7927 Jericho Tpke. Woodbury, NY 516-682-8000
This Latin fusion spot is noisy but comfortable, popular with kids and easy on the wallet. Friendly service is another plus. Kids can doodle with crayons. Two children, ages 10 and younger per party, eat free from the kids menu; for the rest, menu items are all priced at $6.95 and include such choices as fish and veggies or salad, grilled chicken and mashed potatoes and cheese quesadilla with fries.Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30-10 Fri-Sat 12-11 Sun 12-9 Reservations: Accepted Accessibility: Yes Notable dishes: Burgers, fire grilled items
Nuevo Latino cuisine, the darling of the Manhattan dining circuit, has been conspicuously absent from most Long Island menus. Enter the Laguna Grille, a Woodbury restaurant that's as affordable as it is terrific. Another plus is the restaurant's lighthearted design, with bongo drums at the entryway and swaying rattan fans in the window. The sole drawback is the noise level, which mounts as the crowd swells.
Start with a frozen mango margarita followed by the refreshing tequila-marinated shrimp and calamari ceviche, served in a margarita glass. Quesadillas rock: try the one filled with fire-roasted vegetables and smoked queso (cheese), or the version made with Latin-seasoned "Calypso" chicken. Sandwich musts include the ropa vieja, succulent sliced skirt steak with peppers, onions and relish on chewy Cuban bread, as well as a spicy blackened chicken sandwich with pineapple-mango relish. Distinctive, too, is the juicy guava-glazed chicken breast with pineapple-mango chutney and toasted cashews on saffron rice. Montego grilled citrus-marinated skirt steak topped with chipotle butter and the "tobacco" onions (crisp browned shreds), with super mashed potatoes on the side, is at once crisp, succulent, spicy and soothing. If you order only one dessert, make it the chocolate caramel nut mirage, an ingenious "sandwich" of chocolate cake, nut cream, coconut- infused dark chocolate sauce and freshly whipped cream. Ole!