Stuck in traffic somewhere between Rockville Centre and Port Washington, it’s easy to forget the true benefits of living on Long Island. Sure, proximity to Manhattan is a plus and the wide array of pizzerias and Chinese restaurants makes weekday dinners and late night gorging a breeze. But this Island’s greatest fringe benefit has to be the water that surrounds it.
The Long Island Sound, the South Shore’s Atlantic access and the East End’s forks have nurtured seaworthy affairs for generations of Islanders. There’s a nautical theme running through the veins of Long Islanders, sending them to the shoreline for sport fishing, sun tanning, wave surfing and, perhaps most importantly, seafood eating.
Seafood restaurants populate the map of Long Island like barnacles on the hull of a ship and come in all levels of style and price. There are white tablecloth elegant eateries, bar-and-stool casual shacks and places so close to the water, the air itself tastes briny. Residents have hundreds of restaurants on the Island to choose from, but here are seven seafood destinations worth reeling in before time runs out on the summer. (To find out tips about buying the perfect lobster, click here.)
Louie’s Oyster Bar & Grille
395 Main St., Port Washington
Slurping oysters from the shell while sitting on Louie’s deck overlooking Manhasset Bay as the sun sets is one of those classic Long Island moments. An institution since 1905, Louie’s menu starts with oysters, of the East and West Coast varieties, along with littleneck and cherrystone clams, all perfectly salty and cool on a warm summer evening. And if crowds render a table on the deck impossible, Louie’s dining room boasts views through large bay windows, adding seaside charm to its courses of Maine lobster, crab legs and fish house classics.
Rachel’s Waterside Grill
281 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport
With a prime spot on Freeport’s Nautical Mile, Rachel’s serves up New American seafood with a variety of dishes offering a fusion of fresh ingredients and creative recipes. Its lunch, brunch and dinner menus have the classics, but be sure to make time specifically for brunch and peruse the “Eggery” and Rachel’s “Benedicts” menus. There you will find life changers like lobster hash and eggs, three fried eggs over lobster potato hash, lobster Benedict, poached eggs with fresh lobster, sautéed spinach and grilled tomato on an English muffin and Baltimore Benedict, which replaces the English muffin with a Baltimore crab cake.
Popei’s Clam Bar
384 N. Wantagh Ave., Bethpage
This no-frills clam bar in a little shopping center goes big on portions and is packed wall-to-wall with customers on any given night. All the seafood classics are here, but locals in the know come out on Friday and Saturday nights after 10 p.m. for the late night menu. Clams for 99 cents and clams on the half shell for 59 cents, along with specially priced lobsters and crab leg clusters keep the restaurant filled through midnight. And the huge portions ensure a full belly at night’s end.
79 N. Long Beach Rd.,
An unpretentious paper-plate kind of place, Bigelow’s is the granddaddy
of all seafood fry houses. Its signature item is the belly-and-all, fried, whole bivalves, those Ipswich clams. The clam bellies are breaded and fried to order in soy oil and sold in 9-ounce portions. Crisp, golden bites of
comfort, the clams are the indisputable star of a fry menu that also
offers oysters, whiting fillet, Boston scrod, bay and deep sea scallops, shrimp, calamari, soft-shell crabs and smelts, a small delicious fresh water fish. Bigelow’s is cash only, so belly up to this bar with enough green to eat like a king.
The Jolly Fisherman & Steak House
25 Main St., Roslyn
If you’re looking for a romantic seafood meal in a restaurant with
a throwback atmosphere, the Jolly Fisherman is the place to drop anchor. Though the restaurant, with its multiple dining rooms, is about a half-century old, the decor and the food somehow manages to stay with the times. Classics like steamers stand beside newer additions like crispy shrimp dumplings, while the broiled South African lobster tails remain a crowd-pleaser along with salmon, scrod, swordfish and sushi-grade tuna.
Jordan’s Lobster Farms
1 Pettit Place, Island Park
Jordan’s has roots that go all the way back to 1930’s Brooklyn and much of the charm from that bygone era remains at the Island Park location. With a view of the Long Beach Bridge, Jordan’s is a charming seaside spot serving fresh seafood with unbelievable diner-type prices. This “restaurant” is really more of
a counter, doling out orders of oysters, clams, shrimp, crab cakes and lobster at an outdoor window and boasting an outdoor, waterfront garden for dining (there’s also dining indoors, if that’s your thing).
Southside Fish & Clam Restaurant
395 W. Montauk Hwy., Lindenhurst
Another low-cost casual seafood fish house, Southside remains one of Long Island’s favorite spots for fine, fresh fare since 1934. The seafood is cooked to order and meant for eaters on a budget. The seafood is as fresh as can be, coming right from the restaurant’s in-house fish market. The eating area, a lunchroom type of setting, is perfect for unabashedly ripping apart lobsters and crabs. Fellow diners won’t care if you hit them with shell shrapnel, because chances are they will return the favor.