Babylon Village is one of the South Shore's biggest recent success stories. The one-time sedate downtown with aging fishermen's bars has seen an influx of trendy eateries over the last decade, anchored by mainstays Argyle Grill & Tavern and Kotobuki with its upscale destination sushi. But on your next night out in Babylon, go a little bit deeper and explore more of what the village has on tap.
Happy Hour Drinks and Water Views at Tres Palms
Take advantage of Babylon's bayside location on a mild fall night by driving south from the village to this coastal dining-themed restaurant. Tres Palms is the only waterfront spot in the village and has both indoor and outdoor seating. You can catch water views from the inside dining room's wall of windows or sit outside, weather permitting. The restaurant has a relaxed island feel that doesn't veer into overly-relaxed fried seafood territory. The owners, inspired by a Puerto Rican surfers' spot called Tres Palms, explain on their website that they wanted to bring that same combination of fun and good food to Babylon.
Happy hour at the Palms kicks off at 4 p.m. and runs until 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Appetizers, tap beer and glasses of wine are all $5 so you won't break the bank when you take in the bay views. Catch the sunset over the Great South Bay while trying out one of eight beers on tap, including local brews like Fire Island Red Wagon, or, of course, Belgian ale Palm. Or get more ambitious with a signature cocktail. The restaurant makes a rum punch they dub Rincon Rum Punch, a Bloody Goose featuring jumbo shrimp, vodka and clamato, and a Palm's Painkiller, better ordered and drank quickly than researched. Jennifer Parendo, a Babylon resident, said she enjoyed sitting outside and listening to the Jimmy Buffet-esque cover band. Her husband loved the duck wings with sweet and sour chili and toasted sesame ($12) while she preferred the Zipper Cooler cocktail, an arrangement that works out for everyone. The appetizer menu is a mix of seafood bar classics like tuna tartare ($14) and twists on Latin snacks. Raw bar options include oysters or clams on the half shell. Or go whole hog (quahog?) and split the seafood platter with your buddies. For $45, Tres Palm serves a plate of half a lobster, crab meat, clams, oysters and jumbo shrimp. Don't get too comfy down by the water though. Now that you're nice and relaxed, head "to town," as the locals say, for a quick stroll as the main strip—Deer Park Avenue from Montauk Highway northward—comes alive with the setting sun. 16 East Court, Babylon, trespalms.com
Tacos and Tequila at Swell Taco
Park in the municipal lot just east of Deer Park Avenue and cut through the romantic alleyway where Barrique's outdoor tables spill onto the street. You're not going to eat there tonight, but you want to see who's around and what everyone's wearing. Head south to the next hidden alleyway, where Swell Taco has been serving dirt-cheap Mexican classics for a few years to those in the know. Swell's reputation has gotten ahead of itself recently, and the casual eatery doesn't take reservations. Put your name on the list and settle into a little bit of a wait. Once you are seated get an order of guacamole and a beer or margarita ASAP. The house made margaritas and sangrias are both popular options at $6.50 each.
The alleyway surfing-taco themed joint expanded this year, but the trendy spot is still bound to be loud and fun and packed to the brim. Don't fight it, and just enjoy the unpretentious Depression-priced burritos, tacos, appetizers and salads. Babylon Village local families love this place, for its family friendly vibe, hometown feel, and oh, the fact that you can feed your mini surfer chicks and dudes for $3 a pop. There are entire local families with children who wholly subsist on Kai Boy mini burritos (beans and cheese and some magic touch that makes picky youngsters inhale it), which were named for the owners' son Kai. He must have been picky, since Swell Taco manages to please everyone in the family.
Healthier eaters will go for the tortilla bowl salads, with romaine lettuce black beans, guacamole, salsa, jack cheese and chipotle dressing with optional ground beef, chicken or steak ($7.25). The gluttonous friend in your group (we know who you are) can do a taco trio with favorites such as the Buffalo Chicken taco (grilled buffalo chicken with bleu cheese in a flour tortilla) and the Crunch and Munch, which only sounds like it's from a Saturday Night Live skit about Taco Bell ($9.25 for three tacos). Ground beef and cheddar cheese are served in a crunchy corn shell which is then, yes, wrapped in a flour tortilla with refried beans. It's actually delicious. 135 Deer Park Avenue, Babylon, swelltacoli.com
Late Night Craft Beer and Munchies at The Villager
Now that you've experienced the town like an authentic Babylon Villager, head across the street to The Villager with all the money you saved by eating at Swell Taco. The craft beer-centric bar opened two years ago to serve an insatiably-growing market: people who love beer, especially good beer. Featuring 24 consciously-selected beers, The Villager's tap menu is written across giant chalkboards on the walls and spans the popular, the local and the esoteric. Drafts, from $7 to $9, are rotated almost every day and are influenced by the season so try out a new pumpkin variety this fall. Owner Rob Keneally said he is excited about a new renovation that will create a large open window fall to bring some of that autumn Babylon night into the space.
The bar, already a favorite among a young beer crowd (think plaid shirts, man buns and making you feel really old) has expanded its food offerings to a full dinner menu and the kitchen stays open until 3 a.m. if there is still a crowd. If after sampling something refreshing (Kona Big Wave Golden Ale) something close to home (Great South Bay Field 5 IPA) and something fancy (Bear Republic Tartare Rouge) you get hungry again, try a flatbread pizza or burger. The Fire Island Slaw Burger is topped with mozzarella, coleslaw and Thousand Island dressing and served on an English muffin. Another popular dish, said server Camilla Siwik, is the locally-sourced mussels from the Great South Bay. The Villager can get so popular that the bar maxes out in capacity and the doors close for a while but Siwik advises to just wait it out. "The crowds come in waves and people go elsewhere but always end up coming back." Even though the spot packs out, it's known for being a place you can always get a drink. That's by design, said Keneally. The passion is for good food and beer but not a snotty attitude. All the better to finish off the night in Babylon, a small town that now can feed its fishermen and women well from happy hour to late, late night. 262 Deer Park Avenue, thevillagerbabylon.com
Photo: Rob Seifert