Strong Island Burgers planned for Chico’s Tex Mex space in Setauket


When John Louis shuttered the Maui Chophouse restaurant in September 2022 to concentrate on the Hawaiian eatery’s popular food truck operation, he figured his brick-and-mortar days were behind him.

“I swore I would never do it again,” he said.

But Louis will happily go back on that pledge early in 2024, when he partners with Vinay Galani, the owner of Chico’s Tex Mex, to open Strong Island Burgers in Setauket.

“This is just too good to pass up and it’s right in the neighborhood where I was born and raised,” said Louis, whose Maui Chophouse Food Truck will turn 2 next month. “It’s not a foolproof concept, but with the backing we have and support in the surrounding area, it’s as close to a sure thing as any I have seen.”

Strong Island Burgers is aiming to open in the first half of January at 30 Route 25A in Setauket, the current home of Chico’s Tex Mex.

The new burger joint is the result of a joint venture with Chico’s owner, Vinay Galani, whose restaurant is relocating a short distance away along Route 25A to the Three Village Shopping Center in East Setauket because the current location does not allow for a bar to be added.

With Louis having used the Chico’s kitchen for about a year to prepare food for the food truck, a partnership was already in place — along with the setting for Strong Island Burgers.

“It’s just cosmetic changes for us,” Louis said. “What we’re doing is switching the menu.”

The options will include 17 twists on the classic hamburger, among them a surf & turf burger with cajun shrimp, a chorizo burger and a skirt steak burger topped with onion straws.

“We’re going a little outside the box,” Louis said. “There is nothing in that area of Setauket where you can get burgers like that, so that was part of the draw for us.”

There will, of course, be a standard burger — with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and a choice of cheese — for $6.99. Sides options include fries and onion rings.

The new place will also feature chicken sandwiches, vegan and vegetarian menu items and a build-your-own burger stand.

“So you you can pick your lettuce, your tomatoes, your greens, then go down the line and say, ‘I want that, I want that and I want that,” Louis said.

Strong Island Burger is the latest food venture for Louis, whose Maui Chophouse restaurant was in business for nearly four years in Rocky Point and whose food truck is rolling through private events that include luaus, fire dancers and pig roasts. 

Among the offerings at the food truck is the $13 SPAM Burger, which features grilled SPAM and pineapple, Maui aioli sauce, jalapeño, red onion and tomato.

After Louis’s great grandparents moved to Hawaii from Portugal in 1903, the family lived in Maui for three generations before moving to Long Island.

“I’m born and raised in Setauket,” he said. “This is home.”

The new restaurant will include seating for 16 and its owners say they are hoping to do a strong takeout and delivery business with Stony Brook University and three hospitals in the area.

“We’re looking to tap into all of those markets,” Louis said. “And with all the people we know in the area, I think we’re going to do well.”

Top: News 12 Long Island reporter Erin Colton with Strong Island burgers owner John Louis outside his Maui Chophouse Food Truck, which first hit the road two years ago. (courtesy photo)

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