Where to Eat on the Drive out to Long Island

Heading to the Hamptons and Montauk? Fuel up at Long Island’s best restaurants.

Long Island’s Montauk is nicknamed The End. Like a four-hour movie culminating necessarily with those two words, that eastward summer slog to Montauk and the Hamptons demands something as declamatory. Weekend traffic out east after Memorial Day is unbearable. Maybe what the trip needs is an intermission. Satisfy the soul, secure sanity, and let gridlock dissipate with these restaurant breaks.

Western Nassau County

Just past the bridges, engines in gridlock rumble, as do bellies. Seek the Shelter Rock Road exit on the LIE for SriPraPhai, a Thai restaurant that offers respite. Spicy duck green curry, fried soft-shell crab dressed in chili, garlic, and basil, and drunken noodles will satisfy. Tack on a spicy, sour Tom Yom or beef tendon soup and you’ll be immune to traffic for another few hours. For lighter but pricier fare, drive two miles north to the island’s best sushi spot. Kuryu New York has no sign but operates out of the Roslyn Seafood Gourmet fish market. There, omakase or chef’s daily special and fatty tuna options abound on this slim menu. The fish slices are gorgeous, the servers are well-versed in every dish’s origin story, California rolls feature real crab meat, and a seared salmon box will even appeal to raw fish purists. Between Sri and Kuryu is Gelateria dei Coltelli’s excellent gelato. Or stop for sundaes and nostalgia at Hildebrandt’s, where chalkboard menus and nearly 100 years of history are preserved.

There’s almost always a line for dei Coltelli’s gelato
There’s almost always a line for dei Coltelli’s gelato. Photo courtesy of dei Coltelli’s.

The Border

Near the county line, Hicksville is Long Island’s most affordable food town, and the best bites are along Route 107. Dozens of Indian restaurants, including the irresistible North Indian Thali at Dosa World, Indian sweet-shops serving parathas, and grocery stores with dollar samosas line 107. You can also find burritos-to-go at Taqueria el Sabor Poblano — weekends feature their barbacoa — or whole rotisserie chickens, rice, beans, and empanadas at the Colombian bakery Punto Rojo. Pollos El Paisa, a couple of miles west, offers a nearly identical menu inside its converted diner with a better sit-down experience, and they nail the skirt steak with chimichurri. While Michelin and James Beard prefer restaurants in Brooklyn or Manhattan, the upscale Chinese restaurant O Mandarin — also in Hartsdale — was Long Island’s only James Beard-nominated restaurant in the last few years. Treat your car full of people to the delicious whole fish, Peking duck, or the spicy Chongqing chili stew. Just two diners? Fret not. The kung pao shrimp and scallops or country-style pork are equally praise-worthy, and the General Tso’s chicken or Szechuan string beans will certainly satisfy.

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Suffolk County

The Farm Italy
Courtesy of The Farm Italy

The Farm Italy, where you might want to make a reservation when you book that Hamptons hotel months in advance, has a gorgeous bar, an inviting and elegant dining room, and exceptional eats. The fennel-touched octopus and salmon crudo is gastronomy perfection, Farm’s rigatoni with fennel sausage and hot peppers is a must, and the branzino with broccolini stops the show. Arlo Kitchen and Bar, with a slightly tamer ambiance than Farm, offers equally impressive food; two top tastes are baked clams with anchovy breadcrumbs that put clams oreganata to shame, and the duck breast dipped in chocolate chip cookie crumble, which pairs beautifully with Arlo’s lobster with house-made pappardelle.

The Farm Italy balances contemporary and classic throughout the dining experience.
The Farm Italy balances contemporary and classic throughout the dining experience. Courtesy of The Farm Italy.

Simpler and closer to the island’s eastbound highways are Saverio’s and the A&S Italian Pork Store in Massapequa, serving expertly made Neapolitan pies and gourmet Italian sandwiches, respectively. A&S’s prosciutto, mozzarella, and roasted red pepper hero will beckon you back to Long Island. At Vicky’s Casa del Sabor in Lindenhurst, inventive empanadas and a $21 tray of rice, beans, maduros, and three meats can feed four hungry adults. Why not heap on three servings of their slow-cooked, fall-apart pernil? It’s simply excellent.

Nearly There

Entering Westhampton is misleading. You might be off the main highways, but it’s still at least an hour’s drive to Montauk. Take a break at Fauna to savor oysters complemented by house-made horseradish and mignonettes, flavored with lavender and ginger. Go for perfect popovers with brown sugar and garlic butter, a bison carpaccio with espresso chili salt and smoky pine nuts that complement the bison, and pan-seared scallops with beets and parsnip purée. Fauna’s desserts come with a mandate: You must try the cinnamon and sugar-powdered zeppoles in a salted bourbon caramel or the fantastic golf-ball-sized sorbet trio. At the upscale Hampton Bays’ Good Ground Tavern, find excellent hot-honey and soppressata pizzas and house-made bucatini with Calabrian chilis and clams. Carissa’s the Bakery in Sag Harbor serves phenomenal breads, zhuzhing up already delicious croissants with almond paste or white Grenache and pistachios. Savory items like the chicken banh mi sandwich are worth the visit.

Fauna
Photo courtesy of Fauna

With the finish line nearby, stop for a splash of orange or Pét-nat wine at Channing Daughters Winery, or hail a historic cocktail at Barron’s Cove, overlooking the harbor. Decades ago, John Steinbeck sipped his preferred cocktail, the Jack Rose, at Barron’s Cove. (If you spot the head of the maintenance crew, ask questions: His mother was Steinbeck’s waitress, and his father served the author drinks.) Of course, seafood is a must out east. The Seafood Shop in Wainscott serves tasty lobster rolls and a workman’s special; about $20 for a full fish lunch with New England clam chowder.

Barron’s Cove in Sag Harbor
Barron’s Cove in Sag Harbor. Photo courtesy of Cape Resorts.

Noah Lederman is the author of A World Erased. His food and travel writing has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Economist, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He tweets @SomewhereOrBust.

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