Chef Michael Meehan: Making Culinary Music

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Photo by Ron Ulip

Award-winning Long Island chef and musician Michael Meehan must be a big believer in the theory of inertia that states that objects in motion tends to stay in motion.

Meehan, 60, is the chef/partner at farm-to-table restaurant River Road American Bistro in Oyster Bay, a chef/partner at barbecue restaurant Radio Radio in downtown Huntington and also chef at neighboring Vauxhall, also in Huntington, which Meehan describes as a Brooklyn-style, punk rock burger bar.

“Three years ago,” Meehan says, “I connected with the partners of Vauxhall and we developed the two restaurant concepts now next to each other in Huntington.”

And, as if that wasn’t enough, he somehow finds time “at least once each month” to play local gigs with his band the Lucky Ones, described as alt-country and roots rock. Critics have compared Meehan’s music to that of Warren Zevon — not exactly shabby company.

They’ve played at venues such as the Founder’s Room at the Paramount and Rockwood Music Hall in NYC as well as festivals including Huntington Fall Fest and an upcoming appearance at The Sayville Summer Fest this August.  

But first and foremost is Meehan’s stellar 30-plus year career in the restaurant business, highlighted by not only his current three venues but also his past involvement running unique and upscale spots including Mill River Inn (on the current site of River Road), Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff, Veritage in Rockville Centre, and Clearwater in Massapequa.

Meehan’s glowing reviews include being called “one of the region’s super chefs” by The New York Times’ Joanne Starkey and a “stellar chef” by Newsday’s Peter Gianotti. He was also named a Rising Star Chef by the James Beard Foundation.

He has worked with a handful of other restaurants including Coyote Grill in Island Park, Lori in Southampton, and H20 Seafood Grill in Smithtown.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Meehan grew up on Long Island before honing his culinary craft in California and Alaska.

He humbly recalls having learned to cook “in the field,” after traveling in his 20s, working in Lake Tahoe’s Northstar Resort, while making his way through the ranks first as a dishwasher and then finally to a cook.

Meehan recalls cooking and training in Manhattan before opening Mill River Inn in Oyster Bay and then later Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff, earning three stars from The Times.

He adds that he was very influenced by his travels in the south, particularly North Carolina and Nashville, which makes sense when he describes the fare at Radio Radio to be more influenced by Nashville (fried green tomatoes, chicken biscuits, shrimp and grits) and Memphis (dry-rubbed smoked BBQ).”

Meehan explains that Vauxhall’s owners (including himself) are all musicians who have played in bands and toured, with the name Vauxhall owing to a Morrissey album.

Signature dishes there include a new Cubano Burger with smoked pulled pork, ham, creole mustard and pickles, and a Lobster Pretzel Roll.

Radio Radio, named after an Elvis Costello song, is what Meehan calls a Southern-New American bistro with smoked meats as well as vegan offerings.

Typical dishes include Nashville-style hot chicken with creamy slaw and bread and butter pickles and Bistro Salad with dried peaches, candied pecans, goat cheese, and sherry mustard dressing.

At River Road, one might encounter seasonal Long Island seafood such as char-grilled Pine Island oysters with tomato absinthe butter or local sea bass with wheat berries, roast vegetables and carrot-yuzu broth as well as local beverages and products from Brooklyn to Montauk. 

Meehan, who seems to have little downtime, says he currently splits time between his two restaurants in Huntington and River Road in Oyster Bay.  

He adds, “But we are working on spring menu changes for Vauxhall and Radio Radio, so I will be there a lot more starting in April.”

River Road American Bistro, Oyster Bay, 160 Mill River Rd., Oyster Bay, 516-802-5661, riverroadoysterbay.com

Vauxhall, 26 Clinton Ave., Huntington, 631-425-0222, vauxhallhuntington.com

Radio Radio, 24 Clinton Ave., Huntington, 631-923-2622, radioradiohuntington.com

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