shore Dive, a dimly lit bar with a Lynchian feel and a walled garden, plus a dedicated off-hour clientele.
Petro said that after the 75-year-old Sayville Modern Diner closed a few years ago, South Shore Dive owner Bobby Gulinello recognized a void for those who don’t like to compromise quality late at night. “As 24-hour diners become fewer and farther between, bars have been offering more elevated food,” he said as he filled a pint with cream ale from Riverhead’s Moustache Brewing Co., then set it down beside some rosy-pink sliced sirloin draped with chimichurri.
After hundreds of nights nestled into the deep pocket of the evening with nothing more than some fries or a salad, a well-cooked steak at 11 on a Thursday seems like a dream made real.
Crabtree’s NY & Main
330 New York Ave., Huntington
This exposed-pipes-meets-Edison bulbs spot overlooks the center of Huntington Village, and the kitchen serves until midnight during the week and 1 a.m. on weekends. Try the late-night sandwich (eggs, mortadella, provolone, basil aïoli) or Japanese-style chicken wings, either washed down with a Lavender & Lace cocktail — gin, muddled lavender, lemon and egg white.
Salumi Tapas & Wine Bar
5600 Merrick Rd., Massapequa
Charcuterie (some of it sliced at the end of the bar), hard-to-find cheeses, eclectic small plates and somm-driven wines are the stock in trade at this welcoming neighborhood osteria that feels straight out of northern Spain. The kitchen stays open ’til midnight daily, and the bar attracts a mixed crowd.
South Shore Dive
65 Main St., West Sayville
The tiny kitchen at this noir-ish bar performs a Herculean task each night: serving the ranks of discerning local restaurant-industry folks who show up after their own shifts end. The kitchen is open until 2 a.m. nightly. Try the butcher’s steak with chimichurri or giant croque monsieur sandwich.