Fake meat: Long Island rockers open vegetarian eatery in Seaford

"Sweet and sour chicken," "killer tofu sticks" and a "Philly cheese steak hero" from the Long Island Vegetarian Eatery (LIR photo by Fran Berkman)

How many times has this happened to you? It’s 2 a.m., and you’re overcome with that one-of-a-kind urge for vegan pulled-pork sliders.

Be honest now, did you even know that vegan pulled-pork sliders exist? Well they do, and they are one of the many fake-meat menu items at the brand new Long Island Vegetarian Eatery (LIVE) in Seaford.

LIVE formally opens its doors to the public today, Dec. 16; the grand opening celebration will take place next Friday, Dec. 23.

"Sweet and sour chicken," "killer tofu sticks" and a "Philly cheese steak hero" from the Long Island Vegetarian Eatery (LIR photo by Fran Berkman)

"Sweet and sour chicken," "killer tofu sticks" and a "Philly cheese steak hero" from the Long Island Vegetarian Eatery (LIR photo by Fran Berkman)

The restaurant features a 37-item menu that includes vegetarian and vegan treats such as “killer tofu sticks,” chili dogs, a “meat lover’s” sub and homemade vegan jalapeno poppers—filled either with non-dairy cream cheese or cheddar cheese and fake bacon.

Head Chef Austin Pollack suggests the sweet and sour chicken, which is served over brown rice and garnished with broccoli.

“If a regular meat eater would try it, he would not be able to tell the difference,” Pollack said.

Pollack, a graduate of the Culinary Academy of Long Island, has worked in the restaurant industry for nine years. Though he has worked in numerous restaurants, this is his first job as a vegetarian chef.

Seaford residents Eric Finneran and Salvatore Mignano are the co-owners of LIVE. For Finneran, a vegetarian, the reason he thought to open a vegetarian restaurant on Long Island was simple.

“I just got sick of not being able to eat past 10 p.m.,” Finneran said.

LIVE will stay open until midnight Monday through Wednesday and until 3 a.m. Thursday through Sunday. For late-night snackers on the south shore, LIVE will provide an interesting alternative to your run-of-the-mill diner.

Finneran and Mignano plan to keep the restaurant open late to cater to patrons of the Leaky Lifeboat, a bar they also own which is directly next door to LIVE.

The two owners say it is the success they have had with the bar, which has been open since February 2011, that led them to believe they could have similar success with a restaurant. Finneran and Mignano believe they have uncovered the holy grail for business owners: a niche market.

“We cater primarily to kids in rock bands or kids who like rock music,” Finneran said.

In fact, the bar’s name, the “Leaky Lifeboat,” came from a song of the same name by Finneran’s favorite band, Sonic Youth. Finneran, himself a musician, owns Cellar Door Studio, a music rehearsal space in Amityville.

Mignano also has significant ties to the local music scene. He is the bass player and a founding member of The Sleeping, a Long Island band that formed in 2003. As a member of the band, Mignano has toured the United States and Europe. Songs by The Sleeping have appeared in several popular video games including Madden NFL ‘07, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, Guitar Hero: World Tour and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.

Even with his band’s success, Mignano said he still felt it necessary to explore other career options, which is why he has gone into business.

“You have to make money if you want to keep doing music,” Mignano said. “They go hand-in-hand.”

Both Mignano and Finneran say that their businesses are successful due to the people they have met, friends they have made and connections they have forged as members of the local music scene.

Social networking websites such as Facebook are another significant reason for their success. The Leaky Lifeboat has nearly 2,400 Facebook friends. Its relationship status recently changed to “married” to its new spouse, Long Island Vegetarian Eatery, which had more than 400 friends before even selling one piece of tofu or seitan.

“I blame you for my future fatness,” reads a post on LIVE’s Facebook wall written by local artist TJ Boegle, a Seaford resident.

Finneran and Mignano said they have not spent a single dollar on advertising for the Leaky Lifeboat because they are able to contact their clientele so easily on Facebook.

“Without social networking, I don’t understand how people did it,” Finneran said.

So the next time you get a hankering for vegetarian buffalo drumsticks, or perhaps if you want advice on how to be a successful small business owner in the age of social networking, head on down to the Long Island Vegetarian Eatery. They’re open late.