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Chachama Grill listed among America’s Best 100 Restaurants

Elmer Rubio at Chachama Grill

OpenTable emailed Chef Elmer Rubio, informing the chef that his Chachama Grill was being listed in the website’s Best 100 Restaurants in America for 2016.

But Rubio didn’t see the email. Then the phone started ringing at the recently renovated Chachama, located in Swan Nursery Commons in East Patchogue.

interior photos below

“A lot of customers were calling and congratulating us,” said Rubio. “People were calling my wife, saying did you see Chachama on OpenTable?”

The couple was happy. Yet busy, because the restaurant is consistently crowded.

That was earlier this month. Rubio said he still has to order signage from OpenTable announcing Chachama’s Top 100 status, but he hasn’t found the time. That’s understandable; the chef works seven days a week preparing top-notch New American dishes at Chachama.

Rubio and his wife opened up in the shopping center in 2003, using the money they had saved for a downpayment on a house in North Patchogue that had fallen through, Rubio said.

An excellent rating soon followed from The New York Times, and the nondescript little restaurant in has since been a perennial favorite in Zagat superlative lists ever since. The restaurant is consistently ranked among the Top 10 restaurants in Nassau or Suffolk counties through Zagat.

OpenTable’s list was “based on an analysis of 10,000,000+ reviews of more than 24,000 restaurants across the country — all submitted by verified diners.”

Thirteen New York restaurants made the list, with the only other Long Island location being The Trattoria in St. James.

Rubio, who now lives in East Patchogue, is originally from El Salvador but lived much of his life in Oyster bay — 15 years of which were spent cooking alongside another locally known chef, Michael Meehan.

He worked briefly at the now-closed Meritage in Bellport Village before opening his own place.

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Thirteen years later, his Chachama grill is sought out by movie stars (we won’t name names), Hamptonites who stop by on their way between the East End and New York City, and plenty of locals.

Rubio changes the menu often, but fan favorites Oysters Rubio (crispy oysters, sauteed spinach, sweet plantain fufu and wua kah tie sauce) and Long Island Crescent Farms Duck Breast (with black wild rice, almonds, cranberries and peach chutney), are always listed.

The chef also used Crescent Duck in the Pan Seared Long Island Fried Duck Ravioli dish he served at this summer’s first-ever Island to Table outdoor dining experience in Patchogue.

Leading up to that event, Crescent Duck owner Doug Corwin said he was thrilled Rubio would be showcasing his product at the special dinner at the Village Green in New Village.

“I’ve had my duck at the Four Seasons, The River Café, Bouley, some of the finest restaurants, and Elmer does as good a job as anyone,” Corwin had told greaterpatchogue.com. “Let’s just say I’ve been to Chachama three times in the last month and had the duck twice.

“You guys are blessed to have him in Patchogue.”

Of the OpenTable ranking, Rubio said he’s especially happy, because the rankings are based upon lots of individual diners — not just the likes or dislikes of one individual critic. (Even though he scores favorably with critics as well.)

He also thinks Chachama’s long-planned renovations — completed over two weeks in October — will help the restaurant climb the ladder even further in the Long Island Zagat rankings.

Asked for the secret of his success, Rubio said he and the staff work hard to make sure everyone who comes into Chachama Grill leaves happy, both with the food and the service.

“We try to do the right thing by people,” he said.

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Chachama Grill is located at 655 Montauk Highway in the Swan Nursery Commons and is open seven days as week. Lunch is available Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday is dinner only. Reservations are required. Call 631-758-7640 or book through OpenTable.

Top: Elmer Rubio in the kitchen at Chachama Grill in July. (greaterpatchogue.com file photo)

About the author: Michael White

Michael White is a Bellport resident, longtime newspaper reporter and editor, and the owner of greaterpatchogue.com. Email him your story ideas or tips: mike@greaterpatchogue.com