Dining across Long Island for the last year, one fact has been seared into my mind: one need not venture into the city to find dynamic chefs performing amazing feats of culinary expertise.
My yearlong culinary journey landed my fork in towns like Huntington, where exciting eateries like Swallow serve inspired small plates; or Franklin Square, where a small restaurant called Brasas Peru delivers a game-changing roast chicken. While virtually all of the restaurants served up tasty morsels, some mouthfuls continue to live on in my palate’s memory.
Here are my four favorite bites of the last year.
221 Old Country Rd., Carle Place; 516-742-0940; www.lldent.com
Any search for a little soul-food flair on Long Island must begin with a stop at the incomparable LL Dent on Old Country Road in Carle Place. Listening to chef Leisa Dent proudly tout her culinary techniques while sitting down for a meal in this cozy eatery is worth the price of admission alone—add the southern flavors and what you have is one of the island’s best dining experiences from soup to nuts.
LL Dent’s fried chicken is built on a solid foundation of tradition, with the chef’s own style shining through in a crisp smack of sage, rosemary and thyme. This proprietary blend of seasonings provides depth, with the chef’s honey, jalapeño and habanero concoction—dubbed “Sweet Jesus Sauce”—kicking in a shot of sweet-spicy vigor. LL Dent offers perhaps the most authentic fried chicken experience on the island, with the bird’s unadulterated juiciness leaving eaters licking fingers, chops and everything else.
Read our original review of LL Dent and other fried chicken joints on Long Island: Chicken Run
Rolling Spring Roll
228 West Jericho Tpke., Syosset; 516-677-9090;
189 Main St., Farmingdale; 516-586-6097; www.therollingspringroll.com
Vietnamese chef Joe Bui hit the road with his native region’s cuisine in tow, serving his fresh, scratch-made recipes in two full-service restaurants in Farmingdale and Syosset. The Rolling Spring Roll’s true charm lies in its selection of Pho, a bowl of beautifully married meats or vegetables with onions and flat rice noodles in a rich and aromatic broth.
The Pho Bo, with beef, is a big bowl of thinly sliced beef, beef brisket and meatballs, swimming in a fragrant broth dotted with golden flecks of delicious fat. This crown jewel of Vietnamese comfort food hits all the right notes, as the sound of slurping noodles amplifies through the dining room of both restaurants.
Read the original review: Rolling Vietnamese
2320 Hempstead Tpke., 516-644-2200, 2057 Merrick Rd.; 516-644-2201; www.sufiyasgrill.com
Sufiya’s Grill has garnered a reputation for thrilling, homemade Persian dishes prepared with spice blends and ingredients that surprise eaters and arouse their palates. Entrées at Sufiya begin with a lesson in Persian rice. Relegated to the role of a side dish in this country, Persian rice is often simply prepared with butter and saffron, but it can also be married with robust ingredients and transformed into the meal’s centerpiece. There’s white and brown basmati rice, but true long-grain enlightenment lies in Sufiya’s cherry rice and barberry rice, both featuring varying levels of luscious sourness, a staple in the Iranian flavor palate. Sufiya’s rice, one of the best takes on rice I’ve ever eaten, pairs wonderfully with any of the eatery’s grilled meats or vegetarian options.
Read the original review: Persian Delight
Anchor Down Seafood Bar & Grill
1960 Bayberry Ave., Merrick; 516-544-4334; www.anchordownny.com
In Merrick’s Open Bay Marina, Anchor Down is owned and operated by its head chef, Stephen Rosenbluth, who also happens to be a former Montauk fisherman. All of the seafood favorites are well-represented, including an oyster selection, littleneck clams (half shell, steamed or baked), jumbo lump crab cake and mussels. But check out Anchor Down’s blackboard for daily specials—this is where Rosenbluth’s skills as a seasoned chef truly crest.
Anchor Down’s Lobster Tracey—a succulent lobster stuffed with breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese, garlic, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper takes my favorite food, lobster, and somehow makes it even more enticing. Be sure to wear a lobster bib and take care to warn those around you about possible lobster shrapnel. But remember: if you didn’t make a mess, then you didn’t eat your lobster correctly.
Read the original review of Anchor Down and our other favorite seafood restaurants on Long Island: Long Island’s Best Catch
Trying to decide where to eat next? Be sure to check out our other restaurant reviews: