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The Best of the Best 2009

The ReadersTop 15 Best of LI 2009 Winners


Tens of thousands of people voted in our Best of Long Island 2009 competition, and in all, we handed out more than 500 awards in 175 categories.

That is a great deal of hardware.

But we’ve saved the very best for last—or rather, The Best of the Best.


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The 15 businesses profiled here—10 local, five national—garnered the most votes overall, not just in their own categories, but in the entire competition. These were the businesses that you, our readers, felt most strongly about, and voted for in the most overwhelming numbers.

And we do mean overwhelming.

Some of these individual businesses garnered more votes than some entire categories.

Impressive, no?

But we’ll leave the advanced statistical analysis to the economists and the baseball geeks. The people have spoken. What follows, in no particular order, are the businesses you voted for the most: The Best of the Best of Long Island, 2009.

Trader Joe’s
Multiple locations. www.traderjoes.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Health Food (other category wins: 2008 Best Health Food Market; 2006 Best Chain/Health Food Store)

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's

On first impression, Trader Joe’s gives off a very hippie vibe. Their stores have floral patterns on the walls. Their employees, decked in Hawaiian shirts, are very laid back and relaxed. Their website has a surfboard across the top of it. It’s all a little suspect. But everything Trader Joe’s does has a reason behind it. The stores have floral patterns and the website has a surfboard because the company opened its store in California. Employees are laid back and relaxed because they make well above the minimum wage, have ample room for advancement and benefit options. The Hawaiian shirts are…well they’re just cool.

Trader Joe’s started out as Pronto Market, a convenience store chain similar to 7-Eleven, in 1958. Over time, the store’s founder, Joe Coulombe, discovered a population of people who returned to the U.S. from overseas trips, wanting the foods and wines they had found. In response, Coulombe grew the size of his stores, and in 1967 changed the name to Trader Joe’s. He also began stocking the foods people were clamoring for, which carved out the niche that Joe’s occupies now.

Joe’s selection spans all three corners of the food pyramid, with a special focus on less common things like organic, gourmet and kosher foods. Everything is sold under the Trader Joe’s umbrella, although often with subtle derivatives—Italian food is labeled as Trader Giotto’s, Japanese as Trader Joe-San. The result is a trip to the grocer with spoils that mimic taking a trip around the world.

They are, unquestionably, a nation-wide chain, but Trader Joe’s manages to retain as much of a local, neighborhood eatery feel as a company with more than 300 stores in half the states can. With their selection of gourmet stuff from all over the world, it wouldn’t be shocking if prices were astronomical. But Trader Joe’s keeps consumer prices down by buying straight from the suppliers. The lack of middlemen leads to lower costs for Joe’s and lower costs for its shoppers. They also swear by everything they sell, so anything not selling gets yanked and refunds are issued to anyone who doesn’t like something they bought.

In a field of Wal-Marts, Targets and other mega-chains, Trader Joe’s marches to its own beat. The company has an underlying strategy—to offer a wide selection of high quality foods at low prices—and everything about their business reinforces that.

Panera Bread
Multiple Locations. www.panerabread.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Healthy Eatery (other category wins: 2009 Best Soup; 2009 Best Luncheonette; 2009 Best Lunch Deal; 2008 Best Lunch Deal; 2008 Best Fast Food; 2008 Best Dinner Deal; 2007 Best Lunch Deal; 2007 Best Bakery; 2006 Best Chain/Bakery)

Panera Bread

Panera Bread

It’s a new year and most everyone vows to wage war on their expanding waistlines—the infamous battle of the bulge. But how quickly those good intentions fall to the wayside during the stressful hours of the work day: Who reaches for the comfort of a carrot stick after a presentation gone wrong with all the bigwigs in the company? But Long Islanders agree, in overwhelming numbers, that the best healthy eatery is Panera Bread. Maybe it’s the health-conscious food, maybe it’s the taste. We’re thinking it’s the combination of eating right and not feeling like you’ve been dieting: Low-fat chicken noodle soup, low-fat chicken tortilla soup and low-fat vegetarian black bean soup warm the soul on even the coldest day. Eight flavorful salads under 500 calories include the Asian Sesame Chicken Salad, the Classic Café Salad, the Greek Salad, the Caesar Salad and the Fresh Fruit Cup. Or have a half sandwich to fill up but not fill out—including Panera’s signature sandwiches or hot Panini. Add to that delicious coffee, exotic frozen drinks and Wi-Fi and it’s no wonder that Panera is where you will find waist-watching lunchers.

