What do you love to eat — really love? We’ve all had time to consider that question in 2020, a year which forced us into our kitchens for months while reordering the rules about how we dine, and where.
This most unusual year also postponed the eating marathon we undertake each spring for our biggest, most wrangled-over project — choosing the top 100 places to eat on Long Island. The reward of this process is finding a restaurant — a bistro, a taqueria, a Filipino fusion spot — that’s completely in the zone. Sometimes that happens during its first year, sometimes its fifteenth — for all its challenges, the pandemic has been an excavator of greatness.
Some places reengineered takeout to more fully engage the senses. Others finessed the portability of mixed drinks when planning cocktails-to-go, while others transformed their parking lot, alley or sidewalk into an outdoor oasis. Menus may have been stripped to their bones for a time — but they are lovely bones, proving that scarcity is still the mother of invention.
In the spirit of broken rules, this year our top 100 list has evolved in a necessary way: Instead of 10 hard-and-fast categories, this year’s field sprawls to over 20, reflecting the diversity of eating out on Long Island.
These are the places where we love to eat and that bring us joy, the spots whose x factor stayed with us long after we left. We’ve eaten their food on white tablecloths, on park benches and in the front seat of our cars, at our home table or on a tented deck overlooking the Atlantic. In 2020, food and drink have collided with our lives in new ways — but the heart knows what the stomach wants.