CAFE JOELLE, Main Street, Sayville

Seafood Crepes served with Roasted Potatoes, and a side order of Corned Beef Hash

     Café Joelle is the perfect place for a cozy weekend Brunch. You walk into a warm and lovely cottage-like restaurant and are greeted pleasantly by the staff. At Café Joelle, they manage to offer a substantial brunch menu without any overwhelming buffets or people walking all around you. The menu is designed so that there is something for everyone, from the Seafood Crepes (which were exceptional) to Eggs Benedict served over slices of Filet Mignon. I already have a plan to go back because their menu is creative and mouth-watering, and I must try the Banana & Cream Cheese Stuffed Croissant French Toast. Today I wisely chose the crepes and they were perfect, a delicious mixture of shrimp and crabmeat filled two delicate and thin crepes, and was topped with a pink seafood sauce and more shrimp. Served with a side of oven roasted potatoes.  In fact the crepes were so good, three out of four of us ordered them!  Our last hold out ordered the Quiche of the day, a sausage and potato concoction which presented creamy and hot, getting two thumbs up.  However, when I wasn’t thinking about the French Toast, I was very tempted by their combination called Eggs Oy Vey: 2 poached eggs served on potato pancakes, layered with smoked salmon and topped with crème fraiche. (Oh, don't forget the homemade corned beef hash!
     Whether you are there for brunch, lunch or dinner, do not pass up their dessert cart. I had a lemon & marscapone cheese cake with fresh whipped cream. Our guests swear the cheesecake is the best, and the Chocolate bag filled with white chocolate mousse is a sight to behold. Finally, the warm chocolate cake filled with something like chocolate chip cookies and oreos, and served with vanilla ice cream was quite awesome.
     Café Joelle is most definitely a must go, not just for brunch but for lunch and dinner. The hosts are welcoming and kind, and the restaurant manages a soft romantic glow while being family friendly and accommodating at the same time. This was a lovely morning and I have a feeling a dinner there is in order soon!

THE BRASS RAIL, Forest Ave, Locust Ave, NY

Onion Rings, Lobster Mac & Cheese, Rock Shrimp, and Lamb Chops Wu Style

     Opened in 2008, The Brass Rail was named after their lovely antique bar, made by two German Brothers in the late 1880's in The Bowery, NYC and was installed in a restaurant called The Brass Rail on 7th Avenue. As the restaurant's website explains, "during Prohibition, the bar was dismantled and after a few years it was reassembled in The Lighthouse Tavern, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In 1979 the bar was purchased from an antique dealer by Arthur Stein for his new bar and restaurant, "Marbles" at [its current] location. [To do so] the bar was dismantled and placed on a 30ft truck lined with mattresses to protect it on the journey and then painstakingly assembled piece by piece here in Locust Valley.  Although the background mirror didn't make it, the bar retains its essential character. 

     But really, you want to know about the food, right?  We happened to be stir crazy from Hurricane Sandy and The Brass Rail had extended its Restaurant Week menu**, so we ventured out into Locust Valley - which was no easy task navigating around downed trees and back roads.  The Restaurant Week prix fixe menu was filled with a number of excellent choies for $25.95 and my husband chose a delicious appetizer salad w/ serrano ham, shaved cheese and candied walnuts and mixed greens; a main course of perfectly cooked and seasoned hangar steak, truffled mashed potatoes and asparagus, and dessert of apple tart tatin w/ vanilla gelato.  I got to have bites of it all and it was more than worth the price.  Me? Once I saw the regular menu, no way could I be confined by the prix fixe.  There were too many Bar Menu, Tapas and Sides to choose from, I just skipped the main course so we could share a number of small plates, as follows: Deviled Eggs w/ Caviar, Fried Oysters, Baby Lamb Chops Wu Style, Lobster Mac & Cheese, Onion Rings (to go with hubby's steak) and Spicy Chilean Rock Shrimp.   Taking these delicacies in order, the Deviled Eggs were wonderful, the caviar on top giving them just the right amount of saltiness; The Fried Oysters were good, although the batter was a bit heavy (However the oyster in my Very Dirty Martini was excellent!); the Baby Lamb Chops were perfect, char-grilled and served with delicious dollops of bbq sauce - not too sweet/not too spicy; the blend of cheeses in the Lobster Mac & Cheese was just right and creamy, but the lobster was hiding; the Onion Rings were right on - fresh, not frozen, crispy and lightly battered, loved 'em; and finally, the Rock Shrimp were plentiful and its a good thing because we ate every one!  The only problem here is that there is so much more on Brass Rail's menu that you just have to go back.

