Whitman’s Does Justice To The Name
By Mike &Pete/
In August 1881, Walt Whitman returned to
Huntington to explore the area where he had been born. In
“A Week At West Hills,” published by the New York
Tribune, Whitman wrote, “I have been for the last two
weeks jaunting around Long Island, and now devote this letter
to West Hills … my birth-spot, and … the picturesque
regions comprised in the townships of Huntington and Cold
The poet described fertile farmlands saying that “any
good farmer would have gloated over the scene. Rich corn in
tassel, many fields; they had cradled their wheat and rye,
and were cutting their oats.”
And standing atop Jayne’s Hill, he marveled at “A
view of thirty or forty, or even fifty or more miles…
the Atlantic Ocean to the latter points in the distance—a
glimpse or so of Long Island Sound to the north.”
America’s most famous poet explored the same region
today, he would no doubt be impressed, tickled perhaps, to
see signs of his own lasting legacy there’s the still
preserved birthplace. A sprawling shopping mall not only bears
his name, but is emblazoned with excerpts from his now-celebrated
poetry. The high school, roads, and a multitude of businesses
all bear his name today, honoring “America’s God
The newest of these is a must stop on any foodie’s exploration
of the Huntington restaurant scene. Newly opened Whitman’s
Steakhouse is located on Jericho Turnpike in the heart of
Whitmanland. The creation of Dennis Munson, who manages the
business end, and Joe Walsh, the front man and knowledgeable
sommelier, Whitman’s is not your ordinary steakhouse.
Walsh likes to call it a “niche” restaurant, a
reflection of the restaurant’s unique personality.
Whitman’s occupies the former Mae Brown’s (old
timers will remember it as the Stagecoach, and really old-timers
as a speakeasy in Prohibition days.) and visitors will find
a familiar look as the extensive renovations completed by
the previous owners are intact. These include gorgeous cherry-stained
wood details throughout the turn of the century structure,
elegant tapestry pattern draperies and sound absorbing wall
coverings in a warm creamy yellow. It makes for a comfortable
Visitors will see numerous pictures of the restaurant’s
namesake – Walt Whitman – in the restaurant’s
entry and a comfortable bar area to the right, and in order
to make each visit a unique and changing experience, displays
of artwork by local artists will hang on a rotating basis.
Currently, a collection of painting by watercolorist Michael
Killea depicting scenes of Northport, Huntington and the Island’s
North Fork brighten the dining room.
The atmosphere sets Whitman’s apart from the steakhouse
genre. The menu does as well. Oh, there are steaks. Prime
aged beef, generously cut and expertly prepared to order are
the hallmark at Whitman’s, but executive chef Ravi Samaroo,
a veteran of Rothmann’s Steakhouse where he was executive
sous chef, brings a fun, playful attitude to the steakhouse
cuisine scene. A native of Trinidad, Samaroo studied under
many master chefs learning Italian, Oriental, French and American
dishes, but he adds that he mostly learned from his momma.
His dishes are heavily influenced by Caribbean and Oriental
cooking, and his menu goes beyond traditional steakhouse selections.
On our recent visit, we started with seafood appetizers. The
Colossal Lump Crab Meat ($15) is a meaty portion and served
with a slightly fruity cocktail sauce that is less horseradishy
On the chef’s recommendation – though our inclinations
needed little prompting in that direction – we tried
the Panko Crusted Tuna ($15). Barely seared like we like it,
the artfully presented dish was a surprisingly complex mix
of flavors that set this creation far apart from the standard
tuna and Wasabi appetizer. The crunchy panko crust and Hoisin
glaze gave it an Oriental flavor, which was tempered by a
wasabi cream sauce. It could have been dessert!
Recommended, but not tried on this visit, were Whitman’s
Mussels ($10.50) in white wine, fresh herbs and Roma tomatoes.
The Portobello Mushroom ($8.50) stuffed with bacon, garlic
and Gorgonzola, appealed to our tastebuds as well. Fresh seafood
offerings are perhaps best sampled in Whitman’s Seafood
Platter ($24/person), with its selection of shrimp, oysters,
clams, lobster and crab meat.
Salads are a la carte, and range from the traditional Caeser
($9) to the Whitman’s Salad ($10.50), with chopped shrimp,
string beans, tomatoes, onions, pimentos and crumbled bacon.
The steaks entrees include mouthwatering steaks and chops
– prime cuts. The Filet Mignon ($38) was a thick, tender
cut, expertly prepared to order and presented simply with
a boat of the spicy house steak sauce. To use a clichés,
one could “eat it with a fork.” We’ll be
back to try the Bone-In Rib Steak ($42); New York Sirloin
($39) and Porterhouse ($78 for 2, $119 for 3, $156 for 4);
if they compare to the Filet Mignon we have no doubt we’ll
On the chef’s recommendation (actually, he practically
begged us to try it), we ordered the Pan Seared Sea Bass in
Caribbean Sauce ($29). Obviously one of those creations from
his momma’s kitchen, flavors of mustard and Hoisin made
the sauce sing. The fish was plump and expertly prepared with
a thin crust, and served atop a stack of vegetables. It was
simply delicious. Our surprise at seeing seafood recommended
makes us curious about the Crab Cakes ($26), Shrimp Scampi
($25) and Salmon ($27).
Vegetables and potatoes are ala carte, and we wouldn’t
hesitate to order the French Fried Onion Rings ($9) again.
It was enough for four, but the two of us made a swell dent
THE WINE LIST
Whitman’s wine list is extensive, and the pride of partner
Joe Walsh, who serves as the resident expert. The Cabernet
list is the most extensive, but there are reasonably priced
Merlots, Meritages, Chardonneys and Sauvignon Blancs. There
are a good dozen wines by the glass ranging from $7.50 to
$14, and Long Island wines are well represented. Even if you
know your wine, it’s worth asking Walsh for his recommendations.
By the time dessert rolled around, we were more than satisfied,
but that didn’t stop us from diving into a plateful
of selections. Caramel Fudge Pecan Pie was rich and sweet;
New York Cheese cake was as good as any, and Apple Brown Betty
a house specialty. The selection of dessert wines and ports
is also extensive.
We had the pleasure of talking extensively with Walsh and
Chef Samasoo at points throughout our meal, and their enthusiasm
about their new venture is contagious. So add one more name
to the list of businesses that commemorate America’s
Poet. We expect it’s one that will be around a good
Walt would be pleased.
257 E. Jericho Turnpike
Cuisine: Quality steaks andchops, fresh seafood
with Caribbean flair.
Price Range: Expensive
Atmosphere: Comfortable steakhouse elegance
in a turn-of-the-century house