Cheesecake Factory
1504 Old Country Rd., Mall at the Source, Westbury. 516-222-5500; 160 Walt Whitman Rd., Walt Whitman Mall, Huntington. 631-271-8200; 610 Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove. 631-361-6600. www.thecheesecakefactory.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Dessert Place (other category wins: 2008 Best Dessert Place)

cheesecakefactory02

The Cheesecake Factory

It’s unfair to say that The Cheesecake Factory only makes great cheesecake. Sure, it’s the name of the restaurant. And yes, their stock symbol is CAKE. But The Cheesecake Factory doesn’t deserve to be written off that easily. That would be like saying Phil’s Pizzeria & Restaurant in Syosset only makes great balsamic chicken slices—it’s true, but it’s only a small part of what makes the place so good.

But let’s not discredit their namesake—the cheesecake is unbelievable. There are more than 30 varieties to choose from, with tame choices like chocolate, banana and vanilla bean, and more out-there cakes like cookie dough, key lime and coconut. Between October and December, the menu has two pumpkin-flavored types, and their excellent 30th Anniversary cake—alternating layers of original cheesecake and chocolate fudge cake—is now a permanent list staple. Garnishes like strawberries and caramel drizzle are fresh, and the whipped cream that tops each slice is the furthest thing from the aerosol can stuff at the grocery store. It’s probably just as common to see people eating a full meal here as it is to order only coffee and dessert.

Nobody’s going to sit through a few courses of bad food just to get the dessert (although the cheesecake is that good), but Cheesecake Factory doesn’t even give you the option to do that. Their menu reads like a continent-jumping list of dishes, with items from almost every land mass on Earth (sorry, Antarctica). Appetizers include avocado egg rolls, fried mac and cheese balls, and made-to-order guacamole that can be as mild or spicy as you want. The entrée selection has pastas, salads, burgers, steaks, seafood, sandwiches and pizza. And the portions? Let’s just say it takes a special person (namely, one with a completely empty stomach) to finish an appetizer and entrée and even consider dessert. Fortunately, the cheesecake is one of those things you’ll always manage to make room for.

The Cheesecake Factory has more than 160 locations spread through the country, and three on LI—The Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington, The Source Mall in Westbury, and The Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. Most restaurants pride themselves on one thing and use that to overshadow the mediocrity of their shortcomings. The Cheesecake Factory prides itself on its cheesecake, but only uses that as a selling point to bring people inside its massive glass double doors, at which point it becomes clear that the Factory’s entire menu needs no compensating, only indulging.

Smokin’ Al’s Famous BBQ Joint
19 W. Main St., Bay Shore. 631-206-3000. 4847 Merrick Rd., Massapequa Park. 516-799-4900. www.smokinals.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Barbecue (other category wins: 2009 Best Ribs; 2008 Best Ribs; 2007 Best Ribs; 2006 Best Ribs; 2006 Best Barbecue)

Smokin' Al's

Smokin' Al's

Tell us a little bit about your business and its history.

Our philosophy is not only to give the best barbecue to our guests, but give the very best quality food and value to them, and at the same time a great experience!  And by the way, we refer to our customers as guests not customers… We want them to feel good and leave their troubles behind them when they are at Smokin’ Al’s… Especially in these times, people need a break from their troubles but shouldn’t spend a fortune doing so.

How would you describe your guests?

Our guests are those that want excellent food quality, and at the same time quantity (large portions) and to enjoy themselves.

Why do you think you did so well in the Best Of Long Island voting?

We did so well in The Best Of LI voting mainly because we not only worry about the quality of our food. We also are concerned that our guests enjoy themselves and have a “feel-good” time!…As we say at Smokin’ Al’s, we love to “wow “ them!

What is your business’ philosophy or mission?

Our mission is for our guests to walk out feeling they got a great meal, a great deal, and they had a terrific time at Smokin’ Al’s! We want them leaving telling others about their positive experience! Nothing beats word of mouth!

Both you and Barack Obama were just chosen by the people. Do you have any advice for our 44th president?

As far as Barack Obama I have no advice…I am a BBQ Man and that’s all that I am! I need to stay focused and concentrate on my job 24/7 to be the very best!… Well then I guess I do have advice for Obama….He should do the same as President!

