Chow Down Diner
4011 Hempstead Tpke. Bethpage, NY 516-597-5310
Though the Chow Down Diner in Bethpage has sleek decor and a contemporary-retro vibe, the real attraction here is the cuisine. Not just offering the typical diner items, there is a well-edited repertoire of cleverly tweaked American classics. This fun spot has fantastic dishes while staying at diner prices.Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight Ambience: Very Good Service: Good Credit cards: Accepted Accessibility: wheelchair accessible
Sleek decor and a contemporary-retro vibe, while nice, go only so far. The real attraction at the new Chow Down Diner is the cuisine of chef Steven Del Lima. Instead of offering the typical encyclopedic diner menu, Del Lima presents a well-edited repertoire of cleverly tweaked American classics at diner prices. Most dishes are available all day.
Worth navigating the tight parking for: a spunky Southwestern omelet laced with ground chorizo, black beans, jalapeño and cheese, which works as well in the morning as at night. Wild blueberry pancakes, a disconcerting blue-green in hue, are light and fresh-tasting.
And Del Lima's matzo ball soup is a mitzvah, its rich carrot-studded broth buoying a mountainous -- yet surprisingly light -- sphere. Vying for attention are convincingly Asian teriyaki chicken dumplings, pan-fried on one side. An iron pot holds plush, deftly spiced chicken-arugula meatballs. Get them with a bright San Marzano tomato sauce.
Mac and cheese, available many ways, excels when laced with lobster meat, Fontina cheese and prosciutto. But ground lamb shepherd's pie comes out soupy. And root beer-accented beef stew topped with a Cheddar-chive biscuit is short on beef. On the other hand, Del Lima scores highly with his delicate flounder meunière, decoratively plated with a beurre blanc. And there's hearty homestyle satisfaction in his meat loaf and mashed potatoes.
Chow Down's unconventional signature BLT on toasted sourdough features oven-dried tomatoes and smoked Cheddar. The variation works -- and comes with habit-forming house-made potato chips. Highly recommended: the oozy, beefy loose-textured burger. Worthy alternatives include a moist, well-seasoned chicken burger and savory veggie burger. Accompanying hand-cut fries are nutty-sweet -- but not always served piping hot.
The surprise here is that most desserts -- many made at the San Remo Bakery in North Massapequa -- actually taste as good as they look. A chocolate Kahlua cupcake is rich, fudgy, moist; a mango cheesecake, rich and creamy. Forgo the tiramisu in favor of banana cream pie served in a jar; just ask your server to hold the aerosol whipped cream. To do justice to the clean-tasting vanilla milkshake, request that it be topped with exactly nothing.