People usually crave the illusion of being on vacation. That's why a tropical theme works so well in restaurants.
Here are four places that create an escapist experience.
LAGUNA GRILLE, 7927 Jericho Tpke., Woodbury, 516-682-8000
At this casual, family-friendly spot, rattan furnishings and colorful Mexican tiles mesh well with a freewheeling Latin fusion menu. Choices include tuna ceviche, tropical chicken salad and a classic pork Cubano sandwich.
HAVANA CENTRAL, Roosevelt Field, 630 Old Country Rd., Garden City, 516-739-7900
Palm trees and vintage posters are part of the picture at this chain showpiece, which aims to bring a bit of pre-revolutionary Cuba to Long Island. Eat a Cuban sandwich, sip a passion fruit mojito and, on weekends, dance to a live salsa band.
ZIM ZARI CALIFORNIA COASTAL GRILL, 4964 Merrick Rd., Massapequa Park, 516-809-6960
With a name that's surfer lingo for "sand between one's toes," this upbeat spot features ceiling and wall-hung surf boards and beachy murals. The Cal-Mex cuisine includes Laguna Beach lettuce wraps, habanero edamame and a "Napa" bowl of soba noodles with crispy chicken.
BAHAMA BREEZE ISLAND GRILLE, Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove, 631-366-6212
At this corporate chain version of tropical paradise, you can imbibe one of the specialty drinks -- such as the fine Cuban mojito or rousing red Sangria -- amid potted palms and thatched lighting fixtures. Sunshine comes from the unfailingly cheerful servers; to keep that good vibe going, order some chicken empanadas, meaty habanero chicken wings or pulled pork over sweet plantains.