Any good restaurant can make quesadillas or sushi, but if you add a twist like a quesadilla with gyro meat or a bagel-and-lox sushi roll, then you’re part of the latest trend in Long Island eats—traditional with a twist. So, just because you know that a good steakhouse will wow you with its chops or a seafood joint with its swordfish, don’t bypass their potentially addictive reinventions or their updated classics. Here are some of the best single dishes on LI, from Floral Park to West Islip, that do just that. Expect the unexpected.
THE GREEK PLACE
2144 Jericho Tpke., Garden City Park
Consider this the Hellenic home of the reinvention trend: An innovative storefront eatery where you can get quesadillas or Philly cheesesteaks made with gyro meat. This is Greek like you’ve never seen, and it’s a gem of a find.
Best Dish: Wings—All of them
The Greek Place’s Athenian Wings are prepared with a spicy creamy feta and are juicy, flavorful and damn delicious. The Spartan Wings, perhaps my favorite, feature the tang of lemon oreganato. And don’t forget to try the Chef’s Special Wings with feta and owner Pete Kantoulakos’ own terrific tomato balsamic dressing.
60 Nesconset Hwy., Smithtown
Anthony Scotto’s upscale steakhouse delivers first-rate food and quality service but it’s the seemingly simple, but surprisingly bold bisque that will knock your socks off.
Best Dish: Lobster Bisque
With all of that excellent high-end food, it was our starter, the remarkable Lobster Bisque. Simply put, it’s the best I’ve had in years. Filled with chunks of buttery, meaty lobster and mushrooms, the broth hit the impossible spot between sweet and savory. I would have been satisfied to order bowl after bowl throughout the night.
MAGGIE’S ON PARK
1020 Park Blvd., Massapequa Park
Thanks to Chef John Orphanos, the menu at Maggie’s is inventive and quality goes well beyond expectation. I was impressed by every single dish we ordered but, alas, I must pick one.
Best Dish: Chianti short ribs
The Chianti Braised Short Ribs were served over a stunningly delicious creamy Gorgonzola polenta with grilled asparagus and topped with a roasted tomato demi glace and crispy onion strings. If you’ve had better, more tender, short ribs, I want to know where.
1095 Jericho Tpke., Commack
Many Long Islanders know its sister location, the venerable Southside Fish & Clam in Lindenhurst, which opened in 1934. This is the upscale version.
Best Dish: Bar Harbour Lobster
This 1.25-pound lobster, prepared in an insanely delicious, chardonnay lemon garlic sauce, will have you licking every last morsel off your plate. A gallon of sauce to go, please!
3209 Horseblock Rd., Medford
You can’t miss at this Italian eatery, and this pick is totally cheating and really unfair to you, because it’s about a dish they no longer serve. However, if you all call and ask for it, they might just add it back.
Best Dish: PUMPKIN RAVIOLI
The unreal, heavenly Pumpkin Ravioli is drizzled with an amaretto and sage sauce and topped with homemade whipped cream. ’Nuff said.
39 Roslyn Ave., Sea Cliff
From soup to dessert, I enjoyed every single item I experienced here, but nothing beats the burger.
Best Dish: Fancy Burger
The Bistro’s Fancy Burger, moist and flavorful with chopped short rib, grilled red onion and Manchego cheese, is my favorite burger on Long Island, period.
31 S. Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck
Modern Japanese food with a focus on small, seasonal plates makes Miraku a true foodie destination.
Best Dish: Everything Bagel
signature sushi roll
The Everything Bagel Signature Roll, with smoked salmon, scallion, cream cheese, and “everything” seasoning is the extremely clever epitome of sushi reinvention. Simply genius.
2849 Jerusalem Ave., Wantagh
Traditional Japanese cuisine with a modern twist is what you’ll get at Mizuno.
Best Dish: Tuna cracker
An inventive selection, the Tuna Cracker Appetizer is unlike any I’ve had before. Tuna, mango, apple, avocado, tobiko, with a special chef’s sauce, all on a surprisingly crisp potato chip, this dish was fresh, innovative and filled with the perfect marriage of ingredients and textures. It’s probably the best single bite I’ve had all year.
POPEI’S CLAM BAR & SEAFOOD HOUSE
299 Raft Ave., Sayville
The menu is huge, the service is attentive and friendly, and the food, especially their seafood, is first-rate.
Best Dish: Caliente calamari
Piled high with incredibly tender fried calamari, heated with jalapeños and Cajun spices, and served with sweet marinara sauce, this is the best calamari dish I’ve ever had.
111 Mineola Blvd., Mineola
156 Gardiner’s Ave., Levittown
Their signature green sauce, fresh ingredients and large variety of Greek specialties are worth the a stop at either location.
Best Dish: shrimp Souvlaki
Tender, marinated, char-broiled shrimp served with pita, lettuce, tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
186 Jericho Tpke., Floral Park
This low-key, 44-year-old Italian restaurant is well worth the ride from…well, almost anywhere.
Best Dish: Chicken Chestnuts
The showstopper here is the Chicken Chestnuts, tenderized thin, with a sublime chestnut and red wine sauce that is almost fruity and completely reinvents the poultry flavor profile.
778 Montauk Hwy., West Islip
Villa Monaco is somewhat of an institution in West Islip—a local Italian favorite for nearly four decades.
Best Dish: Shrimp orange
Lightly breaded shrimp wrapped in prosciutto and melted mozzarella in an orange sauce flavored by Triple Sec, this dish also can be made with chicken or veal. There’s an old adage that you don’t mix cheese and seafood, but this dish proves that sometimes old adages are just plain wrong.
VINOCO WINE BAR & TAPAS RESTAURANT
147 Mineola Blvd., Mineola
Vinoco itself is like a tapas—a small, unlikely treat. The food is as hip and sophisticated as culinary fare you’d find in trendy Manhattan. The inventive offerings and sauce combinations here are brilliant.
Best Dish: Skewers & shooters
The Vinoco Marinated Chicken is flavorful, and arrives with a shot glass of Black Olive aioli. The Drunken Lump Crab Cake with its spicy Pina Colada shooter is another jaw-dropping dish with fresh ingredients and unexpected flavor combinations.
WILD HONEY ON MAIN
172 Main St., Port Washington
I haven’t eaten here since Chef Roberto Baez left, but many of his exquisite dishes are still on the menu. The intimate, romantic Wild Honey is full of bold, rich flavors and subtle finesse.
Best Dish: Oven roasted french cut chicken
The Oven Roasted French Cut Chicken with whipped Idaho potatoes, smoked garlic spinach and dark pan sauce was a spectacular twist to a classic.