Found Its Groove in ’82, and Kept It

By JOANNE STARKEY
Published: September 16, 2007

THE CLUBHOUSE is a find, though not a new one, for the restaurant is celebrating its 45th anniversary this month.

Jeffrey Bies set about transforming a popular watering hole into a dining destination when he joined his parents, John and Geraldine, in the business back in 1982.

Today the Clubhouse is a white-tablecloth restaurant with steakhouse-quality beef and a wine list that has won awards from the magazines Wine Spectator and The Wine Enthusiast. The bar is still lively but also lovely, with a polished granite top and mirror-backed bottles. Stained glass, sporting the Clubhouse logo, separates the bar from the dining room, which has a masculine steakhouse look, with dark wood paneling and vintage black and white photographs of Huntington and Cold Spring Harbor. Flickering votive candles dot the walls, and two large blackboards list specials.

Either Jeffrey Bies or his wife, Cassandra, is in the dining room every night. Geraldine Bies, now 92, is often around; she keeps the books.

The smiling, family-friendly staff mirrors the owners’ warmth. Our waitress one night confided that the chef, Charles Labartino, who has worked at the Clubhouse for 13 years, supplied the restaurant with goodies from his garden. One evening he harvested blackberries for the sauce on a crispy half duckling; another time, colorful edible flowers to decorate our desserts. Mr. Labartino also makes use of garden patches around the restaurant’s parking lot, where we spied tomatoes and cantaloupe.

The green-thumbed chef showed equal talent in the kitchen. We were especially impressed by his soups. A lobster chowder was shell pink, with chunks of shellfish, potato and onion. Also outstanding was a lush roasted tomato-fennel bisque touched with cream.

The Caesar salad, a classic, is a good choice, as is the hearts of romaine in a creamy blue cheese dressing topped with strips of roasted red pepper and crumbled blue cheese.
The traditional shrimp cocktail is worth ordering, as is a special of spicy grilled shrimp set over an Asian coleslaw. Grilled scallops, wrapped in bacon and brushed with a Grand Marnier glaze, were a tad sweet, and the lobster-crab cake had a bit too much filler.

A round loaf of cottony bread, served with a knife and board, is a throwback to the restaurant’s early days. Instead, order the garlic bread ($2), a sliced, toasted semolina loaf dripping garlic butter.

The steaks we sampled were topnotch. We loved the cowboy special, a boneless ribeye in a tequila-lime marinade the night we tried it. Another special, a boneless New York strip au poivre, had juicy meat and a three-peppercorn sauce touched with cognac and cream. The filet mignon was supertender and arrived with a splendid béarnaise. Even the hamburger was a standout: ground Angus beef, cooked medium rare as ordered, with bacon, sautéed onions and mushrooms, and melted cheese of one’s choice.

We also gave high marks to a succulent pork porterhouse topped with sautéed mushrooms, onions and peppers, and to the fall-off-the-bone-tender baby back ribs. Only veal with chanterelles in a too-sweet sherry-cream sauce failed to please.

All entrees come with rice pilaf or a choice of baked potato, twice-baked potato or steak fries, so sides are not needed, but the creamed spinach with nutmeg and bacon ($6) and the wispy crisp fried onions ($6) should not be missed.

Neither should the desserts, all presented with drifts of whipped cream. The New York cheesecake is a traditional finale, as is the creamy rice pudding. One evening a bowl of fresh berries — under mounds of whipped cream, of course — was a dreamy finish to a memorable meal.

The Clubhouse
320 West Jericho Turnpike
Huntington
(631) 423-1155
www.clubhousesteaks.com

VERY GOOD
THE SPACE A masculine-looking steakhouse. Not wheelchair accessible.
THE CROWD Casual groups of friends and couples. Few children.
THE BAR Popular, with patrons dining at the bar as well as in the few booths there. Wine list of 165 bottles ($18 to $300), with 42 picks under $40. Nine wines by the glass ($6 to $10).

THE BILL Lunch entrees $12 to $33. Dinner entrees $14 (burger) to $74 (chateaubriand for two). Most credit cards accepted.