Meet the trio behind the ‘new’ Lily Flanagan’s in Babylon Village 


Lily Flanagan’s in Babylon got a fresh new look going into 2023.  

But a remodeling and the addition of al fresco dining wasn’t enough for the ownership group’s vision for the space. 

“Our vision was to transform [Lily’s Babylon] into a top-of-the-line restaurant and bar and escalate everything — from the food, to the cocktails, to the service,” said Niall Crowe, the head of Lily Flanagan’s Restaurant Group, which now operates six Long Island restaurants

But Crowe and his executive team knew any true transformation would also take an investment in human capital.

That’s why they recruited three ringers to usher in big changes at the “new” Lily’s at 345 Deer Park Avenue. 

Meet Chris Weiss, the restaurant group’s culinary director who has transformed the menu and kitchen, Sarah Gardiner, the new manager who has nearly two decades of hospitality experience, and Anthony Ward, the spot’s newly minted bar manager. (All pictured above.)

“The three of them together are just a great team,” Crowe said.  “Lily’s is all set to move forward.”

Server and bartender Sean Duff at the ‘new’ Lily Flanagan’s in Babylon. (Michael White)

The Dream Team

Chris Weiss, culinary director

Chris Weiss, 39, of North Babylon, has been working in commercial kitchens since he was 16.  

He pivoted in 2017 from a career in fine dining to help the Lily’s group open a gastro pub concept called The Local, also in Babylon Village.

He put The Local on the culinary map for Long Islanders looking for creative takes on classic bar food.  

“We were immediately successful,” he said. 

In 2019, he helped open the company’s Oakdale Brew House to fanfare. The Oakdale spot has been humming ever since. 

“It was kind of a weird location in Oakdale, tucked into the corner of a shopping center, but it came out looking beautiful and I did what I love to do — start putting out really good food.” 

Chris Weiss was 2-for-2 for the company. 

In the meantime, the group took over management of The Wharf in 2020 and opened another Villager in Farmingdale in 2022. (The first opened in Babylon in 2016.) 

But Lily Flanagan’s, the company’s namesake and flagship location, had become a bit of an afterthought. 

So at the company’s request, Weiss transferred to Lily’s Babylon in the fall to revamp the kitchen and work on an all-new menu. 

“It was more of a lack of attention to the food with a focus on the bar business” at Lily’s, Weiss explained. “Which was an evolution, just not in the right direction, I would say.” 

Upgrades to the kitchen equipment this fall helped Weiss tremendously. That included a new broiler, flat top grill and a double stack pizza oven. 

Now Lily’s is going back to its roots of serving quality food, first. 

“We’re taking great pride in what we do in the kitchen,” Weiss said. “We’re known as an Irish restaurant, but my specialty is new American cuisine. So I wanted to keep our Irish classics [on the menu] but make it the best damn Irish food you could possibly have.” 

Weiss did all that, but now you’ll also find Steak Frites (29), Short Rib (28) and the Boursin Crusted Filet Mignon (39) on the menu.

“You can get a steakhouse experience without the steakhouses prices,” Crowe said.

“I had to rally the troops, saying we were basically starting from scratch,” Weiss said. “I would like this place to be known as hands-down the best restaurant in Babylon, and I think it’s achievable.

Click here to view the new menu. 

The Nashville Pizza at Lily’s. That’s crispy fried chicken, shredded mozzarella, burrata, honey buffalo, bread & butter pickles, scallions. (Credit: Lily’s Babylon on Facebook)

Anthony Ward, bar manager

Anthony Ward of Deer Park headed to Babylon in 2017 to start bartending at Lily’s.  

He’s had a front-row seat to more than five years of changes there, both in customers’ palates and the restaurant’s approach to the bar scene. 

“Our staple was the Jack and Coke, or Tito’s and soda, or a Guinness,” he said with a laugh. 

Lily’s used to stock one tequila. Now they have 17. 

“The drinking culture has also changed in general,” Ward said. 

Lily’s is fully on board with changing with it. That means serving up fine cocktails. 

Click here to see the new cocktail menu, which Ward developed to pair nicely with the new food menu. Both menus debuted in January. 

“I worked hand-in-hand with Chris and vice versa,” he said. “And that meant a lot of taste-testing.” 

The espresso martin flights in particular have proved immensely popular, he said. 

His suggestions: 

If you’re ordering the Short Rib (28), pair it with the Lily’s Old Fashioned (15). 

Or say you opt for the Cajun Chicken Pasta (22), grab a Tropical Sunrise, which is a coconut rum drink (15). 

Of course, a beer will often do just fine. So if you get a The Reuben (18), stick to a Smithwick’s Irish Ale, he said. 

After all, the idea was never to build some snobby cocktail lounge. 

“We’re still offering the same service and a very friendly staff,” Ward said. “You’re always going to get a conversation, but aside from that, now we have finely crafted cocktails.

“We’re not only serving a great drink; we pride ourselves on delivering a great experience.”

The Birria Dilla at Lily’s Flanagan’s. That’s braised short rib, chopped Spanish onion, cheddar jack cheese, cotija cheese, fresh cilantro, tortilla wrap, smoked chili au jus. (Credit: Lily’s Babylon Facebook)

Sarah Gardiner, manager

That’s where Sarah Gardiner of Patchogue comes in.

“Experience is everything in a restaurants,” she added. “It’s not just the food. It’s not just the drinks. The entire experience starts from the moment you walk through the door.” 

She was handpicked by Weiss. The two had been friends for years and he knew all about her training and management skills, and the dedication she brings to anywhere she works.

“Our vision is to transform the entire experience at Lily’s,” Gardiner said. “And we have changed everything on the service end, with elevated service from the hosts and hostesses to the bartenders.” 

The goal at Lily’s, as it should be with any establishment, is simply this: 

“When people leave, you want them saying, ‘I cannot wait to go back there,” she said. 

On the restaurant’s end, that starts with communication, especially between the manager and the kitchen. For instance, some specials might be working well. Others might not. 

But there’s no room to be polite about it, or worry about feelings. The customers’ feedback is paramount. 

That’s also why it helps that she and Weiss already have a friendship, and one based on mutual respect. 

Lily Flanagan’s Restaurant Group set a nice foundation for big changes with this past fall’s overhaul of the space, from the floors to the ceiling, tables, chairs and and decor. 

The dining outdoors in the village will happen as soon as the weather breaks. 

“We’ve revamped everything to be the best,” Gardiner said. “And we know we can be.”

Fun facts about Lily’s

  • Coldplay played at Lily’s in front of about 50 people some random night in 2001 after a big show in Ireland. The band was big overseas at the time, but not so much in the U.S.
  • Talk show host Jerry Springer was at Lily’s for a Halloween event as part of a joint promotional campaign with a local radio station.
  • There’s a catering space upstairs that holds up to 100 people.

Top (L-R): Anthony Ward, the newly minted bar manager at Lily’s Babylon. Sarah Gardiner, the new manager. Chris Weiss, culinary director for Lily Flanagan’s Restaurant Group. (Michael White)