Do you ever wonder where chefs and kitchen staff go for dinner after they’ve finish preparing meals in their own restaurant kitchens? If you happen to be in Huntington, the answer is Crabtree’s New York and Main restaurant. Located in the heart of Huntington Village, this hidden jewel is located above Cactus Salon on the corner of Main Street and New York Avenue. It offers not only outstanding views, but exceptionally good, old-fashioned, home-style cooking. If it’s good enough for people in the restaurant industry, then it has to be good.
I set out to interview executive chef Andrew Crabtree, who along with his partner Dean Philippis, came up with the concept of Crabtree’s while looking for a place to get a bite to eat after a show at the Paramount. They realized there was no place to go where they could relax, talk and get a late night meal, so they set out to change that.
Crabtree and Philippis are no strangers to the food industry. Philippis is the owner of the very successful Piccolo Restaurant in Huntington and Mill Pond in Centerport. Andrew Crabtree, started working for Philippis ten years ago, first at Piccolo and then at Mill Pond. He would often rotate back and forth between the two fine dining restaurants. Looking to do something completely different, in November of 2015, Crabtree and Philippis opened Crabtree’s New York and Main, and it has been thriving ever since.
“We wanted to bring something to Huntington that we thought Huntington needed,” said Crabtree. “We really wanted to be one of the first restaurants to have a full menu until midnight, every single night of the week. On the weekends we’re open until 1 a.m.”
Crabtree, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, has spent his career making fancy food. He is happy to now be cooking food which he would serve to his own family and friends.
“I’m always around fancy food and fancy presentations and garnishes,” said Crabtree. “Those are all great, but when it comes down to it, at my house, I want more comfort-type food. There has to be a balance.”
And comfort food is exactly what you get at Crabtree’s. When it comes to describing his restaurant, Chef Andrew says it’s technically a gastropub. He doesn’t like to call it that, however. Instead he refers to it as an industry pub, where people in the food industry can come to relax in a laid back atmosphere where the price points are lower than their other restaurants. Crabtree likes the fact that it’s not a special occasion restaurant. It’s a place to go and relax and enjoy good, affordable and satisfying food.
Crabtree’s New York Avenue and Main seats fifty-five people in the restaurant, and fifteen at the bar, which is separated by a unique steam pump which runs almost the length of the restaurant. The style of the décor is very industrial, but warm, with lots of wood, exposed brick, piping and Edison lightbulbs. A fun addition are the chandeliers where keys and pocket watches hang instead of crystals and jewels. The place has a great vibe and is completely surrounded by large windows on the north and west sides. It offers great views of Huntington’s nightlife.
The food prepared by Crabtree is a reflection of his family who came from the mid-west – simple, hearty comfort food. Crabtree started me out with a rich and creamy, short rib mac and Cheezit, which was inspired by his 11-year-old daughter. This appetizer can easily be a main meal and is rich and delicious. The short rib was out of this world, slow roasted, tender and flavorful. A fun twist is the addition of the Cheezit crumbs on top.
If you’re looking for something healthier and not as heavy, definitely go with the avocado stuffed with tuna poke (the Hawaiian version of tuna tartare) which is finished with a sesame soy vinaigrette and naked organic greens. I quickly finished this dish off, and I later found out that this is one of the most popular dishes at Crabtrees. It was light and nicely balanced.
I don’t eat big sandwiches much anymore, so it was a real treat to have the beef brisket baguette with fresh melted mozzarella and pub gravy for dipping with a side of fries. Tender brisket was piled on a beautiful crisp baguette, and of course everything is better with melted mozzarella. This plate was good for sharing too.
I was able to save some room for dessert, and I’m so glad I did. I was served graham cracker pudding in a fun little jar. Creamy, homemade vanilla pudding sits on top of graham cracker crumbs and is topped with fresh whipped cream and more crumbs. I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite and discovered that the pudding was not only light and airy, but it was served warm. I expected it to be dense, but it was so delicate that I didn’t feel too guilty eating it.
If you’re looking to go to Crabtree’s for cocktails, they have several really unique ones. They started me off with a Tequila Ting, made from Milagro silver tequila and grapefruit soda. A refreshing frozen pink grapefruit cube added a colorful and flavorful twist. This drink was light and refreshing, and was one I’d definitely order again.
Next I tried Lavender and Lace, which has become one of their most popular cocktails. This sophisticated and gorgeous looking drink is made with Dorothy Parker gin, muddled lavender and lemon juice and is finished off with an egg white foam which really lightens it up. Neither the gin nor the lavender overpowered this drink. It was different and delicious. Crabtree’s offers thirteen cocktails ranging from popular cocktails to signature cocktails, and daily and seasonal specials are always offered. Sixteen wines are offered by the glass, and beer is available on tap, in bottles or in cans.
There really is a lot to choose from when it comes to both food and drinks at Crabtree’s, and there are menu items which will suit all kinds of palates and diets. For the heartier eater there is Smoketown pulled pork shoulder, a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich or a Guinness and soy marinated skirt steak. For the health conscious or lighter eater, there is a marinated chickpea and cucumber quinoa salad, or roasted salmon with jasmine rice, spinach, maitake mushrooms in an Irish whiskey cream sauce. Their top seller is a pan seared Montauk swordfish with roasted butternut squash puree, sautéed Brussel sprouts and bacon bits.
The menu changes seasonally, and there is a daily specials board. Crabtree’s uses organic and local products whenever possible. Chef Andrew’s favorite thing is to walk down the road to the Huntington Farmers Market on Sundays when in season, and support the local farmers while providing his customers with the best local produce available.
At age thirteen, Chef Andrew started working on a lobster boat in Northport, and worked every summer throughout high school. He started learning at a young age the importance of knowing where your food comes from. It was his aunt in North Carolina who encouraged him to go to culinary school. She was the head of food service at Duke University, and she got Andrew a job working in the kitchen with the head chef who was a CIA graduate. He helped Andrew get accepted to the prestigious school, and from that moment on Andrew knew what he was supposed to do with his life. From CIA he moved to San Francisco for several years working his way up from sous chef to banquet chef at a restaurant called Boulevard. He eventually made his way back to New York and back to Huntington.
“I grew up in Huntington,” said Crabtree. “So I’m back from where I started.”
Crabtree’s New York and Main is open seven nights a week for dinner. Sunday – Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 1 a.m.