Huntington Social, a 50-seat "gastropub," has marble-topped tables, several plush red banquette seats, as well as bar space for 28. It offers a bird's-eye view of downtown from its corner overlooking Main Street and New York Avenue.
It opened last week in the former Chesterfield's space at 330 New York Ave. and plays to its second-floor location with a speakeasy theme, said general manager Jeffrey Ruskaup.
The menu is eclectic, fun, and reasonably priced. It is infused with imagination from chef/owner Christopher Lee, a local who made his name in the food world, with help from executive chef Julia Doyne and sous chef Luke Omarzu.
Lee, the son of Bill and Helen Lee, is a 1994 graduate of Walt Whitman High School. He studied political science at the College of Wooster in Ohio, and after graduation he turned to his true love, cooking, and graduated from the California Culinary Academy.
He's honed his culinary skills at top-notch restaurants over the years, including Aureole in New York City and Striped Bass in Philadelphia, and now is opening Huntington Social, has Eden in Miami, and plans to offer a hot meat truck in New York City for meals on the go. Other projects are in the works as well, including a line of sake and a line of noodle restaurants.
Lee said he has three partners in the restaurant; Frank Bruno, who he played baseball with when they were middle schoolers and whose dad owns Christopher's; and Larry Rizzo and Kevin McCaughan, with whom he works on other restaurant projects.
He loves the art of food and its presentation, and wants to share the excitement of cooking. "When I go to a bar, I want to have something to eat, but I want it to be good. This is the chef's point of view of comfortable, relaxed dining," Lee said.
The complex flavors of several of the snack and appetizer dishes shine through. Steak tartare has spices that diners mix in before they eat, then pile it atop freshly made toast from the Tom Cat Bakery in New York City. Truffled egg toast is a flavorful, gooey delight of a poached egg on a slice of toasted brioche. Veal cheek sliders combine the simmered meat with a citrus sesame aioli with cilantro, a slice of jalapeno pepper and thin-sliced carrots for crunch on tiny buns. Steamed mussels are served in a saffron-infused white wine broth with toast for soaking up the flavorful broth.
Entrees include braised lamb shanks, wild striped bass, Scottish salmon, fried chicken, a hamburger, and grilled New York strip steak, with prices ranging from $16 to 30.
The restaurant features contemporary drinks designed with the help of a mixologist with names such as Bathtub Gin, Rockefeller Hooch, and Bolita (a mojito named for a popular form of '20s gambling and made with blueberries, rum, mint and ginger ale). It also offers classic cocktails. Two large-screen televisions at the bar will offer sports in season, with classic movies running on one screen otherwise.
There are four microbrewery beers on tap, along with bottled and canned beer from around the country. "We wanted to offer craft beers as opposed to mainstream beer," Lee said.
Huntington Social is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. for drinks. The kitchen is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. No reservations are accepted. It is not handicapped accessible. Check www.huntingtonsocial.com or call 631-923-2442.