For seemingly countless years, many Long Island communities have worked to create a “downtown” feel within their village centers, where shopping, dining, nightlife and other enticing pursuits are all within walking distance of one or more main streets.
The Village of Babylon — part of the larger Town of Babylon — has offered this kind of experience for decades, making the quaint, upscale waterfront destination one of the South Shore hangouts of choice for locals and visitors alike.
Nathaniel Conklin moved his family to the area known as South Huntington around 1803. Discovering that their new home was next to a tavern, Nathaniel’s mother proclaimed the area to be another “Babylon,” so Nathaniel named it “New Babylon.” LI’s Babylon town was officially formed in 1872, carved from a piece of the Town of Huntington. Babylon runs along the Great South Bay and beyond, also including parts of Jones Beach, Captree Island and Fire Island.
Today, Babylon village is one of the Island’s top locations for dining and nightlife, with a dizzying array of popular and innovative eateries lining Deer Park Avenue and Main Street, as well as well-frequented bars and pubs for thirsty patrons. The perennial popularity of the serene lakefront Argyle Park and the village’s ample dock space also makes Babylon quintessential turf for families and water lovers alike.
What follows is a sampling of the ways in which Babylonians — and anyone else with a hankering — enjoy this Long Island gem.
On the waterfront
There’s no other place in Babylon that’s as iconic as Argyle Park (Montauk Hwy., 631-669-1500, townofbabylon.com), with its signature dual waterfalls and whiterailed viewing areas welcoming all who cruise along the Montauk Highway/Main Street corridor through the village. The everpopular walking/biking/jogging trail runs in a loop around the park’s large main lake, passing side ponds and the playground along the way. Argyle’s also a classic local fishing spot, for freshwater species in the lake and ponds, and brackishwater dwellers in the pool below the waterfalls, which empty into the channel at the marina across the street. Over the years the brackish pool has been home to some truly massive carp; just try and catch one! There’s a reason they’ve grown so huge.
Or, for an even saltier Babylon experience, head south on Fire Island Avenue until you reach the Babylon Docks, where you can enjoy a splendid view of the Great South Bay and Robert Moses Causeway. It’s another timehonored fishing spot for pier-based anglers (especially during snapper season), and a favorite haunt among crabbers. Dock space is also offered for rental, when available.
While there, you may also choose to grab some fresh seafood at one of the waterfront establishments near the pier, including the venerable Pier 44 (444 Fire Island Ave., 631-661-5999, pier44restaurant.com) and Babylon Fish & Clam (458 Fire Island Ave., 631-587-3633, babylonfishandclam.com). Afterwards, pop in for a drink (or several) at the Sea Breeze Café (470 Fire Island Ave., 631-669-9790, seabreeze-cafe.hub.biz), a can’t miss local watering hole since 1985, featuring live music on specified nights and a consistent lineup of great locally brewed beer on tap.
Arts & nightlife
One of the great things about Babylon village is that even though its downtown area has been booming for years, it still continues to evolve and grow. One of the latest and much welcomed additions to the village is the renovation and upcoming opening of the Argyle Theatre (34 West Main St., 844-631-5483, ArgyleTheatre.com), a 500-seat venue that will occupy the historic building, which most recently housed the former Bow Tie Cinema. The theatre will host concerts, plays, musicals and other performing arts events when it debuts this spring, including six annual main stage productions. This coming year’s lineup includes: Hairspray, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Spring Awakening and The Producers.
After catching a show at the Argyle Theatre, or after you’ve dined at one of the downtown area’s many restaurants, the fun doesn’t need to end there. The village also has an extensive selection of pubs and clubs to choose from, many of which are institutions among locals. In addition to its fine food, the recently renovated Post Office Café (130 Montauk Hwy., Babylon, 631-669-9224, lessings.com) is one of those nightlife staples, attracting a healthy bar crowd for nearly 40 years within the former USPS building, which processed mail from the 1930s to 1970s. Sundays during football season are an especially tempting time to stop by, so you can enjoy some cocktails and upscale pub grub while watching the games on a 135-inch drop-down projection screen.
Babylon’s penchant for converting historic buildings into dining and entertainment spaces has also given rise to the Babylon Carriage House (21 Fire Island Ave., 631-422-5161, babyloncarriagehouse.com), an upscale bar and grille that occupies the aforementioned carriage house, built just after the Civil War. Patrons flock here for great food and top-tier drinks, as well as special events and themed nights. The restaurant offers a three-course prix fixe menu for just $27.95, there’s a Thursday night wine special that includes unlimited wine by the glass with the purchase of an entrée, and Sunday is primerib night.
Or, there’s Monsoon (48 Deer Park Ave., 631-587-4400, monsoonny.com), a trendy bi-level Pan-Asian hot spot built inside a former bank and known for its surf and turf. The owners are the same folks behind other upscale LI locales such as Tellers American Chophouse in Islip and Prime in Huntington, so expect excellence.
Another classic hangout, this time with a Celtic flair, is Lily Flanagan’s Pub (345 Deer Park Ave., 631-539-0816, lilyflanaganspub.com), where you can expect quality pub fare and a lively crowd most nights, as well as a steady stream of live music and special events. Tuesday is karaoke night, Wednesday is country night, there’s a late-night happy hour from 8 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and live acoustic performers are featured on weekends. Don’t miss steak and lobster night on Thursdays.
We’d also be remiss not to mention The Brixton (111 Deer Park Ave., 631-587-2000, thebrixtonbabylon.com) a gastropub that opened last year and quickly garnered rave reviews for its relaxed ambiance, mind-blowing drink selection and fantastic food menu. Be sure to check out its assortment of original cocktails, some featuring names that are Seinfeld references, like the “Serenity Now!”, “Gold Jerry, GOLD,” and “Del Boca Vista.”
The shopping scene
Babylon village’s downtown area isn’t just home to excellent restaurants and bars, either; there’s also a wideranging base of boutique shops and mom-and-pop stores that consistently attract strolling shoppers. One of the longest running of these bastions of commerce is Bunger Surf & Sports Shop (50 E. Main St., 631-661-1526, bungersurf.com), which has been outfitting area wave rider and skateboarders for decades under the guidance of owner Charlie Bunger Sr., who’s been shaping boards since 1961. The shop also includes the Long Island Surfing Museum (lisurfingmuseum.com), featuring Bunger’s personal collection of surfboards and surfing memorabilia.
The array of unique offerings doesn’t end there, either. For example, for those with a mystical and spiritual bent, there’s The Genie Within (135 Deer Park Ave., Ste 4, 631-335-8892, thegeniewithin8.com), a “metaphysical shop and healing sanctuary, where you will find all the essential tools and gifts for the body, mind and soul,” according to its website. The store carries a wide selection of incense, candles, books, CDs, aromatherapy products, essential oils, healing crystals, oracle decks, statues and more. The shop also offers services like tarot card and mediumship readings, as well as healing sessions using techniques like reiki and reflexology, all of which would be especially helpful after a long night spent crawling the village’s many pubs.
Babylon, it seems, really does have it all.Where to Dine
Argyle Grill & Tavern
90 Deer Park Ave., 631-321-4900, theargylegrill.com
86 Deer Park Ave., 631-321-8387, kotobukirestaurants.com
23 E. Main St., 631-669-4700, glensdinette.com
Barrique Kitchen and Wine Bar
69 Deer Park Ave., 631-321-1175, barriquekitchenandwinebar.com
Post Office Café
130 Montauk Hwy., 631-669-9224, lessings.com
135 Deer Park Ave., 631-482-1299, swelltacoli.com