If your knowledge of Long Island is based solely on Billy Joel songs, you probably expect the dining and nightlife scene to be built entirely on Italian restaurants and piano bars. That’s not a bad start, but it doesn’t paint as pretty a picture as the one you’ll find in Port Washington on a warm summer’s eve. The tiny fishing hamlet nestled alongside the island’s north shore is less than an hour’s ride on the Long Island Railroad, and the short walk from the station down to the harbor is an idyllic way to work up an appetite. (And for those considering a leisurely drive, Port Washington is only 17 miles from Manhattan — and there’s plenty of parking available once you arrive.)
Making a left onto Main Street as you exit the station on your quest to find water, notice how culturally diverse this historic town, which was first settled in 1643, has become. Classic seafood is the backbone of this boating community, but there are plenty of worthwhile stops to consider. For example, Wild Honey on Main (172 Main Street, 516-439-5324) is a modern American restaurant with global influences, and it offers dishes that range from cracklin’ pork shank to sesame shrimp with sticky rice. For fans of Mediterranean plates, Long Island’s emperor of kebabs, Ayhan, has three restaurants on the same block. Ayhan’s Fish Kebab (286 Main Street, 516-883-1515) is the most formal of the three, though you still might pull apart a whole grilled fish — there are eight on the menu — with your hands.
If it’s a scene you’re after, you’ll want to head towards Louie’s Oyster Bar and Grille (395 Main Street, 516-883-4242), the de facto destination for singles and couples looking for an evening of sexy time with shellfish. The restaurant dates back to 1905, and it offers a great outdoor deck with views of Manhasset Bay plus an always lively bar scene. And if you boat out from the city, the restaurant offers a water taxi that’ll bring you from your boat right up to the dock. Order one of the hot or cold appetizer platters for a taste of calamari, clams oreganata, snow crab, or oysters; the portions are perfect for small parties. Hold off on getting dessert here, though, and head instead to Douglas and James Homemade Ice Cream (405 Main Street, 516-708-1706, which is only a few steps away. It provides the perfect excuse to watch the sunset at the nearby town dock.
The other main artery that’ll help clog your own is Shore Road — you’ll come across it as you stroll down Main. Consider Diwan (37 Shore Road, 516-439-4200), an Indian fine dining establishment located in an old house with impeccably friendly service, a warm fireplace, and delightful chutneys. A bay side path will lead you further into the heart of marina country, where you’ll come across Harbor Q (84 Old Shore Road, 516-883-4227). The casual cue’ and brew specialist offers complimentary potato chips with hot cheese dip, and the buffalo soldiers — eggrolls stuffed with buffalo chicken and gorgonzola — are a highly recommended appetizer.
Want to see how Long Island pizza stacks up? Head to Salvatore’s Coal Oven Pizza (124 Shore Road; 516-883-8457) and try not to be in awe of the fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomato pie. And don’t make the mistake of looking past Butler’s Flat Clam Shack (86 Orchard Beach Boulevard, 516-883-8330) hidden inside Brewer Capri Marina West. The seasonal restaurant offers New England specialties like stuffed quahogs, clam rolls, and fried seafood of all kinds.
Before heading back home, make it a point to pick up a few red slices to go at Rosa’s Pizza (57 Main Street, 516-767-8003), which is located across the street from the train station. The salty cheese and tomato sauce is painted perfectly on the square shaped crust; it’s tough to put down once you commit to that first bite.
See more local culinary getaways in our Summer Fridays archives.