Cinema Arts Centre
423 Park Ave., Huntington. 631-423-7611. www.cinemaartscentre.org
2009 Category Winner: Best Movie Theater (other category wins: 2009 Best Mom & Pop Business; 2008 Best Movie Theater; 2007 Best Movie Theater; 2006 Best Movie Theater)

Cinema Arts Centre

Cinema Arts Centre

Tell us a little bit about your business and its history.

Victor Skolnick and Charlotte Sky founded the Cinema Arts Centre in 1973 to create an alternative to the mainstream movie theaters and media that were then available on Long Island. Vic and Charlotte were life-long movie fans who grew up enjoying New York City’s wide variety of film offerings. When fate brought them to Long Island, they were deeply saddened by the dearth of film viewing opportunities in the area. Vic and Charlotte were certain that many other Long Islanders shared their hunger for a richer cinematic diet. They borrowed a 16mm projector and film from the Huntington Public Library, hung their bed sheet on the wall of a small dance studio, and started showing movies. In the ensuing years, the Cinema Arts Centre has evolved into a world-renowned, state-of-the-art cinema with three screens. However, the inspiration and ideals that motivated CAC’s creation remain unchanged. We are a Not-for-Profit (501c3) tax-exempt cultural institution that receives grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Suffolk County Office of Cultural Affairs. The Cinema is partially supported by our 8,000 loyal and appreciative annual members.

How would you describe your customers?

Because of the wide range of our programs, our audiences are a cross-section of Long Island. They include art lovers who attend our Creativity series,  young horror fans that enjoy our late-night Summer Camp Cinema, parents who bring their children to our Cinema for Kids events, senior citizens who appreciate classic movies, gay and lesbians viewers at our Out at the Movies programs, politically-engaged folks at the Real-to-Reel Documentary Films, silent film devotees at our Anything but Silent events with live music, and of course, pretty much everyone in between when we have a popular new movies like Slumdog Millionaire or The Wrestler.

Why do you think you did so well in the Best Of Long Island voting?

We’ve always tried to focus strongly on the needs of our community, whether it is by presenting programs on important local issues, playing films that wouldn’t otherwise be available in this area, or simply by creating a pleasant place for Long Islanders to watch movies and hang out with friends. We try to treat our audience with respect and love. It was nice to see that the feeling is mutual.

What is your business’ philosophy or mission?

The mission of the Cinema Arts Centre is bring the best in cinematic artistry to Long Island, and using the power of film to expand the awareness and consciousness of our community.

What does it mean to you to be a Long Island business? Although New York City will always cast a long shadow, Long Island is a separate region that deserves the same quality and diversity of movies that city dwellers take for granted.

Both you and Barack Obama were just chosen by the people. Do you have any advice for our 44th president?

Be bold!

Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of the Press?

Thank you!

Vincent’s Clam Bar
179 Old Country Rd., Carle Place. 516-742-4577. www.vincentsclambar.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Italian Restaurant (other category wins: 2009 Best Restaurant; 2009 Best Jarred Pasta Sauce; 2009 Best Off-Site Catering; 2008 Best Italian Restaurant)

Vincent's Clam Bar

Vincent's Clam Bar

Tell us a little bit about your business and its history.

The original Vincent’s was established in 1904 in Little Italy. Our store on Long Island has been open for 30 years.

How would you describe your customers?

Our customers are the greatest. They are so friendly and appreciative of all we do, it is a pleasure to serve them.

Why do you think you did so well in the Best Of Long Island voting?

Loyalty. Thirty years of relationship building and understanding that people enjoy being appreciated.

What is your business’ philosophy or mission?

Always exceed guest expectations and remember its not about the business we do today, it’s about the business we are going to do tomorrow.

What does it mean to you to be a Long Island business?

It means being lucky enough to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the country.

Both you and Barack Obama were just chosen by the people. Do you have any advice for our 44th president?

Keep us safe, keep the economy strong, cut taxes!

Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of the Press?

Thank you. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you.

Dunkin’ Donuts
Multiple Locations. www.dunkindonuts.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Cup of Coffee (other category wins: 2008 Best Cup of Coffee; 2006 Best Chain/Coffee)

Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin Donuts

Best of the Best? Well, by popular vote, Dunkin’ Donuts certainly proved to be a reader favorite: The coffee-and-pastry chain was not only a top vote-getter, it also had the highest percentage of votes in its category (Best Cup of Coffee), taking 59 percent of the vote. Against 12 competitors! That’s what we call a landslide. And we can’t disagree—we drink Dunkin’ coffee on the regular. Here are five things we love about the chain and its brew.

