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Modern Snack Bar

Fried soft-shell crab and mashed turnips are among

Fried soft-shell crab and mashed turnips are among the specialties at the Modern Snack Bar in Aquebogue. Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

There may be no more diverse lunch crowd on the North Fork than the one streaming into Modern Snack Bar. Tables are pushed together to accommodate generations of farming families. Couples who have been ordering the lobster salad for more than half a century rub elbows with recently transplanted foodies and road-tripping hipsters.

Long before there were farm-to-table restaurants or wineries on the North Fork, there was the Modern Snack Bar, and little has changed since it opened in 1950. The decor, heavy on jauntily lettered signs ("It's cool & fresh! Shrimp Salad Plate"), retains its mid-20th century charm, the waitresses are seasoned professionals and the menu features such throwbacks as sauerbraten, chicken potpie and meat loaf.

What has kept the restaurant from ossifying into a culinary museum is that much of the food is excellent.

The buttery-smooth mashed turnips are world class, as are old-fashioned vegetable side dishes such as coleslaw and braised cabbage. Also recommended: Long Island duckling, fried Peconic scallops and, in season, soft-shell crabs, delicately breaded and lightly fried. (One crab is $15.95 at lunch; two are $22.95.) Even a comparatively avant-garde grilled duck breast is juicy and full of flavor.

Homemade pies are less delicious than picturesque (particularly the towering lemon meringue), but the toasted almond cake, a sort of Yankee take on tiramisu, is a winner.

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