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Dining

The cheese steak egg rolls from Del Frisco's Grille. Photo from Del Frisco's Grille.

Residents of Huntington who are looking for a new bite to eat should look no further than Del Frisco’s Grille. Opening this Friday, June 24, in the Walt Whitman Shopping Center, Del Frisco’s promises to be a comfortable, family-friendly spot with twists on classic American dishes.

“We cater to such a broad audience,” Executive Chef Seth Barton said. “Yes, we are American comfort food with a twist, but you’ll see Mediterranean food on our menu, and Asian twists.”

It is the first and only restaurant from the Del Frisco’s chain on Long Island, and there is something for everyone. The menu ranges from classic burgers with their signature “sloppy sauce” to appetizers like the cheesesteak eggrolls, which have a sweet and spicy chili sauce and honey mustard drizzled over them.

Popular entrees include prime beef short rib stroganoff with pappardelle noodles, prime ribeye and filet mignon.

Del Frisco's Grille in Huntington at the Walt Whitman Mall. Photo from Del Frisco's Grille.
Del Frisco’s Grille in Huntington at the Walt Whitman Mall. Photo from Del Frisco’s Grille.

Everything on the menu is made fresh in-house, which Barton said is one of the most important parts of the restaurant.

“We get our fresh seafood in daily; we’re trying to get the best quality out there possible,” Barton said. “That’s one thing we really pride ourselves on.”

Aside from lunch and dinner, the grill also serves brunch on Sundays, which includes items like red velvet waffles, chicken and waffles, crab Benedict and a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary that comes with multiple sides, including green beans, pickles and more. The menu includes weekly features, a rotating daily dish and various handmade cocktails, such as the signature VIP cocktail, which is made with only two ingredients — pineapple and clementine vodka.

The new spot holds about 300 guests indoors and has a private dining area that is available for parties. There is also an outdoor dining area on the patio that can hold at least 35 people.

The location where Del Frisco’s Grille sits had been empty for more than a year, the only vacated eatery spot in the mall.

Staffers said they can’t wait to get to know and become a part of the Huntington community.

“[We’re] super excited,” Barton said. “Everybody in this area that we’ve met with has been welcoming with open arms.”

Smaller eateries could seat more, serve liquor

Smaller restaurants in Huntington may be able to expand their seating and serve a glass of wine with food. File photo

Huntington Town is looking for ways to allow smaller restaurants, like dine-in pizzerias and coffee shops, to offer more seating and obtain a liquor license in order to make them more competitive, officials said this week.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) sponsored legislation that attempts to help small businesses that serve food on-premises by placing them under a new classification. Currently, the town only classifies such establishments as either food shops or restaurants, but the former cannot have more than 15 seats and cannot serve alcohol, while the latter must have a floor plan of at least 2,500-square-feet. If passed, the resolution would create a new classification for bistros and allow one seat per 65-square-feet of total floor area, for a maximum of 38 seats in a 2,500-square-foot location.

If a business were to be approved as a bistro spot, it would have to meet specific parking requirements, could not have a drive-through, and could not dedicate more than 5 percent of its total gross floor area to prepackaged retail products, Edwards’ legislation said.

“Creating the bistro classification will help preserve the type of unique, local businesses that are present in our small strip malls as well as in our local villages and hamlets,” Edwards said in a statement. “This measure is important so that small businesses continue to have economic growth within the town of Huntington.”

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said that it’s important for town code to keep up with the times and the culture of what consumers now want in a restaurant.

“For example, today, many people like to have a glass of wine or a beer with a slice of pizza,” Petrone said in a statement. “This change will help small eateries that traditionally are owned by local businesspeople satisfy that demand and not lose customers to restaurants that already have capability.”

Residents and business owners of Huntington echoed this sentiment at a public hearing during a Huntington Town Board meeting Tuesday night.

Vito Defeo, owner of Viajo’s Pizza and Pasta on East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington, said that it’s an integral part of a restaurant to be able to offer a glass of wine or a beer with a meal.

“So it impacts our small businesses very greatly,” he said at the meeting. “Anything that can be done to move this forward, not just for myself, but for all the other small businesses in the town that are really restaurants but can’t be classified as such, I think is great. There are a lot of small operations that make amazing food that people would considered to be a restaurant, but unfortunately are not.”

Lisa Dvoskin, an attorney and lifelong resident of Huntington stressed the importance of maintaining smaller businesses in the area.

