Mr. Keke Ramen Hot Pot, Great Neck
Mr. Keke Ramen Hot Pot has taken over Ramen Totem, which specialized in noodle soups and Shanghainese dishes until it closed last summer. Now the space has a Japan-meets-Disneyland feel to it, with light wood paneling and a large cherry blossom tree that shoots its pink flowers all over the ceiling. New owners Ming Ge and Derike Su plan to open 10 of these fast casual hot pot restaurants in the next year.
Desi Bites Cafe, Hicksville
The delectable vegetarian menu at this new eatery focuses almost entirely on northern India’s street foods and snacks — gol gappa, falooda rabri, potato patty burgers dressed with noodles, grilled sandwiches of potato and green pepper and more — just like the first Desi Bites, which opened in the Queens neighborhood of Richmond Hill in 2020.
Caminito, Port Washington
Some of the best sandwiches in the world come from South America — especially Argentina, where the unique blend of European and New World influences creates a perfect storm of grilled meats spiked with vibrant sauces on fabulous crusty bread. Sara Damian adds yet another dimension to the mix at Caminito, a stylish new Port Washington cafe that specializes in Argentinian sandwiches and empanadas.
Sunflower Cafe and Bakery, Bayport
Stacé Hansen and her daughter Kathrine have taken over the 46-year-old French bistro Le Soir. The two kept many of the original menu items, but added their own contemporary twist to them. Options include over-the-top French onion soup, a massive Nicoise salad and a daily ice cream, which Stacé prepares in the style of French glacé by adding eggs, which thicken it like a frozen custard.
Yoyo Chicken, Baldwin
This new halal fast food joint has been gaining buzz with its powerhouse combo of simple but well-made smashburgers and fried chicken sandwiches. It opened late November in a Baldwin strip mall and although the dining room is pretty small — it used to be a Jamaican takeout spot — you can see why the place is popular. These smashburgers are good.
Itsuki Sushi, East Meadow
Itsuki opened in November in the space formerly known as La Piazzetta Cafe II, which closed during the pandemic. Very-good-for-the-price offerings include plates of nigiri with salmon ($3.50 for two pieces), tuna ($3.50) and yellowtail ($4). Solid roll choices: A rainbow (salmon, tuna, yellowtail, crab stick and avocado, $13) and a volcano (spicy tuna and flying fish roe, $12).
Insomnia Cookies, Hempstead
Founded at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003 by an insomniac looking for sweet, warm, dorm-delivered late-night munchies, Insomnia Cookies has grown to more than 260 locations nationwide. Now, the brand’s first Long Island bakery has opened in Hempstead, near Hofstra University.
This eatery, which opened in December, is a chicly designed fusion concept that melds Brazilian and Mexican cuisine. Their tacos get people in the door, but the classic Brazilian dishes are what really stand out here, as Brazico prepares icons like pão de queijo cheese bread and coxinha chicken croquettes, importing the dough and other products from Brazil.
Twisted Fork Brunch Company, Bellmore
This cheeky brunch spot sits in the former home of the Mediterranean Diner, a longtime staple of Bellmore's business district. The menu offers contemporary takes on nostalgic favorites, like a “bacon slab” of candied pork belly, a burrata omelet, avocado toasts and BEC-stuffed pretzels. Sweeter fare including pancakes, French toast and Belgian waffles can be made “twisted” by adding drizzled chocolate or bananas foster for an extra few dollars. But this kitchen is serious; the dishes show a high level of precision and there are surprisingly healthful spreads.
New York Fries, Garden City
This niche concept stars fresh cut, cooked-to-order French fries, served plain (with your choice of dipping sauce like ranch or chipotle aioli), or loaded with a variety of decadent toppings including beef chili, pulled pork, queso, pickled jalapeños, salsa and crumbled bacon.
Boris Safaniev and his family have opened three elegant, upscale restaurants in Cedarhurst — and all are kosher. The latest undertaking, Anju, serves contemporary Asian fusion and opened in December with Tomo Kobayashi, one of Long Island’s most accomplished Asian fusion chefs, running the kitchen. Kobayashi, the founding chef of Toku in Manhasset, has designed a menu that draws on Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisines, infusing each with a little American cheek.
