Part of the MTA + James Beard Foundation DineAWAY series

Locally-owned restaurants and cafes, an expansive nature reserve with hiking trails, plus a bustling downtown, makes Long Island’s Rockville Centre the perfect spot for a lively and indulgent daytrip right off the Long Island Rail Road. Just an hour away from Manhattan, Rockville Centre hosts multiple James Beard Foundation recommended restaurants, plus bars and coffee shops to nourish your body, and historical and educational attractions to feed your mind. Rockville Centre offers the best of Long Island, with hip restaurants, classic Americana, and tranquil nature. Better yet, the town is easily walkable and filled with hidden gems. Here’s our list of where to eat and what to do for when you find yourself exploring and wandering Rockville Centre.


Where to Eat and Drink in Rockville Centre

Kookaburra Coffee

Owner Chris Delgado opened Kookaburra Coffee in 2009, just steps away from the Rockville Centre train station, and takes major pride in not just the coffee they brew but the community they help cultivate through their coffee. Kookaburra serves carefully chosen, small-batch beans from Ethiopia, Mexico, Kenya, and Columbia. They also keep things local, selling kombucha brewed on Long Island by female-owned Coastal Craft Kombucha. Beyond coffee, they offer carefully made matcha lattes, iced tea, and fresh chia pudding plus baked goods like scones and muffins. (In the winter, they also feature a selection of hot chocolate, including one with ancho spice and Belgian drinking chocolate.) Make this your first stop to fuel your day of exploration. Pro tip: first-time visitors get their first beverage on the house!

Beautiful cup of coffee with heart in steamed milk at Kookaburra
Photo courtesy of Kookaburra Coffee.

Kookaburra Coffee is located at 69 N. Village Avenue

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Babylon

3 minute walk from Rockville Centre

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The Pantry

Husband and wife team Erica and Tommy Mavroudis own The Pantry, a busy modern diner that’s a  Rockville Centre favorite. In the family since 1949, this restaurant started as a tin car diner and was more recently transformed into a chic, welcoming space offering inventive specials and a mile-long menu, true to their diner roots. On the weekends, the space gets filled with large friend groups gathering to take advantage of their boozy brunch (featuring 2-for-1 drink specials) and perhaps their most popular dish: chicken and waffles. 

Fried chicken with a waffle from the Pantry in Rockville Centre


The Pantry is located at 525 Merrick Road

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Babylon

16 minute walk or 4 minute rideshare from Rockville Centre

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The Ainsworth

Upscale and lively, The Ainsworth’s newest location in Rockville Centre is great for birthday parties and other special occasions, luxurious brunching with bottomless mimosas, casual date nights, or even getting together with your fantasy football league. With a live DJ and musicians on the weekends, this is the spot if you’re looking to get down while dining on steak and eggs. Feeling fancy? Spring for their 24-karat gold wings—chipotle barbecue chicken wings covered in gold dust and served with bleu cheese dressing.

Decorative wall at The Ainsworth RVC with ivy and the words, 'it was all a dream,' in neon script
Photo courtesy of The Ainsworth.

The Ainsworth is located at 210 Merrick Road

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Babylon

6 minute walk from Rockville Centre

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8 Ramen

Upbeat music, friendly service, and green plants dangling off the walls and ceiling: we challenge you not to have a smile on your face while slurping noodles at 8 Ramen. With classic ramen to choose from, like miso, shoyu, and tonkotsu, plus appetizers like pork buns, shrimp tempura, and fried oysters, this is the go-to spot for Japanese food in Rockville Centre. Get the spicy miso ramen, which has perfectly chewy noodles, a rich broth, and comes with slices of silky pork belly. With an intimate vibe and only 8 tables, the restaurant makes a great date spot (just be sure to slurp carefully!). 

Bowl of ramen from 8 Ramen in Rockville Centre

8 Ramen is located at 17 S. Park Avenue

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Babylon

5 minute walk from Rockville Centre

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Croxley Ale House

Looking for an inventive beer list, perfectly salted fries, and a fun crowd? Croxley Ale House, right in the heart of Rockville Centre, offers it all. Beer nerds will enjoy their “Rotating Rarities” menu, which boasts eclectic local brews plus specialities from “across the pond.” There are also classic seasonal beers and ciders, and a dedicated selection of Long Island-brewed ales. On the weekends, head to their “Unlimited Brunch” – for $39.95, you’ll get unlimited bloody marys, mimosas, or screwdrivers with your meal. Bottoms up!

A generous serving of sweet potato fries alongside a cold beer at Croxleys

Croxley Ale House is located at 7 S. Park Avenue

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Babylon

5 minute walk from Rockville Centre

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Dirty Taco & Tequila

Blood orange margaritas flow freely and colorful art lines the walls at Dirty Taco & Tequila. This isn’t your average taco shop, however. Dirty Taco has the vibe of a Mexican taco stand but with flavors from around the world, ranging from Vietnamese shrimp, Thai meatballs, and Jamaican jerk chicken. Street tacos, made with small corn tortillas, reign supreme at this hip restaurant, but don’t skip their award-winning Asian-style nachos, loaded with Korean short rib, peanut sauce, and mung bean sprouts. Keep an eye on their Instagram for announcements about live music and drink specials.