“I think we can all agree that the local businesses in Huntington are the lifeblood of this town,” Dvoskin said. “It is my hope we can have this new classification, in ‘bistro,’ to allow small businesses and restaurants to fairly compete and be successful.”

In addition to adding a bistro classification, Edwards said she also wants to simplify the bar classifications. Currently, a tavern or bar is under a sub classification of a restaurant, and with the new proposal, the distinction between a restaurant and a bar would be that a bar does not need to have kitchen facilities for food services at all times and is not required to have seating available for 90 percent of the lawful amount of patrons.

Edwards said after the meeting that based on the positive response from public comment, she expects the bistro law to be voted on at the next board meeting in January.

Gary Shek is the manager of Wasabi Steakhouse in Miller Place. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Smile.

That’s what Gary Shek tells his employees at Wasabi Steakhouse in Miller Place. As the manager of the hibachi restaurant, Shek’s main concern is providing good service by tending to the customers and ensuring high-quality food — two reasons that encourage new and repeat customers to return to the restaurant.

The four-star establishment opened March 23, 2014. Since then, Shek is usually the main employee greeting guests when they arrive, and sends them off when they leave. While it may take him a couple tries, it doesn’t take long before Shek remembers the names and faces of his customers, which adds to the guest’s experience.

“Let’s say I see your face [one time], a year later, I will still say hi,” Shek said. “You make [the customer] feel like [they are really important]. Of course, business is very important, but the customer, you have to make them feel like family.”

According to Shek, some hibachi restaurants focus on having a classy or elegant style, while he wanted his restaurant to be more family oriented, since many of the residents he serves are families who may remain in the area until their kids graduate high school.

Gary smiles for the camera with Wasabi Steakhouse owner Kenny Ching. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Gary smiles for the camera with Wasabi Steakhouse owner Kenny Ching. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kenny Ching, one of the owners of the restaurant, has known and worked with Shek since the mid-1990s. They met while working at the Secret Garden Tea Room in Port Jefferson. Ching said working with Shek is easy.

“I don’t have any pressure,” Ching said. “He can handle [work] pretty much himself. I don’t have to follow him. Training managers isn’t always easy.”

Shek credits his management skills to working in the hotel business in Hong Kong before he moved to Long Island in 1990. It was at the hotel where Shek tried to remember the names of hotel guests. It wasn’t until he transitioned to the restaurant business that Shek saw the difference between the hotel and restaurant business.

“From the hotels I [saw] the international [people from] different countries,” Shek said. “But here, [there are] local residents so I have to keep smiling every day [even if] I have a bad day.”

From 1995 to 1998 Shek also managed a Chinese restaurant for one of the individuals who owns Wasabi Steakhouse alongside Ching. Although Shek and Ching have to remember more types of dishes now than they did working at Chinese restaurants, they do their best to serve their customers and answer questions about the menu.

The service, as well as the food, is what keeps customers like Diana McGeoch and her family and friends coming back to Wasabi Steakhouse.

“We come here all the time,” McGeoch said. “Too many [times] to count. Fifteen plus maybe.”

“And he remembers us every time,” Brain Murray, a friend, said after McGeoch. “[The atmosphere is] very warm and welcoming. [Shek remembering our names] makes you feel special when you come here.”

Jean Casola of Rocky Point is another customer who dines at the restaurant for its service and high-quality food. Casola discovered the restaurant last year when she was celebrating her wedding anniversary.

“First of all, the service is amazing and polite beyond belief. Then the food comes out just the way you want it,” Casola said as she ate her dinner.

Shek said the restaurant goes out and picks up fresh cuts of fish and meats nearly twice a week, but also has fresh food delivered nearly five times a week. Leftover food is discarded after a day or more passes. According to Shek, some restaurants turn this food into an all-you-can-eat buffet.

While Shek acknowledges that people come back for the food and for hibachi, he doesn’t believe people come back to the restaurant because of him.

“I just want to be a successful manager,” Shek said.

But customers like Casola think differently.

Recently, Casola helped her daughter Faith pack for Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. She said her daughter misses eating at the restaurant, and in 30 days, so will Casola. She and her husband are moving to North Carolina to be closer to their daughter, but packing up means leaving Shek’s service and food at Wasabi Steakhouse.

“I don’t think they’re going to have anything like this there,” Casola said. “And they’re just not going to have another Gary, that’s for sure.”

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Owner Bob Willemstyn in front of the grand fireplace at the Country House in Stony Brook, circa 1712. Photo by Alex Petroski

Culper Spy Day is approaching quickly and the buzz is starting to build. The Three Village area will be celebrating its storied connection to the Revolutionary War and the Culper Spy Ring on Saturday, June 20.

