Set up in the footprint of Donald Trump’s failed attempt at a restaurant in my hometown is a Smorgasburg. Or Bar, as they call it. Or Burbs, as I’m calling it. It’s hard to even measure how happy I am that the Trump isn’t in Wantagh, Long Island; the thought of it always sickened me. Bringing in aliens from Brooklyn never seemed possible until word came from my parents in a phone call. I had just about given up on the independent entrepreneur setting up a location anywhere remotely government affiliated in New York State.
The older buildings that house what we call the Snack Bar has been in operation for decades. This facility, keeping the fried shrimp, fries, burgers, and adding franchise locations of Red Mango and Subway, sits where it always has – though now across the boardwalk from a Smorg. I’m not surprised, in the daytime, the snack bar is just as busy.
Back at SmorgasBar, it’s interesting how it’s branded. The signs on the tents are generic; They say PIZZA, BEER, FRIES, OYSTERS, etc. This wouldn’t fly in Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, it’s all about the branding and name-recognition. Just a title of a food wouldn’t work, especially if it weren’t deathly close to jumping the shark in the foodiverse. We don’t want “pizza”, we want Pizza Moto, or Lucali, or something we’ve heard of. “PIZZA” doesn’t cut it. “Beer” denotes Budweiser and Coors, and we don’t want that, not in anything less than a 32 oz styrofoam cup.
Get under the tent, though, and the vendors are A-1. They include Fleischers for barbeque, Rubirosa for pizza, Handsome Hank’s Fish Hut, a french fry vendor, oysters, nachos, and more. All fresh-to-order, and all best-of vendors. I was astonished how the quality across the board flat-lines on excellent. Perpendicular to it is a beer garden (big tent to drink under); and on the other end is cornhole, table tennis, and all-weather couches. But in Wantagh, I don’t think the name recognition is there. Do they know that Rubirosa is one of the cities utmost top pizzerias?
It is obvious that the parent company is trying. Considering that this is an experiment, being given a 1-year lease for the space, to get this caliber of vendors, they must have made sweetheart deals (consider the fees of doing business at the original). The SmorgasBURG (Williamsburg) is insanely crowded, and I’m not sure if Jonesed Beach can reach those levels of cash flow. It’s possible, and probable, these Jones Beach vendors are being given the easiest path possible to make this work – which I am all for.
The prices seem similar to what you find in Smorgasburg, which is not cheap, but the boardwalk has always been expensive, so it’s not as outrageous as the more traditional Smorgs. Anyway, the snack bar vendors on the boardwalk are chincy. This, at SmorgasBurbs, is great quality food; expensive, yeah, but whatever, you’re at the beach. And this beach is the location of Smorg I’ve been happiest to see. It replaced Trump. It isn’t chain brands. It’s good quality food. There is nothing wrong with good food.
The big question is: How well is Long Island is going to take to it? The fact is that Nassau and Suffolk counties have been talking about brain drain for two decades, so the solution to marketing to the new working class is still being worked out. Looking back to my suburban life, this would have been a great hangout for me and my friends. I would have loved to insert Boardwalk into our weekly schedule of: movies, Dunkin Donuts, driving range, pool hall, repeat.
Hopefully it’s only the beginning. Trump’s giant footprint left plenty of room to expand with more vendors, hopefully in the coming years this will be a true destination. I’m on the side of local entrepreneurs, good food, and the people of Long Island. Brain drain be gone!