     The atmosphere at The Brass Rail is friendly and welcoming.  Our waitress Ally was efficient, and knowledgeable about the restaurant and the food.  Its clear they draw a local crowd and lots of repeat customers.  A very good sign.  However, as newcomers, we were just as comfortable.  The menu is so varied that you can get everything from a burger and fries (which I bet is excellent) or a chicken club sandwich to oysters on the half shell or coq au vin.

     **One last thing, thank you to The Brass Rail and all the other restaurants that participated in Long Island's Restaurant Week, and especially to those who have extended and who are still extending their specials so that the victims of Hurricane Sandy can get a good hot meal at a reasonable price. 

  • The Brass Rail's Appetizer Salad of Shaved Serrano Ham & Cheese over mixed greens from the prix fixe menu; Deviled Eggs w/ Caviar.

  • The Brass Rail's Battered and Fried Oysters

  • The Brass Rail's main course: Sliced Hangar Steak, Truffled Whipped Potatoes and grilled Asparagus; side of Onion Rings

TULA KITCHEN, Main Street, Bayshore NY (Organic, Vegetarian, & more)

A plate of pita, chickpea salsa and drinks served immediately when you sit down.

    We were really looking forward to dinner at Tula Kitchen. They have been around for over 5 years now and seemed to have been getting mostly good reviews.  I thought the new-age, fresh organic style and atmosphere was just right for my husband's taste. It seems I was wrong. Hubby didn't like it at all - not the atmosphere, not the food, not the servers, not even the iconic images of buddahs and other dieties on the wall.  He found it phony.  Ok, well atmosphere isn't everything and he is not the gourmet in the family and me, I loved the atmosphere. It was quirky: warm, candle lit and cozy, with pillow covered banquets along the wall and lots of hidden corners. It was appropriately spooky decorated for halloween. And the service, cocktails and the Key Lime Pie were excellent. Best key lime pie I've had in NY.   (I should note also that by the time we left they were just about packed.)
    Unfortunately, we have to address the food, and that was not so warm or quirky. We started with the mediterranean sampler - an assortment of spinach pie, salad, olives, pita, hummus and so on. Tula's fresh baked breads are delicious. The homemade pita that came hummus & tzaziki was very good, and the pastry for the spinach pie was flaky and buttery, but the actual spinach & feta was sorely lacking in taste or flavor.  My appetizer of Honey Baked Brie was similarly disappointing.  The brie was average and it looked as if they sliced a wedge, poured honey over it and put it in the microwave.  For my main course, I chose a Chicken Napolean, described on the menu as layers of Grilled Chicken, Broccoli Rabe, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Blue Cheese and Red Potatoes. Take a look at the photo and tell me if this is what you would have expected. Nevertheless, looks aren't everything, and previous reviewers said it was delicious. Nope. It was ok, but it was not a napoleon, it was more like a stew where they forgot to mix the ingredients. There were no layers, the chicken tenders were flatened but if they were grilled or seasoned, I couldn't tell.  The broccoli rabe was similarly unseasoned and too tough to cut with a butter knife, and there was barely and blue cheese to be found. Not to dwell on that any longer, my husbands Cobb Salad looked like lettuce topped with shrimp. The chipotle dressing was overwhelmingly spicy - and that's saying a lot for my husband. There was supposed to be turkey bacon, but it was difficult to find any.  Same with the cheddar cheese.

