I had heard from a friend that the decor at Strawberry's Bakery-Bar and Grill on Main Street in Huntington didn't "make sense." I didn't understand what that meant so my husband I decided to find out for ourselves Sunday night.
Upon approaching the front door, I thought it appeared to be just a bar rather than restaurant and we were hesitant to go in to eat. We soldiered on and entered. The lighting is dark—almost a blacklight— making it resembe a nightclub. Behind the bar is a large fish tank with white coral inside (but no fish that I could see) and two large-screen televisions, both playing a movie no one could hear and no closed-captioning was activated. A seating area to the back seems as though it's supposed to appear as though it's outside, with fake ivy and lattice. The perimeter walls of the restaurant is lined with empty vases, urns and candle holders galore along the ledges on the wall. The waiters, bus boys and bartenders, all men, dressed in black shirts, pants, aprons and shoes.
There were only three other tables of diners when we arrived and we were greeted almost immediately by one of the servers. He told us we could sit anywhere. We chose a tiny two-top in the middle of the room. I really would've preferred to sit in one of two front windows in order to people watch the passersby on Main Street, but live entertainment was set up in one window and the other was taken up by a very large booth set for six. My years of waitress experience wouldn't allow me to take up their prime table with a party of two and I didn't feel right sitting there.
We weren't given menus for several minutes until our waiter, who we believe was being trained that night by the staff member who greeted us originally, came over to take a drink or appetizer order. When we looked at him blankly he quickly saw that we had no menus.
When he brought the menus back, he took our drink orders. Dan ordered an iced tea, which he said tasted fine ($1.50). I ordered a draft Wittekerke, an authentic Belgian wheat beer ($5). It was light but flavorful. The restaurant has a wide selection beers including Palm, a Belgian amber ale, and Captain Lawrence Freshchester Pale Ale from New York.
The restaurant also offers an extensive wine list and specialty cocktails such as a Strawberry Cucumber Fizz, which is cucumber vodka, muddled fresh strawberries, club soda and St. Germain.
Our waiter brought us complimentary focaccia bread from Terranova Bakery located on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to start, accompanied by olive oil and an excellent tapenade made from capers, roasted red peppers, olives and onions. I know focaccia has a semi-dry texture, but the bread seemed a bit stale to me.
On our way there, my husband could not stop talking about how much he dislikes the bakery/bar/grill's name. "I expect it to be a dessert place or a place for kids. What am I gonna have for dinner, fruit salad?" he asked. I had to laugh and I pretty much agreed with the name's first impression, but the answer was, as we soon found out, no. The dinner menu, attached, offers a wide array of entrees from surf to turf and in between ranging in price from $18 for linguini in clam sauce to $36 for the prime filet mignon poivre. It includes fish, chicken, pasta and steak.
For pre-dinner appetizers, we ordered a shrimp bisque ($9) with pan-seared shrimp wonton and jumbo lump crab cakes ($12). The shrimp bisque was creamy and had a good taste. I would have to take issue with the claim that the crab cakes are made from jumbo lump crab, however. If they are, then the chef should handle them less while forming them because they appear to be made with claw meat or backfin. A large part of my extended family lives in Baltimore so I know of what I speak. I grew up eating hard crabs from the minute I could sit up at the table. That said, they were tasty. I wasn't in the mood for the accompanying apple citrus salad and spicy aioli, so I won't comment on it except to say it looked very pretty.
For dinner, Dan ordered orecchiette pasta with spicy sausage and broccoli rabe ($19). To me the pasta, also known as 'little ears,' was severely undercooked. Dan said he liked it. Strawberry's 'food story' section on its web site says that most of the pasta is made in house.
I ordered the grilled skirt steak—medium—with mashed potatoes, spinach and spicy barbecue sauce underneath it all ($24). I thought it was cooked properly, if a little on the rare side, and the barbecue sauce on the bottom added a little kick to it. The portions were large enough that I only hate half and ate the rest the next day—okay later that night— and it was still delicious.
While they forgot to give us menus and took away my dinner fork, the staff couldn't have been more pleasant. They didn't bother us but were generally right there when we needed them. My water glass was filled up a minimum of five times. (I was very thirsty).
While we were eating, James Gedeon—who performed at Howard Stern's wedding to Beth Ostrosky— played a steady stream of classic, if somewhat overplayed, songs such as James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" and Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." He did play mine and Dan's wedding song, The Beatles "In My Life" so that made me happy. (Yes, I know. Another overplayed song.) He had a great voice but the music in general did seem to be just a bit too loud for a place with hardly any customers in it at the time. Although Dan and I were seated a good 30 feet away from Gedeon and were three feet from each other, Dan and I couldn't always hear what the other was saying. Or maybe he was just pretending he couldn't hear me.
In summary, while we genuinely enjoyed our experience at Strawberry's, I don't think we would go back. I felt it was slightly pricey for the quality and there are so many restaurants to choose from in the area. It's a tough market. I also think its owners are confused about its identity. Is it a bakery or a bar and grill.? And what does Strawberry's mean as a restaurant name? Besides the logo, there is not a real strawberry theme. It just opened in fall of 2009 so perhaps it just needs a bit more time to figure out how to be great.
On the plus side, Strawberry's Bakery-Bar and Grill is that it serves food until 4 a.m. on weekends. It is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. on weeknights.