5. Location, location, location: Everywhere we go, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby—and for a coffee lover, there is no more reassuring feeling than knowing a great cuppa is available at any time, anywhere. We don’t like wondering where our next fix is coming from—but with Dunkin, all we have to do is go half a block in any direction and we’re home.

4. Turbo-charged: When we need an extra boost in the a.m., we order a Turbo—a shot of espresso dumped into an already potent brew. When we really need a quick lift, we go with a Turbo Ice—an espresso-enhanced iced coffee—which we suck down in about a minute. Not unlike being hit by lightning, only pleasant!

3. Cuppa Joba: Remember last summer, when DD had all those life-sized Joba Chamberlain cutouts in every location? We are not ashamed to admit that we had our picture taken with one of them. Two of our favorite things: Joba Chamberlain and Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee! We are, however, ashamed to admit that we tried to run off with one, to keep in our living room. But we didn’t make it through the door. That Joba is a big guy!

2. Jonesing for Joe: All caffeinated coffee is addictive, because caffeine is an addictive substance, yet Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is uniquely addictive in that, whenever we smell, think about or (ahem) write about the stuff, we need a cup. For a very long time, we were convinced they were putting something in the brew—morphine, maybe?—but we’re over those crazy theories. Now, whenever we feel the need for speed, we walk half a block in any direction, pick up a Great One (that’s what they call an extra-large coffee at DD, and the name does not inaccurately reflect the product), and let the brew sate our thirst and warm our blood.

1. Accounting For Taste: What it all comes down to, though, is that DD makes better-tasting coffee than anyone else. This is entirely subjective, yet we all agree, and we have never met anyone who disagrees. Clearly Press readers are with us on this one. The stuff is gold. Brown gold. Champagne of the gods, served to us mere mortals every morning (and afternoon, and evening).

Cheeburger Cheeburger
12 Manetto Hill Rd., Plainview. 516-939-2237 www.cheeburger.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Burger (other category wins: 2008 Best Burger; 2006 Best Milkshake)

Cheeburger Cheeburger

Cheeburger Cheeburger

Tell us a little bit about your business and its history.

We are celebrating our  [Plainview location’s] third anniversary—we will be opening up Farmingdale (Airport Plaza) this spring. The franchise was founded in 1980.

How would you describe your customers?

Our guests love our fresh, never-frozen Black Angus beef burgers, fresh, never-frozen fries and rings. They love our high-quality food with very reasonable prices.

Why do you think you did so well in the Best Of Long Island voting?

Our guests love our food and our fun atmosphere, and they’re proud of us.

What is your business’ philosophy or mission?

Our mission is to serve the best fresh, never-frozen food, with the best service, and to have you thoroughly enjoy your experience.

What does it mean to you to be a Long Island business?

We are a Long Island-owned franchise group. We grew up on LI and are proud to serve our friends.

Dave & Buster’s
261 Airport Plaza Blvd., Farmingdale. 631-249-0708. 1856 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Islandia. 631-582-6615. 1504 Old Country Rd., Westbury. 516-542-8501.  www.daveandbusters.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Video Arcade (other category wins: 2009 Best Sports Bar; 2009 Best Bowling Alley; 2008 Best Video Arcade; 2008 Best Sports Bar; 2008 Best Bowling Alley; 2007 Best Video Arcade; 2007 Best Bowling Alley; 2006 Best Video Arcade; 2006 Best Happy Hour)

Dave & Buster's

Dave & Buster's

We’re all kids at heart—sometimes we need to act on that youthfulness, and Dave & Buster’s is absolutely the place to do that. The “fun and food” concept was created in 1982 when Dave Corriveau and “Buster” Corley decided to take a chance and open an adult-oriented gaming house with billiards, shuffleboard, high-tech arcade games, simulated golf and virtual-reality space combat, in Dallas, Tex. Add to that a full-service restaurant and bar and Dave & Buster’s was born.

The two men owned neighboring storefronts—Dave owned a gaming hall, Buster a restaurant. The men realized that most of their patrons went back and forth between the two establishments on any given night. They began thinking what might happen if they combined Dave’s games and Buster’s food under one roof and how big that roof might be.
Now, anyone who has ever been to a Dave & Buster’s knows that the idea really worked. From office parties to birthday parties to a night on the town, it’s an instant recipe for fun.

