By Connor Beach
For just over three years The Refuge has been serving up both delicious food and a place to unwind in the professional district of the Huntington Quadrangle in Melville.
Launched in November 2014 at the site of the former Four Food Studio by the same owners, The Refuge sports a menu that combines both Italian and Latin flavors
JoAnn Winkhart, business development director for both The Refuge and its sister restaurant K Pacho in New Hyde Park, said the restaurant’s prime, Route-110 location makes it a popular destination for a “robust lunch crowd” and happy hour.
“We get a sophisticated, professional and mature crowd, but people come here to relax and have fun,” said Winkhart, of Nesconset. “People tell me they feel like it’s an extension of home.”
The dining room has a capacity of 250, and during the warmer months, usually beginning at the end of April, the outdoor deck opens for added space and ambience.
The Refuge offers Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. — and when the outdoor deck is open, it hosts “barking brunch” inviting leashed dogs and their owners to join the party. Winkhart said The Refuge partners with local shelters and animal related charities for “barking brunch” fundraisers.
In addition to a full catering and delivery menu that is especially convenient for office lunches, the busy bar crowd and rustic modern décor gives The Refuge a buzz of energy.
The distinct Spanish influences are evident just by looking at the menu items like the Guacamole ($12.95) with jalapeno, tomato, cilantro, onion, lime and a large side of chips. The jalapeño and tomato add texture to the dish while the citrus flavor adds brightness. The spicy salsa on the side provides a kick to the crispy chips that make this a great dish to share.
Another Latin inspired dish is the Cuban Sandwich ($12.95), which is served with ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and Dijon mustard. The Refuge adds a modern twist on this classic by preparing the pulled pork barbeque style. The traditional combination of the Swiss, ham and mustard still shine through, and the pickles complete the sandwich with a great crunch.
The heat that Latin food is known for makes a clear, but not overpowering, appearance in the Angry Shrimp Tacos ($13.95) featuring spicy shrimp served with vegetable citrus slaw, lime, margarita crema, Spanish rice and plantains. The shrimp has a great kick that is tempered just the right amount by the citrus slaw for the perfect bite.
For customers looking for Italian inspired flavors, the Mamma Mia Pizza ($13.95) from The Refuge’s pizza oven is topped with chicken cutlet, broccoli rabe, tomato, mozzarella, Parmesan and a balsamic drizzle. The soft crust supports a classic combination of chicken and balsamic that, when added to the unique and flavorful vegetable sauce, makes this pizza a crowd favorite.
Diners can smell the Italian influence in the Herb Focaccia Sandwich ($15.95) served with grilled chicken, prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, cherry tomato and balsamic before they even taste the herb covered bread or the fresh melty goodness of the mozzarella. The aroma alone makes this sandwich a must have.
The Refuge also has a full vegan menu that has plenty of options for both dedicated vegans and diners looking to try something new. The Sweet Pea Ravioli ($18.95) is served with seitan meatballs, spaghetti square and tomato basil. The ravioli embraces the vegan style with a colorful split pea filling that stands out on flavor alone.
The Refuge’s unique style and comfortable atmosphere make it a place that anyone can enjoy.
Winkhart said, “The atmosphere is chic, yet casual; it’s amazing how people just get the feeling that this is a homey and welcoming environment.”