Four tacos and a side of chips and guacamole at Dirty Taco & Tequila in Rockville Centre
Photo courtesy of Max Maldonado.

Dirty Taco & Tequila is located at 201 Sunrise Highway

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Babylon

2 minute walk from Rockville Centre

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Five Pennies Creamery

Dan Levine is the man behind Five Pennies Creamery, a throwback ice cream shop that feels like a portal to another decade with oldies music overhead and classic flavors like mint chip, black cherry, and cookie dough. Dan keeps things fresh with a rotating list of 130 flavors, so if you’re looking for something beyond traditional ice cream flavors—like strawberry oreo or cinnamon bun—he’s got you covered. Five Pennies Creamery even makes vegan ice cream with a coconut base, plus ice cream pies and cakes for any occasion.

A cone filled to the top with ice cream from Five Pennies in Rockville Centre
Photo courtesy of Max Maldonado.

Five Pennies Creamery is located at 11 N. Park Avenue

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Babylon

4 minute walk from Rockville Centre

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Bigelow’s Clam Shack

A platter of seafood at the family-owned Bigelow’s Clam Shack serves as a reminder that in Rockville Centre, you’re on the South Shore of Long Island. Celebrate the seafaring tradition of the region with their tender Ipswich fried clams that almost melt in your mouth. The wood-paneled bar and walls lined with postcards, maps, discarded lifebuoys, and the classic plastic swordfish give a hearty dose of classic East Coast Americana.  Brothers William, Chris, and Anthony Andreoles now run the ship, which was started by Russ Bigelow in 1939. The menu, which is nearly the same as it was 82 years ago, features not just fried clams, but classics like fish & chips, chowder (both New England and Manhattan), and of course lobster rolls. 

Fried clams and fries with a side of New England Clam Chowder at Bigelows in Rockville Center
Photo courtesy of Max Maldonado.

Bigelow's Clam Shack is located at 79 N. Long Beach Road

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Babylon

17 minute walk or 4 minute rideshare from Rockville Centre

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What to Do in Rockville Centre

Tanglewood Preserve

Once you’ve gotten your fill of Rockville Centre’s lively dining scene, you can enjoy a stroll through Tanglewood, an 11-acre park and nature preserve. With hikes ranging from half a mile up to three miles (how sporty are you feeling?), Tanglewood is a chance to enjoy Long Island’s wild side. The Twain Trail, one of the longer hikes at 2.99 miles, offers an incredible overlook point where you can relax and watch the Chemung River. Throughout spring and summer, the park and its non-profit learning center offer lectures on the surrounding nature and climate change. See their Events page for more details.

Tanglewood Preserve is located at 1 Tanglewood Road

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Babylon

21 minute walk or 6 minute rideshare from Rockville Centre

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Center for Science Teaching and Learning

The Center for Science Teaching and Learning is part of Tanglewood Preserve, offering stimulation and wonder for the brain after working those glutes. With science workshops, a dinosaur exhibit, and local nature clean-up events, this is a family- and kid-friendly stop to add to your list. Check their website to learn about special workshops, like their recent dinosaurs exhibition.

Center for Science Teaching and Learning is located at 1450 Tanglewood Road

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Babylon

20 minute walk or 6 minute rideshare from Rockville Centre

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Phillips House Museum

Get a peek at what it was like to live in Rockville Centre in the 19th and 20th centuries at the small but mighty Phillips House Museum, which welcomes visitors into a restored Victorian-era home from 1882. The house is named after Samuel F. Phillip, a sea captain who moved to Rockville Centre from Maine and is celebrated for contributing to the growth of the town. Rooms depict authentic period furniture, and houses at least 1,000 artifacts from the era, including decorations, kitchen supplies, and clothing, offering a glimpse into Rockville Centre’s past.

Some of the artifacts on display at the Phillips House in Rockville Centre
Photo courtesy of Mike Nelson.

Phillips House Museum is located at 28 Hempstead Avenue

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Babylon

6 minute walk from Rockville Centre

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Wine and Design

Sip wine and unleash your creativity at Wine and Design, Rockville Centre’s popular painting studio which hosts nightly “paint and sip” classes, private events, and kid-focused painting nights. Sign up for a session based on what you’d like to paint (their website shows which paintings will be offered on certain nights), or go for the Open Studio option and choose your own painting to replicate. Wine and beer are available to purchase or bring your own for a $10 fee. The studio provides the paints, brushes, and aprons—just bring your creativity (and maybe a bottle of rosé, too).

Interior of Wine and Design in Rockville Centre
Photo courtesy of Wine and Design.

Wine and Design is located at 21 N. Village Avenue

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Babylon

4 minute walk from Rockville Centre

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