    So, I don't get it.  Tula has been around for some time, and they seemed quite busy.  Is it just because there are so few organic/vegetarian restaurants around?  I cannot believe that all vegetarians want their food under-seasoned and without flavor.  Maybe people are just going for the drinks and dessert, because that is the only thing that will get us back.   Overall, the prices are reasonable, you can get a turkey burger or chicken ruben for $15.00, and I think it looks pretty darn cool inside.  But don't go expecting your organic favorites transformed into gourmet flavors.  Not here.

  • Tula Chicken Napolean

  • Tula Cobb Salad

  • Tula Key Lime Pie.

The West End Cafe, Carle Place NY (American)

So, tonight we were looking for someplace different, someplace we haven't been before, and we were drawn in by the menu posted in "Long Islands Greatest Restaurants." Although the food was good, we wondered why it was listed in Long Island's Greatest Restaurants, and why none of the foods listed in the magazine were not on the menu!
The service was fairly prompt and helpful, but the vodka and lime was mostly ice and lime. They do have a nice prix fixe menu which, although it was $32.00 per person, did contain much of the items on the main menu. Why on earth you had to order dessert in advance is beyond me. The appetizers were wonderful. The crispy duck tacos were mouth-watering, as was the slaw they were served on. The special soup of the night was a Cheddar-Ale potato soup, topped with a bit of sour cream and bacon. Tasty, not the best I've ever had.
My main course, Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli, in a light pink tomato sauce, with fresh tomato and shrimp on the top, topped with fresh basil (pictured below) was excellent and delicately flavored. Unfortunately, the recommended Veal Chop hubby had was no where near as good. It was chewy in too many places, and lacked flavor, as were the potatoes that came along with it. The best thing on that plate was the broccoli rabe.
Dessert came with my prix fixe menu and the mint chocolate chip parfait was simply ice cream with chocolate sauce. Nothing special going on there.
I can't say we didn't like it. I can say that if I go back, I'd order a few items from the appetizer menu and skip the entrees!!

City Cellar, Merchants Concourse, Westbury (New American

At the top of this list is City Cellar. Recently renovated, they now boast an outdoor patio and party room. The interior is beautiful, circular with a wine room behind the bar from floor to ceiling. There is a brick pizza oven in the open kitchen, and the outer edges are ringed with large comfortable booths.
The lunch menu is excellent with a variety of choices from burgers, salads and wraps to shrimp pad thai (my favorite there) and brick oven pizza. On week days you will find a lunch special for $20.12 for 2 people. Drinks extra. This is damn good.
The dinner menu shines with starters like jumbo lump crab cake, seared rare yellowfin tuna and mediterranean hummus with their own hearth baked feta and eggplant caponata.
The entrees Shrimp and Sea scallops pan seared, over 5 mushroom risotto and yuzu citrus-soy glaze; pan seared duck breast with figs, savoy cabbage, sweet potato puree & sherry caramel, and Twin 7oz Pork Chops, grilled, with potato puree.
They do get busy on the weekends to call ahead or go early. And check on line for specials. This is just a fun place.

Mim's Syosset, (also a Roslyn location)

 Mim's has been around in Syosset for about 24 years now, and eventually opened their second location in Roslyn in 2001. You always find the basics at Mim's, like strip steak, pork osso buco (excellent), personal pizza, pan seared scallops over lobster asparagus risotto (my favorite), sushi rice crusted salmon (also good), chicken and of course, filet mignon. Don't skip the apps, because you will love the Hong Kong Cracklin Calamari and Spicy Ahi Tuna Martini. The specials never fail to please.
At Mim's, the food is always consistent, flavorful and inventive. As you can see, I have been there many times over the years and have never been disappointed. The syosset location boasts a 22 foot granite bar, which is a neighborhood hot spot. But, beware, Mim's is crowded every night and parking is impossible. The food is worth it.
In Roslyn, there is a bigger parking lot, with valet parking, and you can always find parking on the street. The restaurant is larger and more comfortable than the Syosset location, but generally you will find all the same basic menu items, with some different specials. I love the buffalo chicken spring rolls here, the grilled portobello mushroom with garlic sauteed spinach, red peppers and cheese, the bisque and the sliders. The linguini with mixed seafood (shellfish) is excellent and you can choose between garlic and oil or fra diavolo.
The best deal at Mim's is Lots Pasta Monday, when you can your choice of a number of pasta sauces, garden salad & bread for $12.95. They also have a prix fixe until 6:30 at $25.00.
Its hard to say anything bad about Mim's except that its crowed for dinner. But their prices are reasonable so its worth the money and worth the wait.

