FOOD 2 stars
26 Clinton Ave.
SERVICE Very good
AMBIENCE Huntington hipster
ESSENTIALS Dinner, Sunday to Thursday 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 4 to 11 p.m.; late-night burger menu until 2 a.m. daily; bar open until 4 a.m. daily; wheelchair accessible, although it’s often crowded; accepts major credit cards.
Just when it seems like Long Island is saturated with burger restaurants, along comes Vauxhall.
If the crowds are any indication, the place is a hit. Here’s the winning formula: a small spot in downtown Huntington, run by restaurateurs on the rise who have put together a menu that shows off quality ingredients, local sourcing and skill. And a late-night menu until 2 a.m.
With industrial lighting, reclaimed wood accents and a cozy bar, the nearly 40-seat Vauxhall doesn’t reinvent the wheel. But it’s a just-right place to meet a spouse for an after-work bite or a friend for a glass of pinot noir.
And it’s becoming a go-to for the young and the stylish.
Just before the winter holidays, the partners behind Amityville Music Hall — Eric Finneran, Salvatore Mignano and Dan Valentino — opened the restaurant in the space that used to be Char Grille. In line with their interests, they named the restaurant after the 1994 Morrissey album “Vauxhall and I.”
Early on, the partners brought in a big-name local chef, Michael Meehan, who earned accolades at H2O in Smithtown, Clearwater in Massapequa, Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff and Mill River Inn in Oyster Bay, where he got started in the 1990s.
Meehan, who was introduced to the them by a friend of a friend, did a one-and-done with the menu.
The result is the selection of dishes he cooks every day: A manageable list of starts/shares/salads, a handful of burgers and just as many alternatives.
This is food that goes with beer, like an easy-drinking Krombacher ($6) or a malty Greenport Anti-Freeze ($7).
The bar also pours a respectable selection of primarily New World wines by the glass. Craft-cocktails range from the perfect sazerac ($12) to the cold brew coffee old-fashioned ($12) that, with chocolate mole, is a bit of a reach.
Among starters, salads are mostly hits, with theVauxhall a flurry of dressed greens, smattered with chickpeas and Marcona almonds. In contrast, the Wedge is turbo-loaded with ranch dressing, bacon, Gorgonzola and a confetti of cherry tomatoes.
Plump wings arrive crisp, sticky, spicy and sweet, though I’d be happy for less of the latter.
Another starter, the poutine, can be as big as a dare. Delicious house fries, piled high with Cheddar curds, scallions and a ladle of gravy can be ordered with duck sausage or short ribs to make a decadent dish richer. The vegan version, with tomato gravy, tempeh and pickled peppers, arrives hot and heavy in a good way.
The stars of the menu are the burgers, of course, made from a beef blend from Farmingdale’s Main Street Meats. A balance of brioche to burger, they’re popular dressed with bacon, tomato jam and a sheath of Cheddar for the Villager, or caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms and Gruyere for the Wild Life. My favorite is the Evil Sal, with ghost pepper marmalade with an onion ring on a pretzel bun, hold the pepper jack.
Vauxhall isn’t just for meat eaters. Burger alternatives include the silly yet satisfying fried chicken on a waffle bun, as well as the vegetarian-friendly black bean sweet potato burger or the upmarket grilled cheese.
The cooking style is not as far astray from Meehan’s fine dining past as one would think.
“It’s a bit like working in a modern French bistro,”
Meehan said. “This is what people want.”