Long Island snack bars to visit this summer

Fried scallop wrap with lettuce, tomato, and tarter sauce, served with onion rings, Flo's Luncheonette, Blue Point, June 2, 2020. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Snack bars capture the carefree essence of summer: The food, from loaded hot dogs, classic flat-top cheeseburgers and onion rings to floats, shakes and soft-serve, is easygoing and usually hand-held. In recent years, new traditions — who’s up for blistered shishito peppers? — have also been making a mark, too. Here are five favorites.

Flo's Luncheonette

302 Middle Rd. Blue Point; 631-363-0596, flosfamous.com

If slotted into a family tree of Long Island restaurants, Flo’s Luncheonette in Blue Point could be the family matriarch. Calvin Coolidge was still president when the first toasted sandwich slid from the grill at the roadside snack bar that Flo Kimball opened a block from Corey Beach in 1926

Connor Vigliotta, owner of Flo's Luncheonette, talks about taking over Flo's legacy after working for his father at the Blue Point snack bar since he was a teen. Credit: Randee Daddona

Back then, hotels dotted this now-residential neighborhood, and a row of stools lined this out- door lunch counter. The stools have been replaced by picnic tables, but beach vibes still prevail, and long lines form every summer day to order from the window — burgers, waffle fries, egg creams or the famous Flo dog, served on a toasted potato bun.

Owner Conor Vigliotta ensures everything has a cheffy touch, from the fried-scallop wrap and crisp Maryland crab cake sandwich to guacamole laced with corn and black beans.

Left: A fried scallop wrap with lettuce, tomato, and tarter sauce is served with onion rings at Flo’s Luncheonette in Blue Point. Top: The Flo-Pachino milkshake at Flo’s Luncheonette. Bottom: A lobster roll at Flo's Luncheonette. Photo credit: Yvonne Albinowski and Thomas A. Ferrara

The burger is much the same as it was decades ago, and you can still cool down with a Flo’s Fizzle (vanilla ice cream with orange soda) but there’s now a covered outdoor bar where you can snag a local beer or fruity cocktail. Sip yours at one of the umbrella-topped picnic tables — or take your (nonalcoholic) Fizzles down to the beach. — Corin Hirsch

All American Drive-in

4286 Merrick Rd. Massapequa; 516-798-9574, allamericanhamburgerli.com

Is it the simplicity of steamroller-flat patties encased in old-school buns, a combo guaranteed to conjure that long-gone world before burgers were the stuff of kitschy kings, pig-tailed girls and billions and billions served?

No, it’s got to be the unreconstituted fries, crunchy russet spears that scoff mightily at the idea of shoestring anything from inside their grease-stained paper bags. Or the throwback shakes — available in just three flavors but more convenient than the ones at Marshall’s Ice Cream Bar, a sister shop that’s all the way across the parking lot. Or the way the place, despite decades of popularity, still hedges its bets by including tuna sandwiches and knishes on the menu. Whatever it is, All American is the quintessential Long Island snack bar.

Johnny Manobianco from Farmingdale enjoys his burger at All American Drive-In in Massapequa.

Johnny Manobianco from Farmingdale enjoys his burger at All American Drive-In in Massapequa. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Since 1963, the stalwart, a beloved holdover from the days of burger stands bedecked in red-and-blue neon — and so central to Massapequa’s identity there’s even a picture of it on the town’s Wikipedia page — has been serving up jillions of burgers an hour to Islanders only too happy to brave long lines for the chance to scarf down their prizes on the way back to the car if the picnic tables outside are taken (and they’re always taken).

Newsday food critic and recent Long Island transplant Scott Vogel on Friday, Sept. 20, experienced All-American Burger in Massapequa for the first time, as part of his quest to become a "true Long Islander." Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware/Chris Ware

Squint and you can almost see the cavalcade of before-they-were-famous fans, folks like Alec Baldwin and Jerry Seinfeld, both of whom went to high school nearby and still stop in for a taste of the way Long Island was, is now and ever shall be. — Scott Vogel

Jennie's at Drossos

69125 Main Rd. Greenport; 631-477-1334, jenniesatdrossos.com

A freethinking yet focused chef itching to break out of the fine-dining box gives this Greenport landmark a rare and welcome edge. Jennie Werts, 36, has a culinary pedigree that includes stints in Manhattan as a corporate chef at Credit Suisse and chef de cuisine at Richard Sandoval’s Latin-Asian restaurant Zengo. But you could argue that this French Culinary Institute graduate’s most formative experience took place on the North Fork, where she spent childhood summers.

"Every Sunday, we went to Drossos to play miniature golf," she said. "My brother, Andrew, and I grew up eating at the snack bar." The family-owned complex, which includes a motel as well as the golf course and snack bar, has been in business more than 60 years. Four years ago, Werts partnered with her brother and the owners to open a pop-up at the snack bar. "I’ve known the family since I was a baby," she said. "I didn’t want to change it drastically — I wanted to keep the charm and still appeal to locals."

