Depending on the route, driving northeast toward Huntington takes travelers through tree-lined streets and serene waterfront properties. With sparse storefronts on the way, it’s easy to forget the destination cradles one of Long Island’s finest food hubs.
Split north to south by New York Avenue and sliced east to west by Main Street, Huntington Village is home to dozens of restaurants and bars, eclectic businesses, The Paramount and, at times, a desperate search for parking. The town is crowded for a reason—for years, downtown Huntington has staked its claim as the culinary haven on the island’s north shore. It is a town worth touring and eating through—from a cold cheese slice at Little Vincent’s and beyond.
400 New York Ave.
A stalwart eatery on New York Avenue for 11 years, F.H. Riley’s exudes comfort from doorway to dining room. The bar, helmed by an affable staff, offers an ever-rotating menu of craft and classic beers, fitting perfectly into Huntington’s saloon scene.
It’s the eating that brings true ease at F.H. Riley’s. Owner Brett Hughes conceived the menu with fresh ingredients that are handled with skill and prepared to customers’ taste. The appetizer menu features crackling calamari, which is tempura battered and tossed with cilantro Szechuan soy and lime, with a side of sesame ginger aioli.
The real standout is the crunchy chicken spring rolls, with buffalo chicken, extra sharp cheddar, scallions and served with Riley’s homemade blue cheese dip. The difference maker—besides the obviously fresh ingredients—is the homemade blue cheese. It’s delightfully chunky and delivers the mellow coolness crucial to buffalo-style flavors.
At Riley’s, the salads are far more than mere side dishes. The restaurant offers 11 specialty chopped salads with 11 house-made dressings. The most popular salads are the autumn harvest and California crunch. The latter has mixed greens, crisp Romaine, endive, golden raisins, toasted pecans, goat cheese, shaved apples and pears and a side of an outstanding buttermilk peppercorn ranch dressing.
For an entrée, customers love the herb crusted salmon and chicken Gorgonzola, but the show stopper is the meatloaf au gratin—a veal, pork and sirloin meatloaf wrapped in bacon and baked with blanket of melted swiss provolone and served with chili basting sauce, cream-whipped potatoes, steamed vegetables and Riley’s take on onion rings, Tabasco onion fritz.
It’s easy to see why Riley’s remains a popular downtown spot—and why the restaurant has plans to expand to Northport.
366 New York Ave.
Moving on from large plates of comfort food, this Huntington food tour stops at Swallow, home to new American small plates.
Swallow first opened in 2010 and has since expanded, offering a larger dining area and a full bar. The tapas style allows for plenty of sharing—so customers are encouraged to pass their plates around and sample all the fare.
The long list of small plates includes a cool, refreshing golden beet salad with arugala, apple, honey cider vinaigrette and goat cheese. From there, the pan roasted Brussel sprouts are popular, as is the rich and decadent fresh mafalda pasta with uni butter sauce and garlic confit. Speaking of confit, the duck confit pizza amazes with thin crust, truffle Marscarpone, caramelized onion and Parmesan.
The two hugely flavorful small plates are the root beer braised short ribs and French onion sliders. The short ribs are fall-apart tender and deeply succulent, served with cold Soba noodles for contrast, crushed almonds for texture, scallions and the perfect amount of Thai chilies. French onion sliders go well beyond the typical burger, with Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and a perfectly unique thyme-roasted garlic aioli.
Swallow puts plenty of thought into its drink menu, too, offering three types Oskar Blues beer on its regular menu, along with masterfully mixed cocktails.
26 Clinton Ave.
This craft burger joint sits in the heart of the village—it’s loud, it’s crowded, it’s perfection. The starter menu boasts free range chicken wings with a sriracha lime BBQ sauce (along with a vegan version), classic poutine with house-cut fries, cheddar curds, green onions and gravy and a decadent mac and cheese.
But it’s Vauxhall’s burgers that bring in the crowd. These half-pound custom burgers include the Villager, with tomato jam, bacon and cheddar on a brioche bun; Breakfast Binge, with bacon, cheddar and a sunny side egg; and Evil Sal, with spicy ghost pepper marmalade, onion ring and pepper jack on a pretzel bun. Then there’s the Ramen Burger, with pork belly, napa slaw and spicy yuzu ketchup. Vegan burgers are made in house, including the Chick Pea Edamame Burger with pickled peppers and soy bean hummus on a whole grain bun.
Beyond burgers, Vauxhall’s Double Duck Dog features an uncommon take on the usual hot dog. This dish features duck sausage with onion mustard seed relish on pretzel rolls. Vauxhall also offers a Yard Bird chicken and waffle sandwich featuring a bacon cornmeal waffle serving as the bun with buttermilk fried chicken and pepper marmalade.
Drinks are an important part of Vauxhall’s vibe, with cocktails and a dynamic craft beer menu always available.