While the concessions at local theaters and concert venues have vastly improved culinary offerings over the years, sometimes the best option is to make a night of it and eat out before the show begins. Most of the concert halls on Long Island and in the surrounding areas are located within waking distance to a varied mix of grub—everything from pizza to burgers to full-blown gourmet meals are available for a preshow ritual of eating, drinking and being merry.
With that in mind, here are some of the best dining options that serve as the perfect opening act.
Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater
The outdoor amphitheater famous for its inspiring vistas, exposure to the elements and numerous name changes stands as a true Long Island experience—a concert venue that feels intimate from the floor seats and miles away from the stage in the cheap seats. Dining out and making it to the theater in time for the show can be problematic, as the venue basically sits teetering on an island near another island. The best bet is to stock up on sandwiches and drinks at a deli, then find a parking spot to privately gorge among your fellow concert-goers.
Massapequa’s Seaqua Deli (4250 Jerusalem Ave.) is the classic delicatessen, with signature sandwiches like Chicken Cutlet Melt, Colby Beef Slam and Italian Bomb providing the perfect nourishment for a night at a windswept Jones Beach concert. There’s also a grill preparing hot foods and plenty of salad options for the more delicate eaters.
NYCB Theatre at Westbury
Back when it was known as Westbury Music Fair, NYCB Theatre presented music in the round in a comfy setting. Good news, that is exactly what the theater still offers. In the spirit of keeping things simple, dining before a show at the theater should be similarly uncomplicated, but with a gourmet twist. Enter Black Label Burgers (683 Old Country Rd.).
Unabashedly obsessed with high-quality meat, Black Label’s signature burgers run the gamut from straightforward to downright refined to vegetarian to antibiotic-free chicken to all-natural turkey. Black Label also goes the extra mile of suggesting beer-pairings for all of its burgers. The best pre-concert meal is probably the Red Label (a burger with applewood-smoked bacon, jalapeños, pepperjack cheese and spicy mayo on a potato bun), paired with an Ithaca Flower Power IPA—it sets the mood for a night of toe-tapping at the theater.
The Space at Westbury
Situated on quaint, yet bustling, Post Avenue, the Space (250 Post Ave.) has become one of Long Island’s most treasured intimate concert halls—and just steps away is one of Long Island’s most treasured hidden food gems. Little Mexico is often tightly packed with eaters and for good reason, as it consistently ranks near the top of the Island’s vast Mexican food army.
Traditional tacos—handmade round tortillas—are stuffed with steak, chicken, pork, chorizo and more, while the tortas—with much of the same ingredients as the tacos—are some of the best anywhere on the Island. Burritos, enchiladas and other platters are also available, but adventurous eaters simply must sample Little Mexico’s various dishes featuring la lengua—or beef tongue. Little Mexico sports a full bar, including plenty of sangria, which is perfect for pre-concert hijinks.
The Paramount, Huntington
If there’s one thing Huntington has plenty of—besides bar-hopping bros and gals—it’s an eclectic mix of restaurants with chefs operating at the top of their game. There’s tapas-forward eateries Swallow and Cafe Buenos Aires, cozy pubs F.H. Riley’s and Meehan’s, and the perfect for a late-night binge Little Vincent’s.
But the restaurant that truly embodies a concert atmosphere through food and feel is Radio Radio (24 Clinton Ave.), from the owners of nearby Huntington burger haven gastropub, the eternally cramped Vauxhall. This southern-style bistro and BBQ eatery boasts barbecue platters with ribs and brisket, along with southern fare like Nashville hot chicken, catfish, hush puppies, pulled pork and po’boy sandwiches. And if the concert happens to be on a Friday or Saturday night, roll down to Radio Radio after the show for late night tacos from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
When the Nassau Coliseum was reincarnated as NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, it once again became a live music destination for Long Islanders. Surrounding restaurants benefited from the coliseum’s rebirth, with concert-goers finding their favorite pre-show grub spot and watering hole to load up on sustenance. Hempstead Turnpike in the vicinity of the coliseum has plenty of options—everything from fast food to fine dining can be found within a 10 minute drive.
Topping the list is Sufiya’s Grill (2320 Hempstead Tpke.), with cuisine spanning the Mediterranean, including gyros, kebabs and falafel. But the main event is Sufiya’s authentic Persian cuisine, mainly its various grilled meats, stews and seafood. Be sure to indulge in the restaurant’s rice, particularly the cherry or barberry rice—both can’t-miss side dishes.
Forest Hills Stadium
The Queens venue, which shuttered after its 1960s-70s heyday, is in the middle of a grand renaissance with big-name acts descending on the affluent neighborhood in Forest Hills Gardens every summer. As it sits just off Austin Street and Queens Boulevard, there are plenty of diverse dining options within walking distance. For a gastropub/beer hall/whiskey den, the must visit option is Station House (106-11 71st Ave.).
The menu busts with the likes of wings, ribs, burgers, sandwiches, poutine, mac ‘n cheese and more, while drink menu overflows with craft beer, whiskey and specialty cocktails, all providing the perfect lubrication for a night of open air music.
If the night’s mood trends more toward pizza, visit cozy Forest Hills mainstay Nick’s Pizza (108-26 Ascan Ave.) for expertly executed thin-crust pies with all the right toppings.