Stony Brook University is renowned for being Long Island’s most diverse college, attracting students from just about every corner of the world. That’s the good news. The great news? That this diversity is reflected in the surrounding area’s food.
Here are 5 Chinese restaurants you need to try in and around Stony Brook.
“They recently underwent a renovation,” my friend Meredith tells me as we walk into the unassuming storefront of Yao’s Diner, which has been outfitted, post-renovation, with crimson carpeting, comfortable banquettes, and hanging Chinese decorations. From the road, one would not know that Yao’s serves some of the finest, most humbling Szechuan food on all of Long Island. Lunch at Yao’s doesn’t exactly come cheap—hot pots, for which the restaurant is known, hover around $20 apiece, but they’re entirely sharable. These chafing dishes full of varying contents all share one common denominator: the numbing, pleasant heat elicited from Szechuan peppercorns. Seafood lovers would be remiss to skip the deep-fried crab, which arrives whole and requires some creative extraction. For food this good, though, I’m happy to eat with my hands.
Yao’s Diner, 2503 Middle Country Road, Centereach, open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., (631) 588-2218.
LOL is just as unassuming from the outside as Yao’s, although inside has a more modern, upbeat, youthful feel. Menus are affixed to tables, which are covered in Plexiglas, so diners can point directly at what they feel like eating. This is the food of northern China, fragrant with cumin, full of Tibetan influence. And skewers are the way to go. For no more than $20, one can enjoy a substantial, delicious meal. Skewered shrimp arrives whole, with the head on (it’s the best part), while grilled oyster mushrooms, beef kidneys, and Korean-cut short ribs come off of their respective skewers, plated, dusted with spice. LOL offers two kinds of Chinese sausages, both faintly sweet and also spicy. Don’t leave without ordering the cucumber and mushroom salad, a marinated mélange of enokis and julienned cuke, all dressed in vinegar and seasoned with fresh cilantro.
LOL Kitchen and Grill, 2545 Middle Country Road, Centereach, open Wednesday through Saturday, 12 to 10:45 p.m., Tuesdays 5 to 10 p.m., (631) 615-6313.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m totally obsessed with this off-the-Nesconset-Highway temple of dumpling, where one can fill up quickly and satisfactorily on China’s favorite carbohydrate. Pork soup dumplings are dream-worthy, as are the silky steamed pork and vegetable dumplings. Pot stickers filled with meat have just the right amount of texture and are not at all greasy. The Kungfu bun, a warm ball of dough the size of a baseball that is stuffed with pork and seasoning, is a don’t-miss. Even failsafe classics, like scallion pancakes and hot and sour soup shine in this experienced kitchen. If you’re not too full, grab a bubble tea on the way out. I’m partial to the very sweet honeydew, but some prefer the deep purple, mellow taro.
Red Tiger Dumpling House, 1320 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook, open daily, 12 to 9:30 p.m., (631) 675-6899.
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Just around the corner from Red Tiger is this superb hole-in-the-wall that serves up lamian (the Chinese term for hand-pulled noodles). An open pass through into the dining room offers diners the chance to watch as noodle artisans pull these noodles to order. The menu is small and simple, but not without purpose. Among the limited appetizers is a clean, bright smashed cucumber salad, dressed with vinegar and sesame oil and perfect for providing a textural contrast to the soups. Slurpers can choose their preferred bowl (tripe, vegetable, and roast duck are a few options), along with condiments like eggs. Soup broths are aromatic with star anise and noodles are springy and toothsome, the way all good pasta should be. I’m a sucker for the roast duck, which arrives studded with crisp-skinned, thick-cut duck breast, sliced right from the bone.
Splendid Noodle, 1320 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook, open Monday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., (631) 675-6725.
Asian food devotees must visit this incredible grocery store, which offers fresh, frozen, and dry goods from most of Asia’s major countries. Aisles are stocked with Indian condiments, Chinese sauces, Korean kimchi, Japanese sodas, Asian meats and produce, and plenty more. It’s impossible to pay a visit without opening one’s wallet—but the good news is that Oriental won’t break the bank. Cello-wrapped egg custards are a great, transportable dessert—or dinner, if you don’t mind rewriting the rules a bit.
Oriental Groceries & Crafts, 2460 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook, open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., (631) 689-8787.