The motto at Restoration Kitchen & Cocktails restaurant in Lindenhurst is, “When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.”
For Restoration’s owner and executive chef Billy Miller, the motto is much more than aspirational. It has been his reality since opening in August 2018 on the former site of a
Lindenhurst civic organization, Old Fellows, whose mission was to anonymously give back to the needy.
Miller, born and raised in nearby West Babylon, says the concept of Restoration is quite simple: “We give back to those people who really need it.”
The restaurant takes all its net profits every four months and gives them to local charities. Net profits are calculated after all other expenses, such as food vendors, utilities, and staff salaries, including his own, have come out. So far, Miller says, Restoration has donated more than $153,000 to local charities.
Currently, the two recipient charities are Splashes of Hope, a group that paints murals for hospitals and healthcare centers, and Momma’s House, an organization that helps young mothers and babies in crisis. At the end of each meal at Restoration, diners are given the option of which charity they want the proceeds from their bill to be donated to. At each table, placards describe the charities being donated to and exactly who is being helped.
“They are always a Long Island charity,” Miller says. “I don’t like to cross a bridge…There are enough people right on LI who need help.”
Miller, 37, says that Restoration has been years in the making, going back to his start in business at age 15. He recalls having an array of jobs, from busing tables and running food to operating a tiki bar on Myrtle Beach and then bartending at Del Fuego in Babylon Village for three years. Unlike other chefs-turned-restaurant owners, Miller did not attend culinary school but utilized restaurant work to finance a master’s degree in counseling that led to a career in social work.
“I got a job as a teacher, moved briefly to South Carolina and even taught at Myrtle Beach High School, coaching football and baseball,” he explains.
Miller also worked as a social worker, helping kids with disabilities for nonprofit organizations including the Family Service League in Huntington and Bay Shore. Miller says the impetus for Restoration came when he was working in the nonprofit world, where oftentimes top executives make high salaries at the expense of direct services for needy families.
He told his wife he wanted to continue to help people by using his skills as a social worker, but also wanted to return to the restaurant industry, his other passion.
Miller says that while the pandemic has been challenging, they are adapting. Since Restoration’s indoors is too small to accommodate many diners, given current capacity limits, diners are comfortably seated and spaced in the restaurant’s parking lot greenhouse.
“It was weird — they send you the pipes and you assemble it,” says Miller, noting the greenhouse took a month to complete, with ventilation and heating systems.
He says the greenhouse gave his employees an opportunity to work when lots of other restaurants were giving up.
“So many restaurant employees were laid off for months and I refused to do that to my employees,” he recalls.
Other challenges, Miller says, included difficulty getting food and products and having to pivot to delivery as well as developing an app for people to order items like to-go cocktails.
Although Restoration has a full-time chef who handles most kitchen duties, Miller still helps. Specialties include a buffalo cauliflower appetizer, a chicken avocado sandwich made with anti-biotic free chicken and fresh baked bread, a surf and turf wrap, and a skirt steak quesadilla.
“People appreciate our food because everything is homemade and fresh, from using a special blend of meat for burgers, from-scratch dressings and sauces, and even cocktails that are all-natural…made from fresh fruit,” he says.
Asked about the restaurant business as a career, Miller says it is a great business — but not for everyone.
“This industry is physically and mentally taxing and you’ve got to be prepared to work 90 hours as a normal work week,” he says. “This is not a get-rich business … but if you have the time and energy to put into it, I believe it’s fantastic.”
Restoration restaurant is located at 49 East Hoffman Ave. in Lindenhurst. It can be reached at 631-592-1905 or restorationli.com.
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