The launch of a restaurant can be splashy or under the radar. The chef can be a rookie or an old hand. The food can be plain or fancy. The neighborhood, swanky or nondescript. No surprise then that we, and many of our readers, are always on the hunt, checking out the hottest new places in an unending search for our next good meal.
Here are just a few that caught our fancy during the past year.
Small Batch (Roosevelt Field at 630 Old Country Rd., Garden City): “Farm to table” gets bandied around by a lot of restaurateurs who wouldn’t know a tractor from a truffle, but Tom Colicchio, the superstar restaurateur and head judge of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” walks the walk. And so, when the Mattituck homeowner opened Small Batch in Roosevelt Field, he focused “on the richness of what Long Island produces.” Vegetables, he said, come from Satur and Sang Lee farms, wines from Bedell and Paumanok, beer from Barrier, and vodka, gin and whiskey from Long Island Spirits. There is local talent in the kitchen as well: Chef de cuisine Tommy Chang, an eight-year veteran of Colicchio’s organization in Manhattan, lives in Manhasset Hills. The menu at Small Batch recalls the one at Craftbar, Colicchio’s casual Flatiron District restaurant that closed in 2017. Expect grilled Long Island squid with chickpeas and Aleppo pepper; white bean raviolini with clams, kale and Calabrian chilies; Long Island duck with squash con t and Swiss chard; a Wagyu burger with balsamic onions, tomato jam and truffled pecorino. Even the look of Small Batch has a local angle. The sleek-but-warm modern farmhouse interior is the work of Locust Valley’s Bentel & Bentel Architects. The restaurant is divided into a dining room with a view of the open kitchen, and a bar-lounge. All told, it seats 180 people. More info: 516-548-8162, smallbatchrestaurant.com -Erica Marcus
Tom Colicchio and his team have opened Small Batch in Garden City.
Maldon & Mignonette
Maldon & Mignonette (243 Glen Cove Ave., Sea Cliff): Robert Occhipinti has crammed a lot of cooking experience into the seven years since he graduated from the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. The Smithtown native cooked in restaurants run by Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Mercer Kitchen) and Andrew Carmellini (Locanda Verde) before returning to Long Island to work alongside Franco Sampogna, executive chef at Huntington’s late, lamented Jema. Now he’s striking out on his own at Maldon & Mignonette, an intimate Sea Cliff bistro with a casual yet elegant vibe and a menu that’s seasonal but not doctrinaire. (The name refers to Maldon sea salt, from England, and the French pepper blend, mignonette.) Among the signature dishes are gnocchi with Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), spinach and shiitakes; grilled bacon with peanut butter (yes, peanut butter), roasted carrot and red quinoa. More info: 516-801-3250, maldonmignonette.com -Erica Marcus
Chef and restaurant owner Robert Occhipinti in the dining room of Maldon & Mignonette in Seacliff.
Barndoor 49 (49 W. Main St., Bay Shore): True to its name, Barndoor 49 has a farmhouse vibe, from a woodsy dining room with a fireplace to drinks served in Mason jars. This is the reincarnation of longtime local favorite Milk and Sugar, and while Barndoor 49 dispatches with that spot’s shabby-chic feel, owner Gina Jaworowski has kept the comfort-food ethos in place, though with a fine-dining gloss. Offerings from chef Mike Mills include a short rib spring roll (an appetizer) to a grass-fed burger with mushroom jam, a 28-ounce “farmhouse ribeye” and a double-cut heritage pork chop with fried maple Brussels sprouts. The taverna-like front bar is a destination for drinks lovers, with a lengthy list of craft beers and cocktails such as “Off the Wagon,” which showcases Catskill rye and smoked cherry bitters. More info: 631-969-3655, barndoor49.com -Corin Hirsch
Gina Jaworowski at her restaurant, Barn Door 49 in Bay Shore.
Harleys American Grille
Harleys American Grille (283 Main St., Farmingdale): Behind every aged steak is a story of deterioration, which often happens hidden from view. Inside Harleys American Grille, that process is on full display behind the host stand: enormous cuts of beef in a salt-lined locker, all busy breaking down and building flavor. After 49 days, these are butchered into cuts that include giant porterhouses and Kansas City–style strip steaks, which are then fired by chef Allison Fasano. Don’t miss Harleys’ seafood dishes, either, from lemony crab ceviche to a killer lobster mac-and-cheese to halibut in creamy Thai coconut curry. Whether you eat in the sun-dappled front bar or the sexier back dining room, you’ll be tag-teamed like a treasured regular. More info: 516-586-8000, harleysamericangrille.com -Corin Hirsch
Executive Chef Allison Fasano at Harleys American Grille in Farmingdale.
The Bryant (100 Walt Whitman Rd., South Huntington): Gillis and George Poll are titans of Nassau’s North Shore dining scene with Bryant & Cooper and Hendrick’s Tavern in Roslyn, Cipollini and Toku in Manhasset, Bar Frites in Greenvale and Major’s in East Meadow. In 2018 they pushed into Suffolk with The Bryant, which transformed the building at the corner of Route 110 and Jericho Turnpike that had been TGI Fridays. The Bryant seats more than 250 diners in a roomy bar, a capacious dining room and assorted more intimate areas that can be made private by closing their glass doors. Dark wood and white tile, mosaic and subway, dominate; the place has an urban, updated-Art Deco vibe. The menu, which is as vast as the space, includes burgers, pizza, salads, sandwiches, charcuterie boards, a raw bar, pasta, fish, chicken, steaks and chops. Plus sushi. And poke. “We want people to be able to come here for clams and a beer or a burger or a porterhouse,” Gillis Poll said. More info: 631-923-3321, thebryantrestaurant.com -Erica Marcus
Gilles and George Poll at The Bryant in Huntington.