July 05, 2006
Comfort Food In A Comfy Place
Food trends may abound on the East End but there's one place where it seems that time has — sort of — stood still. I'm talking about the Modern Snack Bar in Aquebogue, an eatery that has been around in some form or fashion since 1930.
It's a place where you can order a satisfying plate of mashed turnips while sipping a cosmo, if you like. With its diner-like atmosphere, generous portions of satisfying comfort food and friendly service, the Modern Snack Bar has pretty much evolved into a North Fork institution.
A recent visit revealed that the place is busy every night for good reason. Families are welcome and our toddler was given a toy to play with at the table right away when we were seated. The restaurant's co-owner, John Wittmeier, recommended an appetizer portion of soft shell crab, a seasonal house specialty. I say crab, and not crabs, because just one of the crustaceans more than filled the plate. The crab had been lightly battered and then deep fried, its crunchy exterior a counterpoint to the flavorful tender interior. The lobster salad was also a surprise. There were no fillers in the portion we ordered, just lightly seasoned chunks of fresh lobster that were tossed with a light dressing of mayonnaise.
Fans of seafood salad will be happy with the Modern Snack Bar's combo plate. Consisting of scoops of shrimp and lobster, the dish was accompanied by potato salad, tomato slices, egg wedges and a spicy pickle.
A full bar offered all kinds of cocktails from an old-fashioned Rob Roy to mango martinis. The wine list is packed with selections from the region: we enjoyed a glass of Pindar reserve Chardonnay and a Pinot Blanc from Leib, a winery just down the road.
Soups here are good; we sampled the creamy New England clam chowder and savory lobster bisque. A basket of crunchy fried shrimp went over well with the little kid in our group.
Comfort food abounds. Sauerbraten is a mainstay at the Modern Snack Bar and it's the reason many make the trek from parts west out to Aquebogue. And the dish is served the traditional way, accompanied by potato dumplings, steamed red cabbage and ginger snap gravy. Also recommended is the crispy-skinned Long Island fresh duckling. Wittmeier explained that the birds are as local as some of the wines. A North Fork farm supplies the restaurant with its poultry, he said.
Another entrée standout was the prime rib dinner. We ordered the cut medium rare and got just that, no surprises. Sided with the restaurant's signature mashed turnips and savory gravy, the dish was a hearty winner. Also good were the tender fried clam strips and broiled crab-stuffed flounder. The Snack Bar also serves lunch with homemade daily specials like chicken potpie and stuffed cabbage. Burgers and sandwiches dot the menu, too. Don't miss the mile-high zesty lemon meringue pie and tasty diner-style sundaes for the kids.
Of course, the historical significance of the restaurant adds to the fun of dining there. Since the '30s, it has fed those who ventured to the North Fork but mostly, those who live there. Wittmeier said that over 10 renovations have been made to the building over a span of 50 years in order to accommodate the ever-expanding throng of diners hungry for a little home cooking.
"This is a family place," he said. "At times we'll have a table of eight people, and find out that the group spans three or four generations. That makes me happy."
Modern Snack Bar, 628 Main Road, Aquebogue. Closed Mondays. 722-3655.