SNAPS, Sunrise Highway and Wantagh Ave, (American Fusion?)

 Snaps has been around for a number of years now, and is proving to be as popular as I had hoped. I first went there lured by their Tasting Menu - 8 courses for $50.00 is a damn good deal. 8 wonderful, innovative flavor combinations cooked to perfection. The plating is extraordinary for a casual restaurant with big bold food in small bites. That evening it was more than worth it.
The staff is courteous and helpful, and they know about the food and the specials-which often are too many to remember.
The offer a prix fixe menu each night, and they offer almost all of their menu items on it, app, main course and dessert for about $35.00. Not bad. The short rib & gorgonzola cheese quesadilla is amazing, as is the crisp duck salad served with chopsticks. My favorite is the lobster knucle sandwich which has the best part of the lobster on toasted bread with trufflle oil and sunny side up egg.
The entrees are as unusual as the appetizers, and as delicious, and the short ribs (did I mention that already) are soooo flavorful and tender. The crispy rock shrip & spaghetti pomodoro with basil are a definite must, as is the rib-eye with brandy peppercorn sauce if you are a steak eater. And do add the lobster truffle mac & cheese as a side dish. It would be remiss for me not to mention the grilled jumbo shrimp Thai curry with calamari and soba, or the pumpkin seed crusted tilapia if you are eating lighter.
You can also choose from the extensive menu of burgers if you are just stopping in for a bite. I would go for the surf & turf burger (angus burger w/ bacon, lettuce and tomatoe with lobster salad on top, and truffle herb parmesan fries) OK, tell me you can pass that up). There are about 10 to choose from.
If you think you can still eat after that, try the Campfire S'mores orthe chocolate molten cake with vanilla ice cream and peanut butter sauce.
This is a great casual restaurant with upscale food and mid-range prices. You can't miss here.

The Melting Pot, Rte 110, Farmingdale (Fondue -cheese, main course & dessert)

Land & Sea Special at The Melting Pot

 I'm going to take the chance and put The Melting Pot in the catagory, because its not exactly Italian and its not exactly French. Just bear in mind that is it a bit more than mid-range in price, but it is definitely a great place for groups of friends and family occasions. Enjoy something different here.
The Melting Pot in Farmingdale is a fondue restaurant and only fondue. Everything is cooked at your table, and you do the cooking, so it you have an aversion to looking at raw meat, don't go. One more caveat: Its a bit expensive for someplace where you do your own cooking, averaging about $40.00 per person for apps and entree, no drinks.
However, its a great place for groups, and the have a number of romantic corners for couples. It is not someplace you want to go alone. The one think you cannot say is that the food is bad, because you do the cooking!
So, start with the cheese fondue. You can choose from cheddar, swiss, spinach & artichoke (don't do it) and Wisconsin Trio (go with this one). It comes to your table hot and bubbling with a tray of bread cubes, apples and and vegetables for dipping.
Skip the salad, because cheese fondue is filling. Or, if you must have salad, skip the cheese fondue - which would be just plain silly.
For your main course, you will choose from the Special (pictured below) which has everything from fish to beef to pasta. Or you can go vegetarian. Or different assortment of meats like: The French Quarter (chicken, steak and cajun sausage); The Pacific Rim (breast of duck and marinated pork) or The Seafood Trio (mahi mahi, shrimp and atlantic salmon). Each selection of fish or meats comes to your table along with a hot boiling broth in a fondue pot. Your cooking broth comes in 4 different flavors: Coq au Vin (wine, spices & mushrooms), Court Boullion (vegetable and herb seasonings), Bourguignonne (distinct red wine & beef flavor) and Mojo (caribbean garlic and citrus). Then comes the fun part. You can pick your own particular favorites from the tray on the table, dip it into the broth for a minute or 2 (they are thinly sliced) and take it out steaming hot and ready to eat. And why would you do all this? Because its fun!!
The highlight here, however, is dessert. Chocolate Fondue. C'mon, no one can resist hot melted chocolate and fresh strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, rice krispies treats, marshmallows, pound cake and brownies. You can choose from milk chocolate swirled with peanut butter (my favorite), white chocolate, bananas & cinnamon flambe', yin & yang (dark & white chocolate swirl, cookies & cream and, of course, pure chocolate- milk, dark or white.
I know a number of people who do not like the Melting Pot, either because they have an issue with raw meat at the table or an issue with having to move and cook their own food. In my opinion, they provide a special, enjoyable evening in a lovely atmosphere with efficient and personable staff. They are clean and sanitary, and advise you on those issues of meat safety when your food is served. I'm going back.