The Country House Restaurant on North Country Road in Stony Brook will be participating in the festivities, offering a spy-themed menu for the occasion. The restaurant’s owner and Stony Brook resident Bob Willemstyn said he is excited to be a part of the historic day.

“It’s really nice to see the cohesiveness of the community coming together,” Willemstyn said. He has owned the restaurant since 2005. Before that, Willemstyn worked at the restaurant for 27 years.

Built in 1710, the house has served many purposes over those 300-plus years. Willemstyn said that every character from the popular television show TURN on AMC, which depicts the actions and inner workings of the Culper Spy Ring in Setauket, physically set foot in the Country House Restaurant around the time of the Revolutionary War. Everyone except for George Washington, Willemstyn admits.

The menu for June 20 features dishes with Culper Spy Day-related names. Yankee Doodle Chicken Fingers & French Fries, Secret Spy Ring Cheese Ravioli and George Washington’s Flatbread Cheese Pizza will surely be favorites on the kid’s menu. Members of the Culper Spy Ring are paid homage on the adult menu with items like the Anna & Selah Strong Twin Maryland Crab Cakes, Mary Woodhull Chilled Poached Salmon Fillet over Greens and the Caleb Brewster Cavatelli Pasta & Braised Beef Short Rib Ragu.

There will be some extra-added fun with the kid’s menu, Willemstyn said. There is a secret code within the menu that if cracked will earn the sharp, young revolutionary a free dessert.

“We hope to draw some people into the village with this menu,” Willemstyn said. The Country House Restaurant is not quite within walking distance from some of the other Culper Spy Day festivities, but it is the only place that will boast a spy-themed menu and more than 300 years of history and tradition.

Willemstyn said he plans to decorate the restaurant with an American flag bunting to draw in other revolutionaries enjoying the special day. He also recommended that anyone interested in dining at the Country House Restaurant on Culper Spy Day should make a reservation in advance because space is limited. The commemorative menu will be available from noon until 4 p.m.

The Country House is located at 1175 North Country Rd., Stony Brook. For reservations, please call 631-751-3332. For more information, visit www.countryhouserestaurant.com.

Take a bite out of these waterside restaurants

The view at Louie’s in Port Washington. Photo from restaurant staff

Spring ushers in warmer weather and a thirst for the outdoors. And what better way to quench that thirst than by dining outside? Here are a few waterside restaurants to simultaneously satisfy your cravings for beautiful vistas and delicious food.

The Whales Tale
81 Fort Salonga Road, Northport
Only minutes from Northport Village is a small, locally-run restaurant that was created as a local hangout for families and friends. The Whales Tale is meant to be a place where you can grab a bite of quality seafood with a waterfront view without actually paying for a waterfront view. The restaurant brews its own beer, which is a popular item on the menu, as are a local rum punch and the Northport Rocket — a combination of a piña colada and a rum float. The tacos are the most popular item on the menu, especially during the now famous Taco Tuesday, which is a huge hit among locals.

The view at Danfords in Port Jefferson. Photo from restaurant staff
The view at Danfords in Port Jefferson. Photo from restaurant staff

Maple Tree BBQ
820 West Main Street, Riverhead
Maple Tree BBQ offers a taste of the south and is located across the street from the Peconic River. The restaurant serves authentic barbecue food in a fun and casual atmosphere. You can buy food by the pound or by the platter to go, and many customers do this routinely. Not only are there picnic tables set up in front of the Peconic River, but Maple Tree BBQ is also right near Tanger Outlets — making it a great place to grab a bite after shopping, or drop your husband off while you shop. They make their own sweet tea here —a popular item — as well as their pastrami and Cuban sandwich.

Rachel’s Waterside Grill
281 Woodcleft Avenue, Freeport
Situated on Freeport’s famous Nautical Mile,  Rachel’s Waterside Grill offers casual, family-friendly dining paired with delicious, always-fresh seafood and a terrific view. The menu at Rachel’s Waterside Grill is innovative and different, offering a new American cuisine that includes a large selection of fresh fish that can be prepared in a variety of styles, including Korean grilled, blackened, roasted and more, paired with many different types of toppings. The tuna is one of the most popular items on the menu, along with the mussels. There are quite a few favorite cocktails, including the Dark and Stormy, a Bali Punch — a passion fruit punch drink mixed with rum — and an Almond Soy Martini.

