Long Island Restaurants That We Want To Come Back

Food is a huge part of our culture on Long Island. We have the best bagels of course and our pizza is hands down the greatest in the world. We also have a vibrant and constantly changing restaurant scene here. So many spots have come and gone over the years – many that are nostalgic or just served up great food.

When we posed the question on social media we got thousands of responses! People love their favorite places whether it’s a fast food joint they went to in their youth, their favorite local diner that closed or a fancy restaurant that went out of business.

Below we present some restaurants on Long Island that are no more but our readers told us they miss the most. Did we leave out your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

Wetson’s – Before there was McDonald’s or Burger King on Long Island, there was Wetson’s. The fast food chain, inspired by a trip to California by one of the founders encountering the original McDonalds’ brothers restaurant, was launched in 1959 in Levittown by brothers Herb and Errol Wetanson. In their time, they even had two clown mascots: Wetty and Sonny. Click here for a history of Wetson’s.

The Schooner – Port Jefferson Village Historian Ken Brady wrote of The Schooner, “once advertised as Long Island’s most novel restaurant, was a waterfront landmark in Port Jefferson from 1946 through 1968. Located on the south side of West Broadway (Route 25A), the eatery was the brainchild of brothers Charles and Elmer Mapp who had found the schooner yacht Ilikamo languishing in a Riverhead, New York, boatyard.”

Pentimento – After 27 years in business, Pentimento restaurant closed in September 2021. The former manager of the restaurant is planning a new place in Setauket called Elaine’s.

Dick and Dora’s – This once popular Massapequa restaurant on Alhambra Road popped up in a number of people’s list of favorites. Sadly, in 2013 the owners pleaded guilty to income tax conspiracy.

Dante’s – A number of people named this Hicksville pizzeria on Woodbury Road as their fave from the past.

Hamburger Choo Choo – Huntington spot that still lives on in the memories of many folks. There is a Facebook page dedicated to it. Even the New York Times reminisced about Hamburger Choo Choo back in 2004. People sat at the counter waiting for the train to deliver their burgers. “Alas,” the paper wrote. “The Hamburger Choo Choo is only a memory; it burned down more than two decades ago.” That was around the early 1980s.

Pancake Cottage – The first Pancake Cottage opened in Centereach in 1965 and began franchising in 1971. They grew to a number of locations on Long Island including Hampton Bays, North Babylon, Riverhead, Shirley, Lake Ronkonkoma and others. People still talk about going there for breakfast or as their first jobs.

John Duck’s – According to the New York Times, four generations of the Westerhoff family operated Duck’s. “The original was opened in Eastport in 1900 by John Westerhoff,” the paper reported. “The most recent Duck’s opened in Southampton in 1946, and a special welcome soon went out to civic clubs.” It closed in 2008.

Big Barry’s – Great grub and fire water! Soooo many people miss this place where they sold burgers and steaks by the ounce. There were locations in Lake Grove, Rocky Point and in Huntington. Big Barry’s bowed out in 1994. Owner Barry Layne made fun of his stature saying the only thing lower were his prices. We all remember the tagline in the commercials. Say it with me: “Biiiiiiiig Bary’s!” then cue the gunshot blast. Fun fact: Big Barry was on America’s Got Talent in 2012 and made it to the quarterfinals.

Cricket’s – A Sayville mainstay on Main Street, the spot closed down in 2021. It was replaced by Wayward Kitchen & Cocktails.

Jimmy’s Backyard – This Port Washington restaurant is very fondly remembered by many. After 27 years the 350-seat seafood restaurant closed down in 1993.

Links Log Cabin – A nostalgic website about the Centerport restaurant describes it as “fine steaks and $1 burgers and fries… It was a very popular place, and you would usually have to wait on line to get in!!!” According to The New York Times, the landmark building caught fire in 1959. Another source says it burned down in 1981 one year after the restaurant closed.

Bavarian Inn – Once a favorite German spot for events, dinner and catering on the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma, the building stood vacant for six years after the restaurant closed for good and became an eyesore and blight in the community. It was demoed in 2013.

56th Fighter Group – For almost 30 years, the restaurant on the ground of Republic Airport in Farmingdale was a hot spot for dinners, events and parties. OpenTable.com described a visit to the restaurant as a time machine to “an era of Big Band music and unparalleled patriotism. This charming 1917 French Style Allied Headquarters Farmhouse sits on the site where the P47 fighter aircraft was built during WWII.” It was shuttered in 2012.

Cooky’s Steak House – Named after co-founder Charles (Cooky) Rachelson, the chain launched in 1946 by Mr. Rachelson and  Walter Shapiro on Avenue M in Brooklyn expanded over the years to 11 locations. The last Cooky’s Steak House (on Long Island) closed in the mid-1990s. You can watch the 1980s-era commercials for Cooky’s on YouTube.

Caruso’s – This was a popular Italian restaurant on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown back in the day and a lot of people seem to remember it.

Houston’s – This chain restaurant opened in 1996 in Roosevelt Field Mall and closed up in 2015. Newsday said  that the owner, Hillstone Restaurant Group, wanted to focus on smaller concept food places. They still operate East Hampton Grill in East Hampton.

Bali Hai – This tiki-inspired restaurant in Centerport opened in 1963. According to a website that tracks old tiki bars, “In the 1970s, the Bali Hai was a popular Polynesian showplace, complete with bamboo mugs and native dancers. The Cow Harbor Inn took over in the 80s and prospered – until competition from newer restaurants became insurmountable. Finally, the Cow Harbor Inn was shuttered and the space fell into dis-repair.” So this entry also counts for those who remember the Cow Harbor Inn as well. A tiki two-fer.

Boulder Creek – This Smithtown steak spot closed down and was replaced by the more upscale Insignia Prime Steak and Sushi in 2011. Described as a Western-inspired, mountain lodge-themed chain restaurant first opened in that location in 1999.

The Monster – According to the Fire Island Historical Society webpage, “before it became the institution it is known as today, The Monster started out as a restaurant in Cherry Grove on Fire Island.” Named after a carved wooden sea serpent from the Coney Island carousel, the restaurant was opened by Joe Scialo in 1969 as a quaint little spot but it quickly became popular and expanded. After opening locations in both New York City and Key West, The Monster finally closed down years later.

The Good Steer – Opened in 1957, the iconic family-owned restaurant known for a cozy atmosphere, great burgers and their onion rings, closed down in 2022 after 65 years. A lot of people miss it.

The Maine Maid Inn – This historic Jericho spot was first built in 1789, the home of Valentine Hicks, “an early postmaster of Jericho, second president of the Long Island Rail Road, and the man for whom Hicksville was named,” according to The New York Times. He was also a Quaker and an abolitionist whose home was a stopover on the Underground Railroad. Going to the Maine Maid Inn was like stepping back in time to the colonial era to dine. Sadly after it closed the building fell into disrepair. It was reopened as One North by the Scotto Brothers.

The Bonwit Inn – The staple restaurant in Commack closed down after 41 years, a victim of the pandemic. They were available for a casual lunch to a formal catered affair with a menu featuring a wide variety of Continental cuisine with fresh seafood and steaks.

Beefsteak Charlie’s – Everyone remembers the all-you-can-eat steak, shrimp and salad bar and unlimited beer, wine, or sangria. The commercials featured Uncle “beefsteak” Charlie and his nephew, Chuck.

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