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Mara's Too - Wantagh

Mara's Too
3261 Merrick Rd.
Wantagh, NY 11793

Reader Rating: [yasr_visitor_votes]

Our Rating: [yasr_overall_rating]

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shrimp grits

blue grass piePhoto Credits: Marastoo.com

Related to Mara's Homemade in Syosset, Mara's Too is serving up Arkansas barbecue and southern and cajun favorites. Located on a small strip on Merrick Road, we had no problem parking in the tiny adjacent parking lot on an early Saturday evening. We made reservations days in advance, unsure of how busy the place gets and although relatively empty at first, it filled up as we were getting ready to leave.

One surprise upon first sitting down is how large the menu is. The menu is filled with small plates, appetizers, salads, southern BBQ, Cajun, po' boys, sandwiches, burgers and specials. We all took such a long time figuring out what we wanted because everything sounded delicious!

We decided on 1lb of the Crawfish Boil, Shrimp Grits, Smoked Bourbon Braised Short Ribs, Kids Macaroni and Cheese, and other guests with us ordered Shrimp Grits and the Gator Po' Boy.

Our order was put into the waitress' iPhone--not a pen and pad in sight. It felt a bit strange, almost like she was messing around on her phone. Perhaps an iPad would've been different, I'm not sure, but at least they can say they are keeping updated with the available technology!

The crawfish boil came out first and tasted good, a decent amount of larger ones and nice spice.

Not before long, the rest of our food was brought out. Portions looked small, but everything was delicious. The shrimp grits were made of shrimp sauteed in garlic butter, served over cheese grits with a garnish of chives and crispy bacon. It was a nice combination of creamy and light, yet fatty and satisfying all at the same time. The short ribs tasted great, but the meat was way tougher than it should've been. When you read "smoked, braised short ribs" you expect falling off the bone, and instead it was pretty difficult to tear apart.

As for the other food, the kids Mac and Cheese has a blend of cheddar and parmesan cheese, so if you have a finicky eater who won't go near anything but Kraft, I'd probably skip it. It makes a great adult mac and cheese however, and is even available with crawfish on the regular menu! Just a note, most of the sandwiches don't come with a side other than a tiny thing of coleslaw so if you want fries, its an add-on.

We chose the Blue Grass Pie and Key Lime Pie for dessert, both were delicious. The Blue Grass Pie is a chocolate pecan pie with bourbon, and as good as it was, I was done after a few bites because it was so rich. The Key Lime Pie was light, tangy, delicious and really just a perfect key lime pie. Good ending to a meal.

Service throughout the night was good, but it could've been better. It took pretty long to get refills a few times, and there was a miscommunication with the dessert so the check ended up needing to be reprinted.

The people we were with asked for one Blue Grass Pie, and we ordered one as well, plus the Key Lime Pie. I guess the waitress thought we were reiterating their order and ordering the key lime for ourselves, but what we really wanted was two blue grass pies for the table and a key lime pie. The check was placed on our table with the dessert, and the waitress walked away before we could say anything, and it took so long for her to come our way again so we could say something.

Also, we were paying with a card, so the waitress put it through her phone, and I had to sign with my finger on her screen. When the receipt was brought over a few minutes later, it had a space for a tip but she brought no pen, since I had already signed digitally. I found one in my bag, so it wasn't a big deal, but I do have to say it was strange having her put my card through her phone. Ordering is one thing, having my financial information on a personal device is another. You be the judge.

Overall, the night was fine but we think there are better places for the money such as Big Daddy's for amazing Cajun food and Famous Daves for delicious BBQ.

Mara's Too on Urbanspoon

The Republic Pub - Farmingdale

The Republic Pub
217 Main Street
Farmingdale, NY 11735

Our Rating: [yasr_overall_rating]

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Reader Rating: [yasr_visitor_votes]

Republic burger Republic Pulled pork burger


Photo credit: Seth B. on Yelp

We've heard nothing but good things about The Republic from friends and family, so we figured it was time we gave it a try. After all, we were without kids that night, which means it was the perfect opportunity to go to a pub and sit at the bar--something we seldom do since the little ones are almost always in toe.

It was a Saturday evening, and the bar was pretty full, a few parties were at tables, and we lucked out with two open seats at the end of the bar. We were immediately greeted and taken care of by the bartender, got menus to look over and we looked around at what others were eating. Sweet potato tater tots seemed to be pretty popular but we weren't in the mood for those. Maybe next time.

We decided on Buffalo Wings to start with house made blue cheese dressing, and we each ordered a burger--bad idea! We easily could have shared just one burger because the portion was so large, which we would've known if we really read the menu! 1/2lb ground sirloin (or turkey if you'd like) served with fries or pasta salad. We chose The Republic burger with bacon, cheddar, irish whisky bbq sauce, and onion strings, as well as The Oinker which was topped with pulled pork, onion strings, and irish whisky bbq sauce.