Siam Emerald, Rockville Centre
Siam Emerald may be the most ambitious Thai restaurant on Long Island, but for now it's still a hidden gem. The small restaurant opened in late December on a quiet stretch of Rockville Centre across from the Cathedral of St. Agnes. The menu features a lot of hard-to-find Thai specialties like spicy Northern Thai sausages and the iconic crab omelet that's become a hallmark of the Bangkok street food scene.
Deng Ji, Levittown
This Chinese restaurant has two locations in Flushing, Queens, and has opened its largest, most extravagant outpost in a strip mall near Tri-County Bazaar flea market. Despite the bustling crowd, the large dining room gives off a calming, serene warmth as it's designed to look like an outdoor space at a rural temple. Don't miss the noodle soup, a spectacle with dozens of ingredients tumbling into a cauldron of milky, boiling broth.
Roast Sandwich House, Bellmore
Roast Sandwich House, the expanding mini-chain known for its fast casual soup, salad and sandwich combos, has opened its fifth store — and first on the South Shore — in Bellmore. An immaculate storefront with 18 seats for dine-in, this shop mimics the lime green and blond wood palette of Roast’s Syosset, Mineola, Hicksville and Melville locations. “People were asking for a South Shore store, and we were finally able to deliver,” said Roast’s owner, Joseph Cordaro.
Honey's Bistro, Glen Head
Taking over the corner space on Railroad Avenue that used to house Flourish Bakeshop and All Day Café, Honey’s Bistro serves an all-day menu of coffee, pastries, soups, salads, sandwiches and rice bowls. Childhood friends Matthew Suckle, formerly of New York Chicken and Rice in Glen Cove, and Patrick O'Halloran, co-owner of Park Place in New Hyde Park, deliver a serene, welcoming spot bathed in soft pastels for ‘round the clock eats.
Sichuan Garden, East Setauket
This new Chinese eatery takes over the free-standing building that was the short-lived Sichuan hot-pot specialist Xiao Si Chuan. Credit for the restaurant’s early promise goes to Young Zhao and partner Kevin Lin. Born in Sichuan, Zhao was also owns Ichi Sushi & Ramen, 500 feet east of Sichuan Garden. “My customers encouraged me to open an authentic Chinese restaurant,” he said. “And they are already supporting it.”
Punjabi Chaap Corner, Hicksville
This quick-serve vegetarian restaurant, founded in India in 2012, has opened its first Long Island location in Hicksville. The draw here is the eponymous chaap, a mock meat made from soybeans that is wrapped around a wooden stick and grilled or roasted like a kebab. The menu also features paneer (cheese), potatoes, chickpeas and other pulses, plus Afghan-style momos (dumplings) and the great Indian street food, pani puri.
Marinara Pizza, Greenvale
The fare at this new pizza joint may look familiar — simple cheese, Margherita, white, Grandma and Sicilian pies; more elaborate ones topped with Buffalo chicken, eggplant Parm, Caesar salad or spinach and artichoke — but the presentation is outstanding. The most striking pie may be the MVP, with its bright, regimental stripes of marinara, vodka and pesto sauces.
Paros Grille, Great Neck
Ten months ago, Jimmy Tsolis made the heartbreaking decision to close the Seven Seas Diner, a place he'd spent the majority of his adult life. Diners are no longer profitable businesses, the Greek native lamented at the time, and a full concept change was the only hope. That new concept is Paros, an upscale Greek restaurant serving the classics alongside a changing menu of fresh-not-frozen seafood sourced from their longtime supplier, Marine Fishery. There is valet parking in the evenings, and an emphasis on cocktails and imported Greek wines.
Viva Tulum, Baldwin
At Viva Tulum, an immaculate storefront on the south side of Merrick Road, with seven tables, four bar seats and a flat-screen TV at top volume, the offerings exceed the usual Tex-Mex fare by adding American comfort classics to the mix. In addition to the tacos, nachos and burritos, there’s also mozzarella sticks and potato skins. The standout is the trio of birria tacos with dipping consommé alongside. And don’t miss the aguas frescas.