Jennie Werts, chef-owner of Jennie's at Drossos, talks about opening a pop-up snack bar at Drossos Hotel in Greenport, a spot where her family has played mini-golf since she was a child.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski, Jennie Werts, Jim Fredriksson

And therein lies the beauty of Drossos: a chef who had the confidence to leave that unmistakable, irreplaceable patina untouched while elevating the menu offerings in a way that speaks to a younger, more food-forward clientele. Yes, you can still get a cheeseburger or the fried chicken, but you’ll also find spareribs bathed in a barbecue sauce resonant with gochujang, a Korean red-pepper condiment that packs a robust yet mellow wallop, and tempura broccoli given a tangy freshness by Catapano goat cheese, made in nearby Peconic.

Left: A fried shrimp basket with preserved lemon tarter and sweet chili sauce at Jennie’s at Drossos in Greenport. Top: Katie Russell from Peconic eats a twist soft serve with rainbow sprinkles at Jennie’s at Drossos. Bottom: Corn dogs at Jennie’s at Drossos. Photo credit: Yvonne Albinowski

One standout side: the flash-fried shishito peppers, tossed in citrusy yuzu salt and the Japanese seven-spice powder called shichimi togaroshi. They are addictive. One thing Werts wouldn’t dream of changing, though, is the soft-serve. "There is something about the machine, the pressure," she said. "This soft-serve is dense, creamy and thick. It’s magical." — Jane Lear

Snack Shack

1 Pacific Blvd. Long Beach; 516-343-5200, snackshacklbny.com

There’s always been a snack bar here," said David Zelinger, co-owner of this tiny spot located two blocks east of where Long Beach’s boardwalk ends. His research into the property that he and two partners took over in 2018 revealed that the last wooden shack was blown away (along with much else in Long Beach) in the great hurricane of 1938. The current snack bar, now concrete, dates from 1954 and, while 2012’s superstorm Sandy was "not kind to it, it needed the washing out."

David Zelinger, co-owner of the Snack Shack in Long Beach, talks about the concessionaire that's been a Long Beach favorite since the 1950s.   Credit: Randee Daddona; Photo credit: Yvonne Albinowski

The coronavirus pandemic, by comparison, only highlighted its strengths. While it usually opens for Memorial Day, last year Snack Shack opened a month early to serve neighbors desperate for takeout, and its beach-adjacent (and vast) "Shackyard" easily accommodates more than 100 diners.

The menu fuses snack bar standards with ingredients that skew higher-end. Burgers are hand-formed, tomatoes are heirloom (in season) and hot dogs are Certified Angus Beef, served in a buttered split-top roll and can be topped with everything from chopped pickles and red onion to bacon and avocado.

Left: The Kraken, jumbo soft-shell crab topped with lobster salad and bacon at Snack Shack in Long Beach. Top: The Landshark hot dog “Jaws Style” with sauteed onions, pickles and hot sauce at Snack Shack. Bottom: The Mermaid Beyond Meat Vegan Burger on a gluten free bun with baby spinach, beefsteak tomato, fresh cucumber and red onion at Snack Shack. Photo credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Lobster figures in lobster rolls, of course, but also as a topping on the Sunshine Burger (along with bacon and American cheese) and as a co-star in the sometimes-available BBLLT, along with bacon, more bacon, lettuce and tomato. And Behold the Kraken features a fried soft-shell crab topped with lobster salad and bacon. Dietary abstainers can groove on the Meatless Wonder, a Beyond Meat vegan patty (or grilled portobello mushroom and eggplant, your choice) on a gluten-free bun. — Erica Marcus

Sid's All American

80 Glen Cove Ave. Glen Cove; 516-200-9071, sidsallamerican.com

With its back-sloping roof and glass front, Sid’s All American retains the bones of the Carvel it originally was. Its manager, Sean McCalmont, recalled back when he was a student at Glen Cove High School. "We would play baseball in the field just down the hill and, when we won, we’d come up and have ice cream." Now, he noted, "everyone gets ice cream, whether they won or lost." And, at Sid’s, they get a lot more than was served at Carvel.

By the time current owner Ross McCalla bought the property in 2014, it had morphed into a burger stand and, briefly, into Philly’s & Cream, specializing in cheesesteaks. McCalla and his team kept the burgers and the cheesesteaks (and the ice cream) and set about upgrading the menu.

Sid's All American owner Ross McCalla talks about his Glen Cove restaurant, which he named after his grandfather. Credit: Randee Daddona

The ice cream now comes from either Sedutto or Schrat’s. Cheesesteaks are made with flavorful sirloin and served on rolls baked down the road at North Shore Farms. The popular fried-chicken sandwich has to compete with the flashier chicken tenders that have been dredged in Frosted Flakes crumbs, deep-fried and served with homemade honey-mustard sauce. And then there are the French fries, hand-cut and fried to order. They are hard to beat served naked or with a dab of ketchup, but Sid’s gilds the lily with Cajun spices, truffle oil, bacon or cheese, homemade chili and cheese, or gravy and cheese.

A fried chicken slider with pepper jack cheese, Sid's sauce,...

A fried chicken slider with pepper jack cheese, Sid's sauce, jalapeno, and red onion at Sid's All American in Glen Cove. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

All of this can be washed down with a hand-spun milkshake, but if you prefer your beverages transparent and in the four to seven percent ABV range, Sid’s also has a great selection of craft beers, particularly from nearby Garvies Point Brewing Co. — Erica Marcus

 
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