Maureen’s Kitchen
108 Terry Rd., Smithtown. 631-360-9227.
2009 Category Winner: Best Breakfast (other category wins: 2007 Best Breakfast; 2008 Best Breakfast; 2006 Best Breakfast)

Maureen's Kitchen

Maureen's Kitchen

Tell us a little bit about your business and its history.

We started 24 years ago; we started in a smaller building across the street and then we moved here and we doubled in size. We grew with the demand of people wanting our product: breakfast and lunch. Baked Oatmeal is our original recipe—people have tried to copy that recipe for years, and nobody has come close. We have a lot of daily specials that we pride ourselves on. We give a high-quality product, we give the best bang for your buck. A lot of our customers walk in and they leave with another bag for home.

How would you describe your customers?

Excellent, very loyal, friendly, hard-working, blue-collar people. That’s how we got started, taking care of the working guy. That goes back to our philosophy with oversized portions.

Why do you think you did so well in the Best of Long Island voting?

Because we give people a good-quality meal at a fair and reasonable price. People don’t mind paying for the quality, as long as you put it on the plate. We put a lot of pride into what we do, and we cook with our hearts. Every plate that we put in front of someone is our advertisement.

What is your business’ philosophy or mission?

Our business philosophy is you definitely don’t go away hungry.

What does it mean to you to be a Long Island business?

It means everything. That’s all we know. We’ve been here 24 years doing this. We really, truly feel that people here deserve our food because they’re not really eating what they should be and we want people to eat the best; what they should be eating.

Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of the Press?

Thank you all for your continuous support and loyalty. We really, truly appreciate it.

Bottles and Cases
134 E. Main St., Huntington. 631-423-9463. www.bottlesandcases.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Liquor Store

Bottles and Cases

Bottles and Cases

Tell us a little bit about your business and its history.

Bottles and Cases opened in 1990.  We were one of the first stores on the Island to embrace the “warehouse” concept.  We strive to deliver the best possible product for the best possible price.  We’ve been serving Long Island for almost 20 years.  We listen to what customers want, and respond to their needs.  This is one reason why people come from all over Long Island to experience our store.

How would you describe your customers?

Our customers are wine-savvy people who are willing to try new wines and explore their horizons.  We pride ourselves on being able to assist all customers, from the wine novice to the aficionado. We love educating our customers who are eager to learn about wine and spirits.  We all have as much fun working here as our customers do shopping here!

Why do you think you did so well in the Best Of Long Island voting?

We always try to keep our customer’s best interests in mind.  We hope that when you walk through our doors, you know you are getting the best possible values on wine and liquor.

What is your business’ philosophy or mission?

Through the years, we’ve stuck to our motto of delivering wines with a high price-to-quality ratio.  We want our wines to “overdeliver” at each price point.  We try our best to find wines that could easily sell for twice the price, so each time you open a bottle from our store, you are pleasantly surprised by the quality for the price you paid. Whether it’s $4.99 or $499, we hand select each product to ensure that it’s an incredible value.  We provide a clean, neatly organized store that is fun to shop in, while delivering the best wines at the best price.  We have in-store tastings every weekend and love to showcase each new deal we find.

What does it mean to you to be a Long Island business?

We’re proud to be a Long Island business.  Our owner and all of our managers were born and raised on Long Island and we’re all proud to be a part of a long history of Long Island’s locally owned and operated businesses.  We feel a true closeness with our community, and a strong bond with many of our customers. We’ve supported numerous local schools, charities, charity events, and local causes throughout the years.  We feel that now, more than ever, it is critical to give back to the community as often as possible.

Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of the Press?

Thank you very much for this great honor.  We’ll continue to strive to live up to the reputation of being Long Island’s Best Liquor Store!

All American Hamburger Drive-In
4286 Merrick Rd., Massapequa. 516-798-9574. www.allamericanhamburger.us
2009 Category Winner: Best Burger (other category wins: 2009 Best French Fries; 2008 Best French Fries; 2008 Best Fast Food; 2008 Best Burger; 2007 Best French Fries; 2007 Best Fast Food; 2007 Best Burger; 2006 Best Milkshake; 2006 Best French Fries; 2006 Best Burger)

All American Hamburger Drive-In

All American Hamburger Drive-In

Their website says it all: “There is only one original All American…” The burger joint has been a longtime Long Island staple. Now, not only is All American a Best of L.I. winner, they also have a Facebook group dedicated to their greatness.

