Our restaurant critics eat for a living, but it's not as if they don't meet dishes that leave them making plans to come back for another taste.
Want some joy with your noshing? Peter M. Gianotti and Joan Reminick suggest you try these dishes now.
Tacos, Tocolo Cantina
The tacos at Tocolo Cantina in Garden City are terrific. Sample the Berkshire pork tacos, with charred pineapple and an achiote marinade; slow-cooked lamb with chile-tomato-garlic-fueled salsa roja; and the Baja-style fish tacos, with green cabbage and lime mayonnaise.
Macaroni and cheese pizza, Mario's Pizzeria
The delectably gooey-rich mac-and-cheese pizza served at Mario's Pizzeria in Melville has the power to make your day — and crash your diet. Available whole or by the slice, this blend of mozzarella, Cheddar and Mexican cheeses is the ultimate comfort food.
Carne de porco à Alentejana, Lisbon Cafe
If you're looking for a cozy spot that offers traditional Latin fare, look no further than Lisbon Cafe in Carle Place. An outstanding dish is the carne de porco à Alentejana, the delicious Iberian equivalent of surf-and-turf. It's the classic union of braised pork and clams from Alentejo, just north of the Algarve, garnished with roasted peppers and orange slices.
Turkish pizza, AlaTurca
AlaTurca Mediterranean Restaurant, West Babylon: The phrase "Turkish pizza" doesn't begin to describe the lahmacun here: Instead of the thin, meat-topped crusts that are the rule at most Turkish restaurants, you get three delicate plate-size flatbreads, each folded in half, quesadilla-style, around a savory ground lamb mixture. Accompaniments of romaine, tomato, onion and chopped parsley are to be heaped on top. Then comes a squeeze of lemon. It's hand-held heaven.
Rotisserie-roasted chicken, Los Andes
Los Andes, Patchogue and Deer Park: The pollo a la brasa, or rotisserie-roasted chicken is served coppery and glistening, every fiber of meat imbued with the flavor of its marinade.
Fried calamari, Amara Kitchen
The fried calamari, coated with chickpea flour, deserves your attention. The gilded ringlets and tentacles materialize at Amara Kitchen & Cocktails in Blue Point with hot peppers, fried lemons, garlic butter and that ancient Greek favorite, marinara sauce.
Tortelli with butternut squash, Pentimento
Chef Massimo Fedozzi of Pentimento in Stony Brook fashions delicious tortelli, filled with roasted butternut squash and finished in butter-sage sauce. They have a hint of amaretto.
Corned beef sliders, O’Hara’s Ale House
Absolutely irrestible are the long-braised corned beef sliders (pictured) at O’Hara’s Ale House & Grill in Port Washington. Ditto the sliders with pulled pork glossed with an Irish whiskey barbecue glaze.
Seafood paella, Viaggio Tapas
Allow room for the superior seafood paella at Viaggio Tapas in Rockville Centre. It's complete with socarrat, the coveted, caramelized rice so few local restaurants have, and also features baby shrimp, mussels and scallops.
Muffaletta panino, Spuntino
The muffaletta panino at Spuntino in St. James is an exercise in harmony: The New Orleans-style sandwich, with soppressata, imported prosciutto, Genoa salami, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, baby arugula and olive spread is immensely satisfying.
Frenagel, Fiorello Dolce
Fiorello Dolce, Huntington: Besides being incredibly fun to say, the Frenagel, a doughnut-bagel hybrid created at Fiorell Dolce, is delicious too. Made with the dough used for the bakery's flaky, richly filled French doughnut, it's sliced and filled with whipped scallion cream cheese and topped with sesame seeds, poppy seeds and sea salt.
Yucateco guacamole, Tocolo Cantina
So crave-wrothy, the Yucateco guacamole at at Tocolo Cantina in Garden City sports cool mango and fiery habanero chiles and is served with house-made chips.
Grilled octopus, Mannino's
Mannino's Italian Kitchen & Lounge, Commack: The grilled octopus appetizer, tossed with slivers of endive, celery and roasted peppers and finished with a lemon-and-olive-oil dressing, is so good, you'll be tempted to have it as a main course, too.
Kokoro bon bomb, Koi Kokoro
The lively appetizers at Koi Kokoro in Islip include the kokoro bon bomb, a trio of pleasing mouthfuls, each about the size of, yes, a bonbon, with well-seasoned, uncooked seafood on rice. Try the spicy tuna number; and yellowtail, with scallion, jalapeño and citrusy ponzu sauce.
Thai spareribs, Krung Tep
Thai spareribs are a dish you won't see on most Thai menus, but you'll find a knockout version at Krung Tep Thai Bistro in Great Neck. The ribs are marinated and steamed before being coated with a thick paste of Thai herbs and spices. Then, they're roasted to a state of near-melting tenderness.
Chicken potpie, EAT Gastropub
What a homey and delectable chicken potpie chef John Maher makes at EAT Gastropub in Oceanside. So nostalgically satisfying, it's served in a cast-iron pan and capped with a buttery puff pastry dome.
Tostones rellenos, Casa del Campo
Along with the killer sangria at Casa del Campo in North Babylon, you'll want to consider sharing the tostones rellenos, little stuffed plantain cups. The skirt steak filling is a juicy, smoky and garlicky choice.
Grilled octopus, Mannino's
Mannino's Italian Kitchen in Commack is often packed. One reason is the excellent grilled octopus, tossed with slivers of endive, red peppers and celery, finished with a lemon-and-olive oil dressing.
Classic grilled cheese, Mac & Melts
Not surprisingly, the most successful melted cheese sandwiches have the fewest components. It's hard to surpass the classic Wisconsin melt, featuring Cheddar on Pullman white bread; pair it with a bowl of the first-rate tomato bisque at Mac & Melts in Garden City and you've got a slam dunk.
Steamed pork buns, Kurofune
Try the house's namesake steamed buns at Kurofune in Commack. With some similarities with the Chinese variety, they are packed with cuts of tender, fatty pork and served with a modestly spicy, mayo-based sauce.
Elote callejero, Tocolo Cantina
Be sure to order the elote callejero, or Mexican corn on the cob, a vibrant side dish from chef Alexis Samayoa at Tocolo Cantina in Garden City; it's slathered with chipotle mayo and boosted with piquin chile peppers and grated, salty Cotija cheese.
Pork chop, Hush Bistro
The savory Berkshire pork chop at Hush Bistro in Farmingdale arrives with sweet potato puree, apple chutney and rainbow chard.