At the approximate halfway point between Out East and New York City lies one of Long Island’s loveliest and most historic downtowns. Fittingly enough, Huntington is a place that strikes an interesting balance between small town and little city, teeming with small businesses and local charm while still maintaining a certain hipness and enough nightlife swagger to draw a young and vibrant crowd after dark.
Huntington was settled in 1653, making it nearly as old as some of the earliest colonies. As was the case with just about every burgeoning Long Island community back then, its harbors — along with its agriculture — were the focal point of both industry and community, allowing for its growth into a major hub of Colonial commerce. The waterfront may still be a crown jewel, but today’s Huntington is focused more on great food and drink and unique shopping experiences than any of its former commercial calling cards.
“Huntington’s nickname is the ‘Little Apple,’” executive director of the Huntington Historical Society Stephanie Gotard tells the Press. “It has something for everyone: small museums, a concert venue, art galleries, great restaurants, parks, beaches.”
Should you decide that you’d like to come see what the Little Apple is all about, be sure to stop by a few of these can’t-miss spots.
ANY MEAL YOU CAN IMAGINE
Downtown Huntington is a place best appreciated on foot, which lends itself to some spontaneity when it comes to grabbing a bite to eat. However, you’ll likely be overwhelmed by all the great options, so write these down before you leave…
For a radically original taco takeout experience, try Tony’s Tacos (281 Main St, 631-547-5000, tonystaco.com). You may have never even dreamed of a Mexican-Italian fusion spot, but you will frequently after trying just about anything on their menu.
For a far more traditional Italian experience, try Little Vincent’s (329 New York Ave,631) 423-9620). It’s a legendary Huntington pizza staple. The menu is nearly nonexistent, which speaks to the impressive power of their regular slice. For the full experience, ask for a cold cheese slice.
Brunch is very popular in Huntington, and perhaps the most popular brunch spots are The Shed (54 New St., 631-385-7433, intheshed.com) and Hatch (286 Main St., 631-424-0780, hatchbrunch.com). Be sure to call ahead, because the wait is typically long (but worth it).
When it comes to fine dining, it’s usually the spots with the monosyllabic names that are the cream of the crop. A case in point: Huntington’s Prime (117 North New York Ave., 631-385-1515, restaurantprime.com) and Red (417 New York Ave., 631-673-0304, redrestaurant.com). The former offers beautiful waterfront views while the latter is conveniently located right in town.
For the best chicken in town, check out Elsie Lane Wing House of Huntington (295 Main St., 631-824-6236, www.elsielanewinghouse.com). For a diverse and delicious menu and great drinks, check out Crabtrees New York & Main (330 New York Ave., 631-923-0920).
PLENTY OF PLACES TO SHOP
You can wander past a large and eclectic variety of shops in a relatively small area in Huntington Village, each one of them with something unique to offer.
Escape Pod Comics (302 Main St., 631-923-1044, escapepodcomics.com) is among Long Island’s premier providers of art and imagination bound within books. Don’t worry if you’re not a big comic book reader: There’s something for everyone in here and owner Menachem Luchins is always glad to help you find it.
“[We offer] a cornucopia of different kinds of comics, for every age and every interest,” Luchins says of his Main Street shop, which is now celebrating its 10th year in business. “We’ll be celebrating our anniversary in February with some wonderful events from the 19th-25th, including ones at the local library, the Cinema Arts Centre, and an in-store signing. We’re also making limited edition tote bags and we’ve introduced an online ‘book of the month club.’”
Luchins attributes the decade of success at Escape Pod partially to the town it calls home.
“Huntington Village is the rare Main Street U.S.A. that still has mom-and-pop stores, places to pick up everyday amenities, clothes, and dining experiences,” he tells us. “With our shop trying to prove that there’s a comic out there for every kind of person, a spot in a town like this one, where every sort of person paces through in the course of a year, is a no-brainer.”
