After nearly 30 years, Michael Meehan has returned to the kitchen where he first made his name. The chef is one of three partners who have opened River Road American Bistro in Oyster Bay.
It was 1989 when Meehan, then 30, opened Mill River Inn. The restaurant earned three stars from Newsday and launched the career of one of Long Island’s most respected chefs. On Thursday night, he came full circle with the opening of River Road at the same address. His partners in the venture are Veronica Meehan, the general manager (and also Meehan’s wife), and Kevin Galligan, who did the construction.
Since Meehan left the premises in 1996, the building has housed Serata, J. Michael’s Tuscan Steakhouse and, most recently (and briefly), the Pearl of Oyster Bay. Since that restaurant closed earlier this year, Galligan has done what amounts to a gut renovation. The high-ceilinged dining room, done in soft grays, is warmed by a fireplace. It seats about 50 people, the bar another 10.
River Road’s menu focuses on elevated American comfort food, made with as many local provisions as the season will allow. Starters include chargrilled Pine Island oysters with tomato-absinthe butter (six for $16), Crescent duck rillettes in a jar ($10) and a North Fork Nicoise salad ($14). Among the main dishes are steelhead salmon with kale Caesar salad and grilled lemon ($24), steak frites with chimichurri ($30) and roast half chicken in a skillet with vegetables and fingerling potatoes ($24).
After he left Mill River in 1996, Meehan went on to run, among other restaurants, Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff, Veritage in Rockville Centre and Clearwater in Massapequa. He also did stints at Coyote Grill in Island Park, Lori in Southampton, Michael’s at the Boardwalk in Riverhead and the short-lived Speranza Fine Italian Food studio in Woodbury.
In 2014, after a five-year stint at H2O Seafood Grill in Smithtown, he left the restaurant world and was appointed executive chef at Noyac Golf Club in Sag Harbor. But by 2015 he was inching his way back onto the scene, taking a consulting job with the Huntington gastropub, Vauxhall, in 2015. He eventually became the executive chef at Vauxhall and, with its owners, opened a barbecue restaurant, Radio Radio, next door. He remains involved in those two restaurants.
River Road is open for dinner from Wednesday to Sunday.
160 Mill River Rd., Oyster Bay, 516-802-5661.