Chef James Tchinnis, a Long Island native, is the executive chef and owner of Swallow Restaurant in Huntington and Swallow East in Montauk. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, Tchinnis has worked at some of New York’s finest restaurants, including Le Cirque, The Grand Havana Room and Aliah.
Tchinnis opened Swallow Restaurant in the heart of Huntington Village in 2010 to rave reviews, and it quickly became such a popular destination that a brief renovation tripling its seating capacity became a must. His cuisine focuses on casual, sophisticated, New American fare with a dash of decadence and an emphasis on local ingredients.
With Swallow, Tchinnis has successfully combined high-quality, flavorful fare and vibrant pizzazz to create an extraordinary restaurant perfect for an elaborate feast with the whole family or simply an unforgettable meal with friends or a special someone before heading out to enjoy Huntington’s lively downtown nightlife, or a concert at The Paramount, located just a door down.
Evident from the swallow in mid-flight painted above above its entrance, the décor and vibe at Swallow is as much a part of the dining experience as its unique menu. It’s these carefully considered details that make a great first, and lasting impression.
Customers are greeted by Swallow’s hip and stylish bar, which is L-shaped with ample room for those enjoying cocktails or waiting for tables, and features a tall and elaborate bookcase-esque shelving arrangement as a backdrop, housing a vast selection of wines and liquor. Swallow serves old-style cocktails with a New Age twist, a wide variety of vino, and local craft brews, such as those from nearby Northport’s Sand City Brewing Company.
The dining room exudes intimacy, yet is large enough to host up to 64. A leather banquette runs the entire length of one wall, with tables and chairs on the opposite side below portraits of famous musicians. Dimly lit chandeliers and dangling single-bulb drop-lights set the mood, while the occasional vintage bird cage hanging from the ceiling in no particular fashion—one with a bright, fluorescent swallow inside—reminds you that this is a truly unique spot, indeed.
A poem scrawled in script on a wall outlines Swallow’s theme:
“The swallow is a bird that chooses a mate for life and returns home every year,” it reads. “For centuries sailors would have swallows tattooed on them to symbolize home and love. Here at Swallow we want you to feel as though you are visiting with us in our home, and hope you will return just like the swallow.”
My guest John and I were lucky enough to have warm weather on our recent visit, so the floor-to-ceiling windows were open to the bustling street, as concert-goers and window shoppers strolled by.
Swallow’s kitchen is open, literally, with six stools for patrons who enjoy watching the chef in action.
Our server, Sara, explained that the menu consists of small plates that are meant to be shared, and that each dish is sent individually as it is prepared.
As we perused the old-fashioned typewritten menu, we ordered cocktails.
A Vodka Gimlet, straight up for me, and a Gentleman’s Favor (Michter’s Rye, Carpano Antica, Hibiscus Tea Syrup and Homemade Cherries) for John. Both were outstanding. The gimlet was made with freshly squeezed lime juice and was perfectly chilled. The Gentleman’s Favor was so phenomenal that John ordered an encore.
Our dinner selections were all fantastic.
We began with a “snack” of Chips & Dip: House Cut Potato Chips with Black Garlic French Onion Dip. Paired with our cocktails, we were in heaven.
Dinner followed, with Mushroom Toast: Cremini, Shiitake, Oyster Mushrooms with Cognac Cream served over a Grilled Baguette. Delicious, creamy comfort food. The Angus Sliders, made of tender Angus Beef, Tomato Jam and Brie served on soft, fresh buns, were marvelous. Distinctly memorable was the Candy Apple Pork Belly. This plate could have been on the dessert menu, too, consisting of savory pork belly served atop Funnel Cake, with Salted Caramel Glaze and Toasted Pecans.
We were so full that we skipped dessert. Had we room, the Autumn Squash Cake with Pumpkin Ice Cream, Blackberry Port Reduction and Candied Walnuts would have been our first choice.
There are lighter options on the menu as well, such as Beet Salad and Butternut Squash Cappuccino with Truffle Broth (ordered by a diner next to me, who exuded its deliciousness to her partner several times).
Swallow’s adjacency to The Paramount gives “dinner and a show” new meaning. The restaurant was filled with couples and small groups, some heading to the show afterwards—a personal favorite of mine, legendary singer and guitarist Steve Miller!
You don’t need a ticket to an amazing concert, however, to enjoy the exceptionalism of Swallow. This is the sort of place that makes a great first impression and is a terrific dining destination on its own merit, evident by other diners who lingered to enjoy the small plate dishes that are meant to be ordered intermittently and shared.
A restaurant of this caliber gets noticed, and Swallow has won numerous awards, including being named one of Long Island’s Best Restaurants for Small Plates by Newsday (2015) and Best Small Plates by The Long Islander (2014 & 2015). Swallow has also been nominated in nine categories in the 2017 Best of Long Island Awards Contest, including Best Restaurant, Best Chef and Best Bartenders! (You can vote for Swallow at: Bestof.LongIslandPress.com until December 15.)
As that wall poem so accurately predicted, you will most definitely want to return to Swallow.
Main Art: Swallow Restaurant in Huntington serves small plates teeming with big flavors that create a lasting impression. (Photo courtesy of Swallow)
366 New York Avenue