Monday, March 19, 2007

The Legend of Painters

Painters-Larry and Kelly and Erin and Dianna and Matt and Steve

This Brookhaven Hamlet restaraunt was one of the first places I ate at on Long Island way back in 1998. Very little about the place has seemingly changed in that time and the eatery functions as not only one our favorite restaraunts but (more importantly) as a source of comfort and familiarity. The fact that it is less than five minutes from our house makes it the rare place that is both geographically approximate and gastronomically desireable.

Typically, we eat at Painters about twice a week. We are fond of the entire staff who are attractive, hardworking and relaxed to a man and woman. Our greatest fondness is for
Kelly and Erin the hardworking bartendresses. Erin and Kelly function with a sort of yin/yang-Ginger/Mary Ann dynamic and both of their respective styles complement each other. They often The waitstaff is unfailingly polite and courteous. Diana and Matt are first among equals in this department as they make the difficult tasks associated with waiting look easy. Diana is especially good at sensing "our" needs and always knows when we require another drink, dessert, or the check. She also remembers our preferences with Uri Geller-like skill and a nod to her is often enough to ensure she will be bringing the sublime flourless chocolate cake in a moment. (More about the chocolate cake in a moment).

Which brings us to Painters' food and drink. Chef Luis ranks not only as the most underrated chef on Long Island but is a strong contender for the best and most inventive chef in Suffolk County. Mainly he does this with a kind of Zen that divorces himself from the self-conciousness of many other restaraunts in Suffolk county traffic in. (You hear that World Pie in Bridgehampton? Yeah, Nic and Toni's I'm talking about you!). His way with the simplest of food like calamari, tuna, steak, mussels and salads bring out dimensions that one might never believe they possessed. Steak for instance, the most male and American of foods is almost always screwed up these days in American restaraunts. Why? Many reasons: Chefs think about it too much, try to do too much to the thing, make it too much of a showpiece. The truth is steak is too fundamental a food to try to make it a dazzler. Many chefs are stuck in a 90's cigar bar mentality where this is concerned and Luis, for instance, avoids this and his flat iron steak (the only place in Suffolk to serve it on a regular basis, if at all) is simply prepared and presented and manages to be the best steak to be had in a restaraunt on Long Island.

(A quick word about the Flourless Chocolate Cake. I am too proud and disciplined about my waistline to give into so base an impulse as devouring dessert or sweets on anything like a regular basis. Pastry Chef Serena should be credited with my undoing in this regard as her flourless chocolate cake is the only dessert I have truly fallen for-There are you happy now?)

As for the drink: Painter's has the best happy hour on Long Island with great Bohemian tasting wine and drinks for half off. You can pretend you are Rodolfo in La Boheme and are trying to save on the rent while nursing a happy hour drink or glass of wine that costs less than a Starbucks. Painter's also obtains the newest spirits such as Grey Goose's Pear infused Vodka which we had previously had no luck finding elsewhere. The wine list is solid and not marked up to criminal proportions and the beer selection is the very definition of eclectic featuring, among others, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Harpoon, Guiness and local favorite Blue Point.

Now, last but not least let us turn to Painter's works of art. Painters fashions itself as an artists bar or at least a bar with great, idiosyncratic art. One of the more striking is an acrobatic figure suspended midair as one enters the main dining room. Other portraits, pictures (Prince Charles, Ghandi) line seemingly ever space on the wall. The effect is casual, but somehow not pretentious. The overall effect is that the interior is one of the most memorable and striking on Long Island done with genuine creativity and not just by throwing a lot of money for an indoor waterfall or the like.

A couple of more things: Speaking of works of art the owners Steve and Larry are both pretty colorful guys. Steve is a kind of Felix to Larry's Oscar-Larry careens all over the restaraunt in a manner that might lead you to believe he will soon be asked to leave by the hostess if you didn't know he was the owner. At heart, Larry is a great host, however, and he has always been very appreciative of our patronage and has bought us drinks on more than one occassion.
It is also worth mentioning that the restaraunt has great accomadstions for kids. Most notably, a nice, easily visible pool table that can keep children entertained for hours on end while their neurotic parents can eat and fret about them for no reason whatsoever. Finally, my mother and father in law consider this their favorite restaraunt (and the staff are considerably considerate with regard to their needs) and they are both in their eighties. In my mind this makes painter's the odd hipster restaraunt with cross-generational appeal. For more about Painters check out the website at

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I (Mark) have written for The Christian Science Monitor, Clear Magazine, Picture Magazine, Film Score Monthly, Dan's Papers, Rue Morgue, In Flight USA and a lot more publications that I can't remember.... My wife Lynn was a model with the Ford Agency and her photography has been featured in most of the publications I have written for...


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