If it weren't for the parking meters in front of Canterbury Ales' Tudor-style building, you might think you were walking into a centuries-old English pub. The spot opened up 35 years ago after two college friends—one an English literature major—journeyed to Canterbury and were inspired to start their own pub. Today, current owner Billy Hoest says patrons are delighted to find that the English-style stews, sandwiches, and never-frozen burgers they loved 35 years ago haven't changed, though they've made some additions over the years. The sizeable beer list, which rotates with the seasons, stars 20 draft beers including craft and local brews, such as Blue Point, backed up by 50 bottled varieties. But the ample sip selection doesn't make Canterbury Ales an adults-only spot. "We're very family-oriented," Billy says. "We're more of a family pub, which we find over in England, than a bar in the sense that you find here." In addition to offering a kids’ menu, he and his staff make sure there are highchairs and coloring pages on hand to welcome their younger patrons. Customers can devour their prime-rib sandwiches, English brown stews, and spicy Cajun blue burgers at dark wood tables and booths. "It's a dark, cozy, warm feel," Billy says. The interior is covered in English artifacts, including a picture of the queen, as well as more than 200 beer tap handles from brews they've tapped over the years and stained-glass panes created by a local artist to depict old English scenes. The snug pub is especially popular when the weather cools down, says Billy, and patrons can warm up with Irish, Jamaican, Mexican, and other coffees, all topped with a dollop of whipped cream. To celebrate its 35th anniversary in April 2012, Billy picked one item from the food menu and one item from the beer list and offered them at the original menu's prices. He wasn't making any money off of it, but for him, it was a way to thank loyal customers. "We have regulars all over Long Island [who] easily travel 45 minutes to an hour to come," he says. "So I do things to give back, to thank the customers for supporting us."
At Vitae Restaurant & Wine Bar, executive chef Keith Davidson puts a contemporary spin on continental fare from filet mignon to crab-crusted sole. Davidson's appetizers in particular have an international flair?beef tenderloin medallions come with hand-stretched tandoori naan, and flash-fried calamari is glazed with sweet Thai pepper.
At Vitae's opening in 2011, a reviewer from the New York Times praised both the "tender baby back ribs," brushed with house-made black-coffee barbecue sauce, and the "elegant" ambiance, enhanced by the soft glow of recessed lighting and hanging lamps. Stored behind an onyx-amber bar and in a 1,400-bottle cellar, an extensive wine selection earned the Huntington eatery a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2014.
Most pool halls evoke the smoky, timeworn atmosphere of a friend’s basement. The Big Kahuna decided to go a more upscale route. Stylish sofas flank a stone fireplace, wrought-iron lamps cast a warm glow over every table, and 11 big-screen TVs broadcast seasonal sporting events from spacious ochre walls. Alongside the hall’s billiards and ping-pong tables, a granite and brick bar furnishes icy sips of Budweiser, Corona, and other domestic brews to the pulsing soundtrack of ceramic orbs exploding apart. The hall’s kitchen stays open until the bar closes to balance libations with a menu of buffalo wings, steak-fajita wraps, and plates of chicken parmesan.
Oftentimes, there are so many TVs blaring ambient noise in a bar that you can't tell who's dunking what into where. Rookies Sports Club never has this problem. In addition to the restaurant's 10 big-screen and 2 projection TVs, each wood booth is decked out with its own personal monitor and speaker system. While watching, diners can partake in a full menu of burgers, wings, and flatbread pizzas, but they are discouraged from using the Gretzky jersey mounted on the wall as a bib. A full bar is also available.
A close look at the truffle selection tells you that XO Restaurant • Wine & Chocolate Lounge walks the tightrope between classic tastes and reinvention. Seated near the upstairs fireplace, you can sample a set of housemade chocolate truffles in classic milk, dark, and white variants, or nibble truffles dressed up as childhood treats such as oreos and s'mores. Alongside indulgent fondues, these desserts lend sweetness to the romantic atmosphere of the lounge, where live music plays every Friday and Saturday night.
Downstairs, the scene swings to a chic, brick-lined restaurant. The same spirit of experimentation is present in the menu, though: lobster pot pie, lamb and feta burgers, and flatbreads with toppings of fig and prosciutto are just a few of the kitchen's elegantly plated New American dishes. Wines have been sorted into flavor profiles such as "full-bodied and robust," saving patrons the trouble of asking each bottle for a character reference.
The Erin and John Lopez, the founders of Variations, believe in more than building up successful dancers?they also believe in building healthy bodies and attitudes through dance. Erin is a longtime dancer herself, having performed at Lincoln Center and as a dancer with a wide swath of companies. The instructors here are just as committed to their students as the Lopezes, leading classes as diverse as classical ballet, jazz, and hip hop for students of all ages. The adult curriculum also covers classic and contemporary dance styles, with Pilates and ballet barre fitness lessons as well.