Yankee Doodle Dandy's, Islip
Josh Gatewood is on a mission to get Northerners as excited about fried chicken tenders as are Southerners. He established three Yankee Doodle Dandy’s food trucks in Manhattan to spread the news, and with partner Anthony Mastrantonio, has now opened the first brick-and-mortar location, in Islip. The tenders can be had on a platter such as the “Winner Winner” with fries, thick-cut and griddled Texas toast and your choice of potato salad, coleslaw or a pickle spear. There's also chicken sandwiches, grilled cheese and shakes. Nothing on the menu is more than $15.
Mateo's Cantina, Wantagh
The menu at this new Mexican spot is substantial, but not overwhelming, with portions on the heartier side. The usual suspects make a showing: quesadillas, smothered enchiladas, hefty chimichangas, meaty tacos and DIY fajitas. More upscale flourishes include grilled skirt steak, shrimp aguachile and a red snapper Veracruzana. The back of the menu is full of cocktail options, from margaritas to micheladas, wine and an array of Mexican beers.
Mito Modern Japanese Cuisine, Babylon
This sleek Japanese fusion concept is now open in the historic Bank of Babylon building. Mito is just as flashy as its predecessor, Monsoon, and its biggest strength seems to be its sushi. The soft opening menu dances between Japanese and Chinese standards, with a whole section of wok dishes (kung pao chicken, General Tso's, etc.) as well as a respectable dumpling program.
Honami Sushi Hibachi & Lounge, Huntington Station
“We wanted a place with high-end-style sushi that’s still affordable,” says co-owner Wei Xiao, of this cavernous, new restaurant — airy, bright, with blond wood everywhere — that seats up to 350, including 10 at its sushi bar, several on the patio (weather-permitting), many around a dozen hibachi stations in an area off the main dining room, plus a dozen more in an attractive private room with tatami mat-style seating.
Oak & Orange, Mineola
This cafe is still in the soft opening phase, but the Japanese egg salad sando, made with a generous amount of Kewpie mayo, is a highlight of the current menu. In addition to a small number of salads and baked goods, Oak and Orange also serves coffee from Southdown, and has a small market that focuses on artisanal food products from women- and minority-owned vendors.
Abbott's Frozen Custard, Lindenhurst
This custard chain, founded in Rochester in 1926, has opened its first Long Island location in Lindenhurst. Abbott’s uses a base mix that is hand delivered to the store daily, where the custard's flavors, of which there are a rotating eight, are churned fresh in custom machines that remove all the air from the mixture. Vanilla, chocolate and chocolate almond are always available, and at the Lindenhurst opening, pistachio pineapple, rainbow cookie, peppermint, cotton candy and a dairy-free cherry were also being featured.
Duck Donuts, East Meadow
If you’ve spent any time in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, you’re probably familiar with Duck Donuts, which has opened its fourth Long Island store in East Meadow’s Meadowbrook Shopping Center. Joining sister spots in Hauppauge, Selden, and Garden City Park, the brand’s customizable doughnut concept is one of the more straightforward in a category that has been defined by the oversized, stuffed doughnuts of companies like North Fork Doughnut Company and Grindstone. Duck Donuts are a little smaller, a little simpler and a little less expensive.
Struggletown BBQ, Mount Sinai
For John Leonard, barbecue was “a backyard hobby gone crazy.” Now, 10 years after he started competing on the barbecue circuit, the hobby has blossomed into a full-blown restaurant, Struggletown BBQ in Mount Sinai, a partnership with his son, Jake Leonard. The menu starts with the classics: Brisket, burnt ends, St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken and pastrami. There are also “mac bowls” (smoked meat on a bed of three-cheese-sauced shells) and a rotating chili-of-the-week.
Village BBQ, North Merrick
Village BBQ in North Merrick may be a sliver of an eatery but, for Randy Brown, it’s the Big Time. This is the third location he’s occupied in three years — but it’s the first one that isn’t inside a gas station. There may only be two tables and an open kitchen, but the menu ranges all over the barbecue and soul-food repertoires. The brisket is jigglingly tender, with a coal-black bark, and it can be ordered by the pound , as a platter or in a sandwich. Also from the pit: Beef plate ribs, St. Louis ribs, rib tips, chopped BBQ (pork shoulder), chicken (barbecued and jerk) and turkey wings.