The wings were great, a little under-sauced but seasoned plenty and crispy with a nice kick. The burgers were cooked perfectly medium as requested, and tasted delicious, both pretty similar in flavor profiles. Smoky tangy pork and BBQ sauce, with the crispiness of the onion strings on The Oinker, and smoky tangy BBQ, crispy bacon and onion strings and salty cheese on The Republic. Nearly the same, only The Oinker was absolutely huge because of the added pulled pork on top of the burger. We'd recommend both of them.

We  skipped dessert since we were so full, but think next time we will leave room for the Johnny Cakes Rainbow Cookie Cheesecake. It looks out of this world!

Service from start to finish was great, we never felt ignored which can sometimes happen when you're sitting at the bar. Overall, a great night and we look forward to trying much more from their mouth watering menu.

The Republic on Urbanspoon

Blaze Pizza - West Babylon

Blaze Pizza
1047 W. Montauk Highway
West Babylon, NY 11704

Our Rating: [yasr_overall_rating]

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Reader Rating: [yasr_visitor_votes]


BBQ chicken

white top

half pepperoni

Surely there is no shortage of great pizzerias on Long Island but Blaze Pizza is doing something we haven't seen before. Will it work? Only time will tell. A new quick service restaurant ala Chipotle or even Subway, this restaurant is letting customers fully customize each 11" pie with meats, veggies, cheeses and sauces or choose from their menu of Signature Pizzas. Prices are simple. Cheese pie is $5. 1 Topping, $6.25, Unlimited toppings or Signature Pizza, $7.65. These artisanal pizzas are then fast fire'd in the oven for 180 seconds and that's it!

When we first arrived, we realized you can't actually see the restaurant from the shopping center parking lot. It faces Montauk Highway, right around the corner from Red Robin. Walking in, it has an industrial feel with pendant lights, and exposed ceiling and ducts.

You walk right up to the counter and start customizing your pizza. I thought it was a little chaotic with several customers ordering pizzas at the same time, and toppings being added rather slowly but I'm sure they'll get into the swing of things in no time.

Instead of going crazy with the toppings on our own, we ordered a few Signature Pizzas from the menu. We decided on the BBQ Chicken pizza (minus the red onion and banana peppers) with grilled chicken, mozzarella, gorgonzola, and bbq sauce drizzle as well as the White Top with white cream sauce, mozzarella, applewood bacon, chopped garlic, oregano and arugula. For the kids, we had them make a half pepperoni half cheese pie.

We moved down the assembly line to the cashier, grabbed two of their s'mores for dessert, got our cups for drinks and began looking for a table for us and both of the kids. Regular tables were nearly all taken, so we were left with the high top table in the center of the room. Not ideal for a 2 and 3 year old. We wanted to sit at the only regular table left that has a half booth and two chairs, but someone had left their pizza on the table as if they were holding the spot. We were disappointed to see an employee on his lunch break then return to his pizza, sit down, and occupy this whole table when we were 2 feet away struggling with the kids. I'm sure if we had asked to sit there he would've moved, but there really were plenty of other seats available for him. Our order was ready and as we were brining the pizzas over, thankfully I spotted two women finishing up at a nearby table. We moved over there and all was well. A bit later, another employee on break went right to the scarcely occupied high top, which is probably what the other guy should've done.

Nonetheless, we dug right into the pizza. The crust of the pies was very thin and crispy, but was able to hold the toppings just fine. The BBQ chicken pizza was good but probably could've used more BBQ sauce, even though I even had extra put on the bottom. The White Top pizza was more delicious than I expected and was salty and smoky, and the spicy, bitter arugula was a nice finish on top. The cheese/pepperoni pie was fine, obviously nothing special compared to the endless combinations available. We ended our meal with some mini s'mores pies. Rather than a thin graham cracker, it has graham cookies. For someone that doesn't care for s'mores much, it was very good and a nice little treat!

Overall, the pizzas tasted great and were cooked very well. Staff behind the counter were upbeat and nice, and there really is nothing else like Blaze Pizza out there right now so I think it'll do well. The unlimited toppings and people's desire to be creative with their pizza will appeal to many but it will definitely be competing with local places serving up traditional New York style pizza.

Whether you like Blaze Pizza or not will probably depend on how much usually spend on pizza at your go-to pizzeria. If you keep it real cheap like Domino's or Papa Johns, Blaze Pizza is in an entirely different ballfield. If you're used to a $2-$3 slice that needs to be eaten with two hands, you might find these pies a little overpriced, like us. With each Blaze Pizza pie being the equivalent of about 2-2.5 regular slices but MUCH thinner, is it worth it at $7.65? We feel you can get much more substance for your money at the regular pizzerias. I think the ability to fully customize your own pizza might outweigh the price difference for some, but not for us.

Blaze Pizza on Urbanspoon

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