Opening Choppers Burger Bar together in Glen Head was a dream come true for restaurateurs Kent Monkan, of Glen Cove, and Nick Litterello, of Northport. They always wanted to team up and run a burger joint.
After working together at Panama Hatties in Huntington from 1995 to 2000, they both went on to have successful careers in the restaurant business. Monkan, 44, is the owner of three North Shore dining fixtures — the Heirloom Tavern in Glen Head, the Brass Rail in Locust Valley and the Wild Goose in Port Washington. Litterello, 44, is the head of catering at the Sea Cliff Yacht Club.
But they kept in touch over the years, and nearly 20 years later, their dream became a reality last October, when they opened Choppers. They celebrated its grand opening on Jan. 10.
Its location, at the corner of Glen Cove Avenue and Glenwood Road in downtown Glen Head, is perfect, Monkan said, because it’s hard for drivers and pedestrians to miss on their way down Glen Cove Avenue, one of the area’s busiest thoroughfares.
Choppers offers burger fans several options and a choice of more than 20 different toppings. And diners looking for something else to eat are also in luck, because the restaurant also features salmon, catfish, kielbasa and chicken sandwiches, as well as specialty fries. Even vegetarian and vegans can enjoy Choppers’s falafel and “impossible” patty sandwiches, as well as five different salads.
The dining room is on the main floor, as is the kitchen. But the basement, the owners say, is where the magic happens, where all of the prep takes place. Every ounce of meat is stripped from the bone in-house, and never frozen. In fact, staffers chop all of the meat themselves, something in which the owners take pride — and that inspired the joint’s name.
“Everything we try to do here is made here,” Litterello said. “Everything here is fresh, made in-house, and I think that’s what sets us apart from everyone else.”
When you walk into the restaurant, it quickly becomes clear that the name has another meaning as well. The first thing you see is a huge mural featuring nearly a dozen motorcyclists. Monkan said he’s had that theme in mind for a long time. It gives the place an unmistakably masculine, yet casual and family-friendly atmosphere.
Choppers differs greatly from the owners’ other restaurants. Monkan’s are decidedly more upscale, with expansive menus featuring a variety of meats, fish, pastas and salads. Likewise, Litterello serves gourmet dishes at the Sea Cliff Yacht Club. They both said that Choppers gives them a chance to branch out and do something a little different.
As much as he loves its hangout vibe, Monkan said that what truly makes the restaurant special is the quality of the food. “I think it surpasses other burger restaurants at our price point,” he said. Everything on the menu is between $5 and $14, with most burgers around $8.50.
Steve Warshaw, president of the Gold Coast Business Association and a self-professed “hamburger geek,” said that a great burger joint like Choppers is exactly what Glen Head needs, and until now has been lacking.
“I think a good restaurant brings more people and businesses into the area,” Warshaw said. “It’s always healthy for a neighborhood to have another good restaurant.”