Wave Seafood Kitchen
25 E Broadway, Port Jefferson
Wave Seafood Kitchen, located inside Danfords Hotel and Marina, overlooks the Long Island Sound and is located on Port Jefferson’s harbor, one of Long Island’s busiest harbors. This family-friendly restaurant serves fresh seafood, with some of its most popular items including shrimp crab rolls, sea scallops and salmon burgers. You can enjoy dinner inside the restaurant, or on the outdoor deck, sipping cocktails like blackberry sangria, a passion fruit mojito or a large selection of Long Island wines. There’s also a selection of refreshing, non-alcoholic beverages, including raspberry iced tea and a frozen mint chocolate chip drink.

Louie’s Oyster Bar and Grill
395 Main Street, Port Washington
This restaurant, located on Manhasset Bay, offers one of the most beautiful views of the sunset on Long Island. Louie’s also offers boaters the ability to dock and dine for free. Louie’s is more than 100 years old and has undergone quite a few changes throughout its history. With a large selection of always-fresh seafood, items like their oysters tend to be the most popular on the menu. They get fresh oysters every day, and are constantly changing the type of oysters they serve. Their Maine and Connecticut lobster rolls are also popular — Maine rolls are served cold and Connecticut served hot. Louie’s also has a very successful mixologist on staff who designs seasonal cocktail menus, including favorite drinks like a winter sangria, and during the summer, a blood orange margarita.

A restaurant is proposed for the old Suffolk County Water Authority building, above. The owner of Schafer's restaurant says the development will block the view from his building's deck, which can be seen in the background. Photo by Elana Glowatz

A proposal to build a restaurant at the old Suffolk County Water Authority building on West Broadway has one neighboring businessman crying foul, saying the establishment would block his customers’ view of the harbor.

At a Port Jefferson Planning Board meeting on April 16, representatives for property owner The Crest Group LLC and President Enrico Scarda shared plans for the roughly 1/4-acre lot on the north side of the street, right off of the harbor. According to Port Jefferson Station-based engineer Allen Bernhard, the restaurant would include a second-floor outdoor deck with a footprint almost the size of the building itself — just shy of 2,000 square feet. The deck would start on the side of the building and wrap around to the north side, facing the harbor.

At the public hearing, Bernhard said the existing building at the site, which would stay, would block most of the deck when viewed from the south “so it’s not interrupting views.”

Even with planning board approval, the restaurant would still need a permit for outdoor dining from the village board of trustees.

The deck was the main point of contention during the meeting. Attorney Zachary Beriloff, of Ronkonkoma-based Gruenberg Kelly Della, who is representing Schafer’s owner Tom Schafer, said the dining area would actually block the outdoor “observation deck” at Schafer’s restaurant, on the other side of West Broadway.

“It obstructs the view of the water from across the street,” Beriloff said.

But attorney Linda Margolin, of Islandia-based Bracken Margolin Besunder LLP, countered that the issue was a matter between private landowners, not something regulated by the law.

“The issue for this board is not whether the view from Mr. Schafer’s observation deck is important to him,” she said. “I’m sure it is. The question is whether the view from Mr. Schafer’s observation deck is a view of particular importance to the public. … That’s not a public view of significance.”

Beriloff also took issue with three variances the zoning board granted for the project, on the restaurant’s size, parking area and distance from other restaurants. He said Schafer was not properly notified of the proposal and asked the planning board to hold off on any decisions until the matter is resolved.

The board adjourned the hearing, which will resume on May 14.

Aside from the addition of the deck, the proposal does not call for many changes to the outward appearance of the site. Bernhard said the owner would keep much of the original architecture but add large windows on the north side of the building. He also said the owner would plant some trees where possible.

The proposed restaurant could be in limbo for a little while, however, because of a parking issue at the site.
The old water authority building sits at the edge of the Brookhaven Town marina parking lot, with some of the town parking spaces immediately to the north and west of the site and the lot’s entrance to the east. Brookhaven Town has plans to cede control to Port Jefferson Village of those roughly 30 nearby parking spaces in a deal the two municipalities arranged to make up for a deficit of spaces at a mixed-use project up the road, at the historic First National Bank of Port Jefferson. The town owns the bank building and the building next door on East Main Street that used to house the tax receiver’s office and is selling the property to a developer who will put in retail space and apartments. But as the details on that project are not finalized, the marina parking spaces at the harbor are not yet officially in the hands of the village.

There are no other parking spots near the water authority building, possibly linking the fate of the restaurant proposal with that of the parking space deal between the town and the village.