Food and Drink

Marc LaMaina developing restaurant with outdoor experience in downtown Riverhead

Marc LaMaina is doubling down on downtown Riverhead.

On July 13, the restaurateur behind the ever-expanding Lucharitos brand opened Burgercade, an inexpensive American eatery with old-school video games at 87 East Main St. While renovating that space, he kept another property in his back pocket: 131 West Main St., a property with a two-story structure just a stone’s throw north of the Peconic River, which he purchased last year. The building previously housed the offices of family law attorneys Schaub & Daly, LLP.

The name and offerings of the restaurant that will occupy that space remain a secret — even to Mr. LaMaina himself. No matter what cuisine he ultimately decides to serve, its success will be a roll of the dice.

“Any energy we put into downtown Riverhead takes away from a product that we know works, Lucharitos,” Mr. LaMaina said with his wife, Jennifer, at his side. “We have a new project in Mineola, a project in Ronkonkoma, both Lucharitos. The margin works, our standard operating procedures are all set in stone, we have a team that knows Lucharitos. Everything else that we do is a risk, a gamble.”

“We love taking risks, we’re risk takers,” Ms. LaMaina added. “Failure only makes you stronger.”

Before he unveiled Burgercade, Mr. LaMaina filled the same downtown space, formerly a diner,  with LuchaCubano, a Cuban eatery. Within 11 months, that venture went belly-up, and Cuban sandwiches gave way to $5.55 cheeseburgers. According to the restaurateur himself, this second chance is already proving more successful.

“Burgercade, we’ve been open [less than] six months and we broke even,” Mr. LaMaina said. “That’s a celebration for me because I’m not in downtown Riverhead to make money. I’m in downtown Riverhead so my kids can go somewhere downtown and have fun. It sounds corny, but it’s true. Anything we’re doing right now in Riverhead and Aquebogue is not for the money.”

Although they do not yet know what food they will serve, the couple have a vision for the new restaurant, which will rise diagonally across from Griffing Hardware. Last Thursday, Mr. LaMaina received a setback variance from Riverhead Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals to construct a wraparound deck on the west side of  the property. 

“We’re looking to renovate the building … bring it back to life [and] turn it into a hustling, bustling restaurant with 33 indoor seats [and] 60 seats outside,” Mr. LaMaina told the ZBA members last week..

“We’re going to bring a riverfront restaurant to downtown Riverhead focusing on the outdoor riverscape,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “My wife has her day care here, we have three children that go to school in Riverhead, so we’re invested in Riverhead. We want Riverhead to work, not just to make money, but to bring places where families can go, have moments, experiences.”

“And memories,” Ms. LaMaina added.