Restaurants not on the North Fork, but close enough to try

The pork shoulder ragu is worth a try along with just about everything else on the menu at Orto in Miller Place. (Courtesy of Orto)

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One of the great things about the East End is how many truly enjoyable restaurants are located within such close proximity to each other — even outside of the downtown districts. You don’t often see this in such rural areas. 

As for the rest of Suffolk County, downtown is often thought of as the place to go. We tend to lean more toward Patchogue or Huntington, for example, when we think of dining out in western suffolk.

But there’s nothing quite like finding a hidden gem off the beaten path, or in a strip mall and other places you’d least expect it.

With the exception of the villages — Stony Brook, Setauket, Port Jefferson and Bellport — you have to work a bit to find the fun places in the Town of Brookhaven. But I’ve eaten my share of enjoyable meals in a number of spots I’ve found myself returning to.

We recently covered Broadway Market in “Off the Fork” and that’s a great example of this phenomenon. They turned the former Gracie’s — which I loved for having deviled eggs as an app — into a foodie’s paradise in Rocky Point. It’s not a place you’d think to drive to, but you’re happy when you do.

Here’s a few more places in the Town of Brookhaven we’d recommend checking out that aren’t in a downtown. They’re also not on the North Fork, but are certainly close enough to try.

A nap is required after eating at The CookRoom in Middle Island. (Courtesy of The CookRoom)

The CookRoom for breakfast

I’ve been recommending The CookRoom to people since it first opened more than a decade ago and they’ve all been blown away by it. Located in an old Kullman diner car on Route 25 in Middle Island, it’s oozing with greasy spoon vibes — and that’s a compliment, in case you were wondering.

It’s the kind of comfort food place you go to on days when you know you’ll have time for a nap afterwards.

I’m shouting it out here for breakfast and there’s not a bad turn you could take on that menu loaded with omelettes, ginormous pancakes and gluttonous french toast options.

I tend to order off their specials menu, though. They have a great selection of regular and rotating options and will usually allow you to order off menu, too. For me, no breakfast beats their spicy scrambler, with chorizo, onions, tomatoes and gobs of jack cheese all scrambled together for optimal eating pleasure. Their cheesy biscuits and sausage gravy is an excellent choice, too, if you want to really fill your belly. And if the gravy’s too much, try the cheesy biscuit egg sliders instead.

If you’re more in the mood for lunch, you should definitely get with their CookRoom combo, which is basically a corned beef and pastrami reuben in one. Order it with their bacon-filled potato salad or killer onion rings.

Pro tip: This is a cash only joint, so hit an ATM first.

You’ll want to leave a tip and take the cannolis at Orto in Miller Place. (Courtesy of Orto)

Orto for date night

When the rustic Italian eatery Orto opened on North Country Road in Miller Place in 2012 it was an instant must try for me knowing it came from the same owners as the great Kitchen a Bistro and Kitchen a Trattoria in St. James (both places have since closed, making Orto an even more important restaurant to try).

Like its predecessors, Orto is best sampled through its prix-fixe menu and shared, allowing you and your date to try a whole smorgasbord of small plates and other options.

The meatballs over creamy polenta are a must-order for me and it makes me wonder why more places don’t dabble in that cornmeal goodness. Also worth trying is the risotto balls stuffed with bolognese and the braised beef short ribs. I’m also told the squid ink pasta with spicy sausage and baby clams is quite good.

Located in the historic Daniel Miller House, which was built in the early 19th century, it also features an atrium. It’s a gorgeous restaurant.

Also consider: If a tasty, affordable menu and primo location wasn’t enough to convince you to try this place, keep in mind that despite having a bar and wine list, there is no corking fee at Orto, making it a great stop on the way home from wine country to parts west. Oh, and this place is also cash only, so consider yourself warned.

A Prime Steakhouse Burger from Beers Burgers Desserts in Rocky Point. (Courtesy of BBDs)

Beers Burgers Desserts for casual dining

In one of the more unusual franchise moves, Beers Burgers Desserts has two locations, its flagship on Route 25A in Rocky Point and a newer one on the Vegas Strip. Yes, Las Vegas.

But you don’t have to double down on a flight to experience this restaurant, which has a menu more enticing than its straightforward name might suggest.

One of the coolest things about this place — which features a dark decor and grunge soundtrack that is a bit unusual — is how many different ways you can get your burger prepared. Aside from just an array of toppings and a bar style burger, they also give you two more options for how your burger can be cooked: thinner patties on the griddle or steamed, which gives you more of a fast food option.

Then you get into the toppings and you realize the possibilities are endless with everything from candied grilled bacon to onion straws as fried eggs serving as options.

The naked confit wings are also really good here, the beer list is expansive and Chef Ralph Perrazzo is known for his ramen. And vegans shouldn’t get scared off by the word burger in the title, there are nine options on a vegan menu.

Of course, you can’t forget desserts at a place that has it in the title. Keep it simple with the brownie sundae.

Worth noting: Go Burger, with locations in Ridge and Miller Place, is one of the better burger places this side of Route 112 and is worth a stop if you’re looking for a fastish food burger option.

Colosseo has the best Sicilian pie this side of … Sicily. (Grant Parpan photo)

Colosseo for pizza

At some point in the late ’90s, I can’t recall exactly when, Colosseo on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station ditched entreés from its menu. It was a bold move for a Long Island Italian place, but it probably hasn’t hurt them a bit. The pizza is so darn good here, there’s no reason to order anything else, and they were confident enough to understand this.

There’s a great debate in the Three Village area, Colosseo or Carnival, which is located just a mile or so up Route 347, and to me it’s not even close: Colosseo pizza is being served on my death row menu it’s that good. (I think the Carnival folks are overly influenced by the entreé options.)

Pizza has gotten a bit fancier in recent years with an influx of specialty pies and wood-fired ovens, but Colosseo is a throwback to the old days when you ordered a cheese pie and went home happy.

The only question you should be asking yourself at this place is whether or not you want the traditional pie or the Sicilian and while you can’t go wrong with either, I lean toward the latter.

This is also a great slice spot since they do so much volume it’s always fresh.

One final tip: This is also cash only, so be prepared. And if you can’t see yourself going quite this far west for simple pizza, Branchinelli’s in Miller Place is a solid runner up in the straight-up Long Island pizza game.

2 Comment

  • Hi Grant- I live in Greenport but go to Miller Place every week to see my grandchildren. I have been telling people about Colleseo’s for years. It is, without a doubt, THE BEST PIZZA I have ever had. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. I would also add to you list Zorba’s in PJ Station. Very good, very fresh. Thanks for the tip on Orto.

    • You know what’s also striking about Coloseo is it’s always the same people working there forever. Shows me they take care of their people. Definitely check out Orto. It’s a special place for sure. Yes, Zorba is excellent. I would eat it three times a week when I worked in Port Jefferson! Thanks for the feedback. — Grant