Long-standing and beloved bookstore Book Revue closed down in late 2021, but The Next Chapter (204 New York Ave., 631-482-5008, thenextchapterli.com) has recently arrived to continue the iconic bookseller’s story. They’ve got new stuff, used stuff, rare stuff, collector’s editions, records, and much more.
If you want to add something unique to your wardrobe or your home, check out one of the many diverse boutiques in Huntington, like Madison’s Niche (14 Wall St. 2nd Floor, 631-683-5700, madisonsniche.com) and Fashion/Life Boutique (245 Main St., 631-377-5052, fashionlifeboutique.com)
FANTASTIC WAYS TO SPEND YOUR DAY
You can arrive in Huntington at daybreak and continue to find new ways to enjoy yourself until the wee hours of the following morning. These are just a few of those ways.
You shouldn’t leave Huntington without stopping by Heckscher Park (11 Prime Ave., 631-351-3089). This 18.5-acre entry in the National Register of Historic Places is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing picnic on the grass. It’s also got a playground and a pond full of turtles, fish, ducks, and more—and there’s also the Heckscher Museum of Art which houses 2,300 works from various artists.
For some indoor entertainment, try Main St. Board Game Café (307 Main St., 631-729-0060, mainstboardgamecafe.com) where you and some friends can grab a drink and play a vast array of games of all kinds, from the beloved classics to modern party games to complex strategy games and more.
You can also stop by Catpurrccinos (322 Main St., 631-944-3331, catpurrccinos.com) for some craft food and a high-quality cup of coffee and then enjoy it in the company of a few dozen rescue cats and kittens.
“We’re a top-notch coffee shop with fresh baked goods, Hamptons roasted coffee, paninis and sandwiches and desserts,” part owner Jim Oliva tells the Press. “But we’re also a cat café, meaning we have a whole different section in the back completely separated from the food area where people can make a reservation online and go in the back to play with our adoptable cats and kittens.”
The café, which donates part of its proceeds to helping stray animals on Long Island, holds different events throughout the week, including cat yoga on Wednesday nights, trivia nights every other Thursday, and more. Just be sure to book a reservation ahead of time if you want to see the cats, as they (understandably) tend to book up fast.
EVERY KIND OF ART
If you love art galleries, live music, and indie films, then Huntington has everything you’re looking for, from internationally recognized music venues to hip little spots you usually find only in big cities.
The Paramount (370 New York Ave., 631-673-7300, paramountny.com) is consistently ranked among the best club music venues, not in the state, not in the country, but in the world. The near-century-old theater alone is a sight to behold, but the acts that grace its stage are even more impressive. There aren’t many other spots on the island that are posting such big names on their marquee regularly.
The movie theater that exists solely out of a passion for and appreciation of the art form is exceedingly rare today, and Huntington has one in the Cinema Arts Centre (423 Park Ave., 631-423-7610, cinemaartscentre.org).
“We show a wide range of films, from first-run independent and foreign films to beloved classics to campy horror,” Director of Operations Ryan Perry tells us. “We also show documentaries that dive into many current events, as well as timeless old silent films with no digital restorations, that can only be seen projected on the big screen.”
The Cinema Arts Centre also holds live music events in their café, shows concert films across all genres, hosts filmmakers such as Spike Lee and David Lynch for screenings and Q&As, and much more.
If you’re more into fine art, don’t worry, there’s plenty for you, too. The Gallery @ (51 Gibson Ave., 631-320-2490, thegalleryattattoo.com), fotofoto gallery (14 W Carver St., 631-549-0448, fotofotogallery.org) and B.J. Spoke Gallery (299 Main St., 631-549-5106, bjspokegallery.org) are all worth a look and they’re all within walking distance from one another.
You can find local bands of all kinds playing at Spotlight at the Paramount (370 New York Ave., 631-637-1225, www.spotlightny.com) and Industry Lounge and Gallery (344 New York Ave., industrymakers.art). Both offer a gateway into underground local music that’s difficult to find anywhere else on the island.