54 New St., Huntington
AMBIENCE: An airy California vibe
SERVICE: Young, genial, attentive — and clad in flannel shirts
ESSENTIALS: Open Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to late; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to late. Leave time for street parking in Huntington. Wheelchair accessible. No reservations.
All-day breakfast? Check. Bracing coffee? Yup, with cream delivered in mini milk jars. Burgers draped in American cheese? Yes, and onion jam, too.
Though The Shed may not call itself a luncheonette, it has one’s hallmarks — but then plays with the formula to create something new. Instead of a Formica counter, there’s an attractive bar. Instead of greasy eggs and bacon, there are eggs Benedict and gluten-free (almond) pancakes, plus grain bowls and craft cocktails galore. Not all of it works, but The Shed, which opened in downtown Huntington this fall, is a charming and magnetic place.
This is the brainchild of partners John Tunney (owner of the Besito chainlet) and John Reiger, who took the building where Abel Conklin’s resided for a quarter-century and installed a bar on one side, an airy dining area on the other, and many funky touches — such as rabbit-covered wallpaper, vivid art and woolly blankets for those on the patio. To sling the food, they tapped chef Bob Baez, formerly of a Newsday Top 10 favorite, Bellmore’s Morning Rose Cafe.
By day, The Shed has an almost California vibe; by night, the lights are dimmed and the mood turns elegant. You can feel as at home here in a sports jacket and pocket square as in jeans and a hoodie. Either way, you might need to wait for a table, because The Shed doesn’t take reservations and waits can be long.
One of The Shed’s robust cocktails — such as a bourbon-laced Shed lemonade — can help soften the wait. And the Bloody Mary here is practically made for Instagram, its surface erupting with ribbons of pickled cucumber and carrots. Eating/drinking one probably fulfills two daily vegetable requirements.
Healthy indulgence is a theme at breakfast — which doesn’t start till 11 a.m. during the week — such as creamy avocado toast, topped with slivered watermelon radishes, and a less-eggy-than-usual French toast. Some dishes taste as if they’re low-cal doppelgängers for the fatty thing you really want. What might otherwise be a caloric bomb of cornbread, slabs of sausage and perfectly poached eggs smothered in hollandaise — aka eggs Benedict (The Shed serves multiple iterations) — tastes too “lite.” Fried chicken and waffles need ample butter to offset their dryness, though fiery habanero-laced honey is a genius thing. About the most indulgent-tasting dish on our table one Sunday morning was The Shed’s excellent corned beef hash, laced with salty, luscious meat. And every egg that hit the table, from poached to fried, was impeccably cooked.
Conversely, The Shed’s sandwiches can be messy but winning. The Shed burger mimics fast-food versions, but with more largesse: a freshly ground patty (cooked rarer than ordered) crowned with iceberg lettuce, melted American and Swiss, and an aioli-like, secret “Shed sauce” on a toasted bun, a dab of onion jam for sweetness. It slid around in messy ways but evoked nostalgia. A fried-chicken sandwich, a simple construction of fried breast, buttermilk dressing and pickles, had a trace of heat that kicked each bite up a notch. The Shed’s squishy Reuben, stuffed with that luxe corned beef, plus melted Swiss and crunchy sauerkraut, deserves many return visits.
At 4 p.m., The Shed’s menu sheds some of its breakfast items but gains an army of starters and mains. The best of them are fried pickles with a tart buttermilk dressing; a crimson, earthy beet hummus; and toast smeared with burrata and chili-laced jam that makes you wonder why you’ve never thought of this.
Yet, The Shed’s entrees can stumble. An oversized skillet of mac-and-cheese was the best among them, its gooey surface hiding tufts of béchamel and slivered jalapeños. Roasted organic chicken, whose coppery crust gave way to meat that was parched in places and served with practically incinerated roasted root vegetables, didn’t quite come together. A mammoth strip steak, one evening’s meat special, was well-seared but slightly tough and served with a muted chimichurri.
The Shed’s healthful bent finds its ultimate expression in The Shed bowl, a virtuous but underdressed convening of roast chicken, grains, greens and seeds. It went uneaten as our table polished off a side order of giant flaky biscuits with thick chicken gravy.
Desserts disappointed. A bag of brownies was more akin to a bag of crumbled chocolate cake; s’mores in a jar was supersweet. Better to spend those calories in savory (eggs) or liquid (cocktail) ways, and soak in The Shed’s killer ambience.