This Korean fried chicken juggernaut with 3,000-plus locations worldwide has opened its first Long Island location in Plainview. Fried chicken parts — not lacquered and smooth like most KFC, but craggy and crumbly like American KFC — are available in every possible permutation, including bone-in whole birds and wings, all of them best when tossed in Pelicana’s OG sauce (available in three levels of spiciness), although other sauces exist, honey garlic and barbecue among them.
The Rabbit Hole, Merrick
Nine-year-old Merrick seafood restaurant, Anchor Down, has relaunched as The Rabbit Hole Bar & Grill. “The demographics in Merrick have definitely changed,” said the chef-owner. “A lot of my customers were older and, during COVID, many of them moved to Florida.” The new wave in Merrick, he observed, was younger families, often on tighter budgets and looking for a more contemporary experience. To make The Rabbit Hole more affordable, Rosenbluth created a small-plates menu with a dozen items priced $18 or less. Also under the $18 mark: Soups, salads, burgers and tacos. None of the larger entrees — among them, chicken Milanese, hanger steak, braised short ribs and a rabbit roulade served over ratatouille — costs more than $24.
Ruta Oaxaca, Woodbury
This top Mexican restaurant has opened another Long Island location, in Woodbury. As with all Rutas, the Woodbury menu features starters such as shrimp flautas, guacamole customized to heat preference and spinach-and-corn empanadas; taco trios of birria, carnitas and al pastor; quesadillas; entrees such as grilled octopus; and daily brunch favorites like huevos rancheros and chilaquiles. But it’s the restaurant’s passion for and execution of Oaxacan dishes, especially those with Oaxacan mole, that have put Ruta on the map. The chicken mole enchiladas are definitive, their tortillas heavily stuffed and heavily smothered by a sauce redolent of cinnamon and smoke, its flavor drawn from weeks of kitchen prep time and centuries of southern Mexican cooking.
Inka Fé, Great Neck
Tucked into a strip mall just north of the main restaurant district on Middle Neck Road, Inka Fé may have Long Island's largest selection of Peruvian desserts. 24-year-old Marjory Moreno opened the new cafe with her mom in the former home of a kosher restaurant named Mr. Plov. In addition to desserts, there's a small restaurant menu featuring Peruvian staples like ceviche and varieties of arroz chaufa, the fried rice dishes commonly served in chifa.
Gioia, Oyster Bay
Jesse Schenker, the resident chef at the helm of transforming Oyster Bay into a serious dining destination since the opening of 2 Spring in 2018, has unveiled Gioia, a love letter to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy in the form of an intimate 10-table restaurant. “I love everything about Emilia-Romagna — mortadella, gnocco fritto, prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano; I love the use of butter and stuffed pastas," he said. "To me, the food of this region is equal parts comfort and culinary delight.” And Gioia is just that — cozy and comfortable, full of rustic, satisfying plates.
Blue Waters Mediterranean Cuisine, North Bellmore
27-year-old Diego Vintimilla has turned a criminally small takeout-only eatery into one with a dining room whose tightly packed tables seat 40. Thanks to attractive pricing (including three-course prix fixe deals for $18 at lunch, $29 at dinner), an everyman ethos, and a penchant for surprising guests with free slices of Greek yogurt cheesecake topped by sour cherry sauce, this new Greek spot has begun to build a happy band of regulars.
Kunga Kitchen, Hicksville
At this new Asian spot you can try tsampa, a barley flour porridge rarely seen on Long Island menus but popular in Tibet, and allegedly eaten by the Dalai Lama every morning. The menu also features pad thai chicken, various biryanis and more.
Thin Cookies, Hicksville
Zohal Raja always loved baking. Strictly a hobby while she worked 9 to 5 in graphic design, she had plenty of time to play around in the kitchen when the pandemic hit. Fast-forward three years, Thin Cookies, which opened its doors in Hicksville, was born. Raja is currently offering three cookie flavors: chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, and Snickerdoodle.