Fork in the Road thinks you should get out of town this summer, even if it’s only for a day. In this Summer Fridays series, we’re covering the best spots to eat in popular day trip locations.
New Yorkers who bemoan the tourists who stand, agape, blocking the flow of foot traffic on busy sidewalks might want to check themselves before they visit Long Beach. On a recent Sunday, three fresh-off-the-LIRR city girls were seen standing stock-still on the boardwalk, apparently baffled by the seaside vista, until they were sternly warned to get out of the bike path. But not to worry — this is a friendly and tight-knit community, and it will welcome visitors with sun, sand, and a developing food scene. $22 gets you round trip tickets from Penn Station and a beach pass; from there, there’s plenty of culinary exploring to do once you’ve gotten a suitable tan.
After debarking from the train, walk a few blocks east or west to avoid the swarm of people that will head directly down National Boulevard toward the beach; you’ll get there faster and snag a better spot. You’ll cross over Park Avenue (don’t jaywalk, please; drivers tend to speed), which brims with great lunch spots. Fresco (150 East Park Avenue, 516-897-8097), known to locals as “the crepe place,” makes crepes to order — we like the seafood one, with scallops and shrimp — along with refreshing side salads. For dessert, you can’t do better than a banana and nutella crepe.
In the other direction is Sorrento’s (255 West Park Avenue, 516-889-4800), which earns raves for its wood-fired, brick-oven pizzas and super fresh ingredients. The pizzeria doubles as an Italian pork store, and any of the cured meat toppings will elevate your pie to transcendence. The spot is BYOB, and you can also call ahead for takeout if you want to schlep your order to the beach. If it’s a classic, foldable slice you’re after, though, there’s Gino’s (16 West Park Avenue, 516-432-8193) where you can dine bathing suit-clad and covered in sand. The Italian ices are a nice post-sunbathing treat, as well.
Closer to the beach is Shoregasboard (Riverside Boulevard and Shore Road), a parking lot full of food trucks that brings an Austin-like vibe to the city. Sugo, which also has a brick and mortar store (62 West Park Avenue, 516-431-7846), is pan-everything, with fish tacos, jerk chicken burgers, and BLT hot dogs — we liked the Korean tacos with bulgogi, kimchi, and chipotle aioli. If that’s too much of a threat to your bikini body, there’s NY Acai, which offers smoothies with tropical ingredients like coconut and the eponymous Brazilian fruit. You can also get the highly photogenic concoctions un-blended, in acai bowls. If you’re craving something classic, pick up a pastrami on rye — just the right amount of fatty — from the Lido Kosher Deli (also at 641 ½ East Park Avenue, 516-431-4411), a beloved eatery that has been serving Jewish comfort food to the community for 60 years.
Long Beach was devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and among the losses was the 2.2 mile boardwalk, which had long served as the heart of the community during the summer. It has since been beautifully restored, and this season will be dotted with additional food and drink trucks. One such vendor is Gentle Brew, pouring freshly roasted, small batch coffee at the Grand Avenue end of the boardwalk (also at 151 East Park Avenue, 516-605-2370). Dead center of the boardwalk (and where the NYC swarm tends to head) is the Allegria Hotel (80 West Broadway, (516) 889-1300). During Sandy, news reporters huddled on its top floor as seawater poured through the lobby, but now the glitzy spot — which calls itself “Manhattan’s backyard” — serves up Friday night seafood and Sunday brunch buffets for those seeking a city-lite scene.
In the evening, don’t run back to New York — Long Beach’s west end, packed with bungalows, shops, restaurants, and bars, is a cute neighborhood to explore once the sun goes down. Skip the fratty atmosphere at some of the louder drinking holes and swing by Speakeasy (1032 West Beech Street, 516-889-3279), beloved for its elevated pub grub, like avocado fries and crab meat guacamole. And Shine’s (55 California Street, 516-432-9248) is the place to have a beer with salt-of-the-earth locals. The 102-year-old bar is a registered historic landmark that hosts a “California to New York Bike Ride” every August — California and New York being streets that are one block apart. Long Beachers ride for the single block and then reward themselves for a job well done with multiple pints. Shine’s was a crucial community center in the weeks after Sandy, remaining open despite damages and serving donated meals to the displaced. The bar is an apt symbol of a city that survived a crisis, and has come back fully rejuvenated.