WILD SIDE ORGANIC BISTRO & BAR
1551 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale
AMBIENCE: Millennial boho
ESSENTIALS: Lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.; wheelchair-accessible, beer, wine and liquor, accepts major credit cards, parking lot.
Things are pretty wild for the owners at Wild Side Organic Bistro & Bar in Oakdale, Jay Jadeja and Raquel Wolf, who have had to amend their vision for the place from 70 to fewer than 20 seats to comply with Suffolk County codes.
As they continue to make improvements to the restaurant-in-progress, they’ve decided to close its sister location, West East All-Natural Bistro & Wine Bar in Hicksville, and focus on development of the new spot.
But for customers, the dining experience is warm and remarkably even-keeled, considering.
Wild Side delivers more casual and less expensive fare than West East Bistro, from soups, salads and burgers to wood-fired Neapolitan-inspired pizzas. In an appeal to diners with dietary restrictions as well as a boho, eco-friendly crowd, the menu has been created with an emphasis on organic, all-natural and non-GMO ingredients.
Unlike the quirky interior, the facade of Wild Side is stately, the brick building framed by manicured landscaping. Inside, portraits of Sitting Bull, the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis oversee the dining room. Half the space houses bookshelves filled with homeopathic remedies, wellness books and neti pots for sale.
The market offerings will be phased out as the restaurant makes updates to comply with county regulations, the first of which will allow it to install a dishwasher and make the switch from serving wine in plastic and food on biodegradable plates to glassware and china. Jadeja and Wolf also are working with an engineer they hope will allow them to expand the dining room to the 70 seats they had originally imagined.
Service is prompt and warm, though a just-graduated bartender may “hon” you as you order a glass of sauvignon blanc from Husch Vineyards in Anderson Valley, California, or an organic Tempranillo from Vina Bujanda in Spain.
There’s also a respectable, local-focused beer list with brews from Coney Island Brewing Co., Fire Island Beer Co. and a couple from upstate, such as Keegan Ales from Kingston and Olde Saratoga Brewery from Saratoga Springs.
One of the reasons Jadeja wants to limit himself to a lone restaurant is so he can engage with customers, both on the floor and as he preps pizza for the wood-burning oven behind the bar.
About that pizza: It looks homemade and reflects the steep learning curve of Jadeja, who’s been working with the former executive chef at 1770 House and other East End restaurants, Kevin Penner, to guide him on how to make a long-fermented, flavorful dough. Keep an order simple with a marinara pie, dressed with tomatoes, oregano and garlic — no cheese. Pair it with a remarkably nice house salad that’s just mesclun, mint, parsley, red onion, olive oil and red wine vinegar. For more dynamic toppings, order the mozzarella di Bufala, a delightful white funghi pizza with taleggio and fontina or an interesting curried ground lamb pie with Merguez sausage, red onion, tomatoes and ricotta.
Jadeja gets inspiration from his sister-in-law with Deb’s coconut lentil stew, a comforting, vegan bowl that starts with vegetables simmering in coconut milk, to which lentils, ginger, turmeric and cayenne are added.
Deb is also the inspiration behind cauliflower balls, an egg-and-rice-flour fritter dotted with red onion and infused with tomato and turmeric. It’s finished off in the wood-fired oven, which gives it more flavor than a conventionally fried fritter.
Speaking of convention, there’s also the fried chicken sandwich with chili oil mayo and fine burgers for vegans and meat-eaters alike. The beef burger doesn’t hold back: It includes breakfast, with two 5-ounce patties topped with duck bacon, a sunnyside up egg and a choice of Cheddar or Swiss. This is perhaps the wildest dish on the menu, which is to say that the menu is actually quite simple.
“It’s not very Indian,” says Jadeja, citing his heritage. And it’s more straightforward than the menu at West East Bistro.
Simple foods seem to anchor the place: a comfort not just for diners but for the owners, too.