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11. Cedar Creek American Bar & Grill, Glen
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11. Cedar Creek American Bar & Grill, Glen Cove

Every neighborhood needs a hangout that's both energetic and easygoing, a clubby spot where everyone is a member. Cedar Creek, from the owner of Mim's in Syosset and Roslyn Heights, delivers deluxe snacks, eclectic options, and an upbeat site ready for good times. Recommended: pulled-pork slider, pulled chicken with vegetables and biscuits, little Chicago-style hot dogs, fried Fire Island Creek oysters, duck rillettes, Texas chili, a tender grilled sirloin, a Meyer Ranch hamburger, Chatham cod fish-and-chips, banana-Betty parfait, pineapple upside-down cake.

Read our critic's review | Video: Go behind the scenes at Cedar Creek(Credit: Yana Paskova, 2011)

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Top 11 fine dining restaurants of 2011

The economy upended a lot of restaurants in 2011. Even so, more highly rated spots arrived in Nassau and Suffolk this year than at any time in the past decade. Whether it was the survival-of-the-tastiest environment or just plain luck, diners on Long Island had plenty of new choices and very good meals. Ironically, 2011's two top-rated establishments, Vero in Amityville and Southfork Kitchen in Bridgehampton, currently are closed. Southfork expects to return with the warm weather next year; Vero was shuttered by a fire in May and hopes to reopen by spring. Each earned a 3 1/2-star rating. Their absence, however, didn't make compiling this list any easier. Here, in descending order, are my 11 favorites of 2011. -- Peter Gianotti