If craft beverages are your thing, downtown Farmingdale’s latest restaurant is the place for you.
“I’m heavy into the craft experience — craft beer and craft cocktails,” said Jim Zeffiro, the general manager of the new Villager Farmingdale. “For me, there’s nothing more rewarding than when you share that experience with a guest. You make something for them and you get to see their reaction.
“The vision I had here was bringing really refined Americana gastropub food to an area that’s already flourishing and give them a sophisticated but approachable cocktails and a really well-curated beer list,” he continued. “We’re a beer bar that has really good cocktails.”
The Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce, local business owners and elected officials welcomed The Villager Farmingdale and Zeffiro to the community Friday with a grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony.
Fans of the joint’s sister restaurant, The Villager in Babylon, will be happy to know some of that menu’s staples can be found on Farmingdale’s.
“We have the favorites, like our claim to fame, the in-house gouda fries with our beer cheese,” Zeffiro said. “We make that fresh every single day. We have to because we go through gallons of cheese. We also have the Big Mic burger, which is our nod to ‘Coming To America,’ and our Villager burger. Those three are our staples.”
Beyond those highlights, The Villager Farmingdale’s chef, William Ahearn, charted his own course.
“I don’t want to put out the same burgers that every other bar is doing,” he said. “Everything we do has a twist. Everything we make [is] from scratch.”
Ahearn said all four of his tacos, ahi tuna, carne asada, and chicken and shrimp, have been selling like wild fire.
“Our carne asada tacos have a margarita aioli, as in the actual salted margarita drink,” Ahearn said. “We do a fusion shrimp taco which is kind of like a green dragon roll and our tajin chicken tacos have a fresh guava barbecue [sauce] and fresh mango.”
Other unique finds on the menu include the Korean fried chicken sandwich with bibb lettuce, Korean barbecue, vinegar slaw, kimchi aioli atop a sesame bun and the drunken fried chicken sandwich, boasting parmesan crusted fried chicken, vodka sauce, burrata, prosciutto, pesto emulsion and arugula leaves served on garlic ciabatta.
Tapping into potential
For Zeffiro, being asked to helm the sixth restaurant in a group that includes the sister Villager in Babylon was an appreciated recognition. He tended bar in The Local, another joint in the family of restaurants, since it opened in Babylon in 2017.
“They told me ‘You’re the face,'” he said of being asked to run The Villager Farmingdale earlier this year. “That’s what they do, they grab somebody who’s been working their tail off. Pretty much all the other managing partners started somewhere and moved up with it.”
In Farmingdale, Zeffiro had free range to renovate the space formerly occupied by Farmingdale Brew Co. Perhaps the downtown establishment’s greatest improvement is the new outdoor patio, complete with an outdoor bar, plenty of seating and room for five-piece bands to perform on weekends.
“It was a slow process for me because I had to weed through the weeds,” Zeffiro said of the renovation. “When we got back here, it was a disaster — rotting tables and broken folding chairs. But there was so much potential.”
He also rearranged the inside bar to handle the crowds he expects will flow in from Main Street.
“It’s like looking at a field that hasn’t been plowed yet,” he said. “You’re starting to plant the crops, you’re starting to see them blossom and grow.”
A community hub
While the weather remains warm, bands will perform outdoors at The Villager Farmingdale each weekend, Zeffiro said. Every Wednesday, on the patio or inside, the bar hosts acoustic performers.
Since it opened June 10, Farmingdale’s new craft bar hosted a number of events, including an oyster fest and a pig roast. Zeffiro is already looking to do more in the vibrant downtown. He is teaming up with Flux Coffee to offer a coffee-infused aged Manhattan, joining forces with Jim’s Stogies to host a cigar dinner Oct. 6 and hosting a Halloween party on Oct. 29.
“I think the most important part of joining a community on this level is not just saying ‘Hey, we’re here,’ but saying ‘Hey, we’re here to help,'” Zeffiro said. “We’re here to make this area better and bring even more business in.”
Top: Jim Zeffiro and Chef William Ahearn behind the bar at The Villager Farmingdale.