The headline for the Facebook group reads, “All American Burger, More Addicting Than Heroin.” Though scientifically that’s probably false, it certainly is true when the hunger strikes and All American burgers, franks, and famous knishes are the only thing that can help you kick the craving. Members of the Facebook group leave wall posts of sheer praise for the establishment. Members’ posts range from their favorite All American memory to favorite meals and quirky combinations like, “I love dipping my fries in the strawberry shake…sounds gross but strangely tasty.” Some of the posts detail stories that almost make one nostalgic for that dependably tasty burger our families have been eating for generations: “I was back in Massapequa summer 2008 and called my mother and lied to her on the phone and told my dear-old-Mom that I was stuck in traffic on the Southern State. I was really at All American eating a knish, fries, and drinking a chocolate shake. I feel that the knish justified the lie…”

The Facebook group has 524 members but that’s just a fraction of the Long Islanders who love the place. It doesn’t seem to matter how far a Long Islander strays from his or her roots, when returning to town All American is a must-stop place on the agenda: “I was in NY for a HS reunion 4 years ago. My friend picked me up at Kennedy and said, ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘All American’ was my response.” It seems that if the world were ending tomorrow, for some Islanders, All American would be the only menu consideration. As one Facebook member writes, “If I’m ever on death row I want that as my last meal…”

Briermere Farms
4414 Sound Ave., Riverhead. 631-722-3931. www.briermere.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Farm Stand (other category wins: 2008 Best Farm Stand; 2007 Best Farm Stand; 2006 Best Farm Stand)

Briermere Farms

Briermere Farms

Briermere Farms has become somewhat of an LI legend—famous for its friendly family service and mouth-watering pies. Fans often will make the trip from Nassau and beyond to visit the farm stand. And although the McCombe family is relatively quiet about their mom-and-pop business (the farm does practically no advertising), Briermere Farm’s reputation reaches the entire Tri-State area. A Google search reveals reviews and raves from as far as Connecticut. It’s hard to believe that the family got into the pie business almost by accident. In the early 1960s, after searching for a small piece of land on the East End, the McCombe family purchased the farm that is now the “it” location for fresh fruits and vegetables and, of course, pies. The land was populated with apple trees, and the McCombes started with a small farm stand to sell the apples growing on their property. As more apples grew, the family made pies to sell—as not to waste the abundance. Now, more than 40 years later, there is a wealth of blueberries, pears, peaches, apples and other assorted fruits and vegetables. The fruits have become the centerpiece of Briermere’s famous pies. Only the cherries are imported to LI. Depending on the time of year, everything is fresh. And while Briermere now makes every type of pie imaginable, from Peach Cherry to Strawberry Rhubarb to Lemon Meringue, and offers fresh jams, jellies, apple butter and local honey, the Apple Pie is still the most popular.

Bagel Boss
Multiple Locations. www.bagelboss.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Bagels (other category wins: 2009 Best Egg Sandwich; 2008 Best Caterer; 2008 Best Bagels; 2007 Best Caterer; 2007 Best Breakfast; 2006 Best Bagels)

Bagel Boss

Bagel Boss

Bagel Boss? How about Bagel Commander-in-Chief? That’s right, Double-B catered the inauguration, sending countless bagels to Washington, D.C., for Barack Obama’s swearing in. And Bagel Boss has been feeding Long Islanders for more than 50 years with fresh-made bagels, rolls, bialys and flagels—which is why Long Island has voted BB the place to get the best bagels on LI, along with lots of other things over the years. Owned by expert bagel man Adam Rosner, the Boss started as a family business with just one store. In 1989 Rosner took over the family run business and built it to what it is today: a full-service catering and bagel business with 12 locations. Don’t be fooled by its name—Bagel Boss is more than just bagels. The menu of fresh-daily items includes baked goods, salads, and hot soups, as well as spreads, fish and salads. The to-die-for fare and the inviting lounge area make Bagel Boss the perfect place to spend a Sunday morning with your newspaper and coffee, or a family luncheon. Full-service ordering and catering menu available at their website for parties, office events or if you just prefer not to stand in line—because they make the best bagels on LI, there’s always a line.

