In this recessional year, with places going down-scale, many new restaurants were all about burgers, sandwiches, pizza and hot dogs getting extreme makeovers. I found myself eating a lot with my hands. Herewith, in no particular order:
10. Margherita Pizza—In a tiny space carved out of the back of a Haagan-Dazs, Michael Brunetti and pizzaiolo Mike Nunziata have wedged in a pizza oven and are baking personal designer pizzas worth seeking out. I’ve never tasted a crust so impressive. Both crispy and chewy, the thin crust, redolent of good olive oil can actually steal the show from the high quality ingredients. There are several varieties but the Margherita is a must.
103 Main St., Westhampton Beach
9. Kati Rolls—Think Indian burritos, with warm paratha bread standing in for the tortilla, rolled up around aromatic tandoor baked chicken (also mutton on weekends) and grilled onion and pepper filling it out.
Aminia of Calcutta
253 S. Broadway, Hicksville
8. Gyro Burger Sliders—2010 was the year of the slider. This incarnation, made with ground beef and lamb on mini brioche rolls with tzatziki sauce for slathering, was unforgettable.
1027 Northern Blvd., Roslyn
7. Salvadoran Enchiladas—At this Salvadoran steam table, homemade, insanely tasty enchiladas, prepared like opened-face tacos, piled high with meat, slaw and cheese were a big surprise, and all for about the price of a newspaper.
191 Main St., Farmingdale
6. Meatloaf Knish—Just about everything but salads are pressed at this Park Slope-based sandwich bar including the square potato knish that encased the savory homemade meatloaf covered with cheddar cheese and gravy.
195 22 N. Park Ave., Rockville Centre
5. Tongue Taco—From the outside, these spiffy looking spots don’t look like they have authentic Mexican tacos. But the menu holds many pleasures including the Lengua Taco—that’s beef tongue—slow cooked until tender and juicy, cubed and piled on doubled-up soft-flour tortillas (or hard shell) with onion and cilantro. Tastes like a cross between beef and pork.
2370 Merrick Rd., Bellmore
601 Hicksville Rd. (Rt. 107), Bethpage
4. Sweet Corn Arepa—Is it a dessert or a snack? The thick pancake-sized corn patties are sweet, but ask for “queso” and you get a salty cheese melted on top for a nice counterpoint.
251 W. Old Country Rd., Hicksville
3. Ripper Hot Dog—Well, as close to a ripper as we have on LI. Popular in Jersey and Connecticut, a ripper is a frankfurter that’s deep fried until the casing rips open. The El Raphael is a hefty quarter-pound all-beef skinless Boars Head, wrapped in bacon, deep fried and covered with onions, chopped jalapenos and chili. There’s no casing to rip but the bacon obscures all anyway.
First National Franks
3147 Rte. 112, Medford
2. Hamburger —The grilled signature burger has something that I crave in a burger, juiciness. The juices ran with each luscious bite—a three napkin burger. The brioche bun holds it all together to the last bite.
The Burger Spot
150 Seventh St., Garden City
1. Alabama Sloppy Hammer Sandwich—Who needs cheeseburgers when you can get grass-fed braised, shredded short ribs on soft ciabatta covered by good melted fontina and gravy? A new addiction.
Hops and Grub
287 Main St., Huntington