DAVE & BUSTERS, Airport Plaza, Farmingdale

     I only review this restaurant under duress, because my kids love it, and the food is actually good.  However, this massive entertainment complex lures customers in with its arcade, then keeps them there by way of a huge restaurant section surrounded by telivisions, large and small, serving pizza, pasta, burgers and finger food. Classic games like billiards, skeeball and shuffleboard are balanced by electronic counterpoints such as Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede and virtual-reality simulators that re-create an 18-wheeler ride or a Star Trek voyage. Of the two full bars, one comes with a 20-screen videodome designed for armchair quarterbacks.… I never even knew that part and we've been going there for years.  They used to have an Hibachi Grill, but it was removed in favor of...more games!

      To be fair, the food is above average for a chain restaurant.  Their new appetizer, The 5:15 is a combination of 5 Buffalo Wings with your choice of Ranch or Bleu Cheese dressing; 5 Chicken Quesadilla Wedges with salsa; 5 Pretzel Dogs; and 5 Crispy Fried Shrimp with spicy habanero sauce; complete with a stack of fresh BBQ potato chips."  This among other very delicious appetizers.  My personal favorite is the Philly Steak Rolls, crispy eggrolls stuffed with Philly steak and melted cheese. Sprinkled with banana peppers and served with sweet and spicy ketchup and cheese sauce for dipping.

     If that is not enough on its own, you can then choose from an assortment of burgers, chicken sandwiches, and wraps; or pasta dishes, or even steaks and ribs if you're in the mood for that.  The cajun sirloin is a favorite in my house. 

     But, of course, the real purpose of going to Dave & Busters's is the game room.  So get the game card combo, and send your kids off to play while you sit back and enjoy a nice cup of coffee - or maybe a gin & tonic!

The Library Cafe, Main St. Farmingdale NY (American)

     The Library Café is in the center of Farmingdale and has the ambiance of an uptown Manhattan lounge and restaurant. They have signature martinis and great food, for adults and kids (of all ages), well, except the martinis!

     This is a great spot to bring your kids to if you want to expose them to a more grown up environment. Typically there aren't a lot of kids, but the menu offers great kid friendly items and some of the best munchie food around. Personally, I prefer to go at lunch, because w sort of a hip, city-like enviornment, you'd want to get in early before the bar crowd shows up, but there is something for everyone on the menu and especially great virgin varieties on cocktails, made especially for kids

     But you won't be disappointed in the food.  The sandwiches are wonderful and you can get everything from pulled pork to a crabcake.  Their famous burgers (I know, they all have famous burgers) are delicious.  The dinner entrees are also pretty good, although I stick with the chicken and ribs, and leave the steak for the steakhouses. 

     Its has a jumping bar crowd, so go early if you want a quiet dinner.  The prices are a little high for what you're getting, but the food is fresh and you can have almost anything you want.