The Original Umberto’s of New Hyde Park
633 Jericho Tpke., New Hyde Park. 516-437-7698; 1180 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh. 516-221-5696. www.originalumbertos.com
2009 Category Winner: Best Pizza (other category wins: 2008 Best Pizza; 2006 Best Sicilian Slice; 2006 Best Chicken Parm)

The Original Umberto's of New Hyde Park

The Original Umberto's of New Hyde Park

Pizza is pretty popular, and for good reason—it’s delicious. Sicilian, Grandma’s, buffalo chicken; mamma mia that stuff is great. Even a simple cheese and sauce slice bests anything on the Dollar Menu. But, because of its popularity, it’s easy to find a place that’ll slop some dough and marinara sauce together and call it pizza. And unfortunately, most “Italian” places are just hole-in-the-wall, American establishments that whip up the same generic pies as the “Italian” restaurant on the next corner. But The Original Umberto’s of New Hyde Park practices authentic, Italian cooking, leaving them standing on top of the LI restaurant scene with all of Benito Mussolini’s gusto and bravado, and none of the fascist tendencies.

Anyone looking for the reason why Umberto’s food is so authentic only need read their history. Umberto Corteo, one of eleven children, came to America with four of his brothers and sisters to start a new life. They settled in Brooklyn, and Umberto started slaving away in kitchens, sending some money back to Italy and keeping some. Eventually he and his younger brother Joe opened The Original Umberto’s in 1965. Since there was no Best of the Best or Kioli to get their word out, Umberto and Joe had to rely on—what else—making the most authentic Italian food this side of Sicily. Apparently their strategy worked, because 44 years and four Best Of awards later, Umberto’s is still going strong.

Umberto’s menu is a smorgasbord of Italian foods, and you really can’t go wrong with anything on it. But we’re here to talk about the pizza, and it warrants talking about. Umberto’s serves traditional pizzas like Neapolitan and Sicilian by the delectable slice and in gorgeous pies. They’ve also got a brick oven for cooking specialty pizzas. Their menu gives suggestions on topping combos that work well together, and lets you choose your own. The toppings are about as fresh as fresh can get, with ripe roasted peppers and chewy, flavorful pepperoni thrown onto pies in heaping portions.

If it seems like the word “authentic” appears too frequently, it’s because Umberto’s was founded with the idea of differentiating itself by offering food that tastes like it was prepared right in the boot-shaped country. Now, with the décor to match, Umberto’s really comes off like it was plucked straight out of Italy and put down on LI.

The Four-Timers
This is the fourth year of the Long Island Press Best Of L.I. awards, and over those four years, hundreds of thousands of votes have been cast for thousands of businesses. So it’s pretty impressive when a business nabs Best Of honors even two years in a row—and it’s downright awesome when they have managed it in all four Best Of L.I. editions. The following businesses are four-time winners, the Best Of L.I. Hall of Fame.
• 1042 Collision
• Adventureland
• All American Hamburger Drive In
• Ayhan’s Restaurants & Mediterranean Café
• Bagel Boss
• Briermere Farms
• Cinema Arts Centre
• The Crazy Donkey
• Croxley Ale House
• Dave & Buster’s
• Duck Walk Vineyards
• East Bay Dinner
• Eisenhower Park
• Friends of the Bay
• Gurney’s Inn Resort, Spa & Conference Center
• Hooters
• Iavarone Bros.
• Island 16: Cinema De Lux
• Island Harvest
• Kotabuki
• Legal Seafood
• Long Island Ducks  (in 2009, they earned their own category)
• Looney Tunes
• Maureen and Daughters Kitchen
• Mediterranean Snack Bar
• Mamma Lombardi’s
• Nathan’s Famous Restaurant Inc.
• New York Islanders (in 2009, they earned their own category)
• Oheka Castle
• Panera Bread
• Petco
• Pindar Vineyards Winery & Pavilion
• Red Door Spa
• Rockabilly Barbers
• Selmer’s Petland
• Smokin’ Al’s
• White Post Farms of Melville
• Whole Foods Market
• Wild By Nature

The All-Time Greats
In the four years of the Best Of L.I. competition, a few businesses have fared especially well, taking home honors in more than one category. The following businesses have done even better than that. These are our Top 5 all-time greats, taking home record numbers of awards over the last four years.

1. A Taste of Home, 13 awards
2. All American Burger, 11 awards
3 (tie). Dave & Buster’s, 10 awards
3 (tie). Iavarone Bros., 10 awards
3 (tie). Panera Bread, 10 awards

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