2953 Hempstead Tpke. Levittown, NY 516-796-4600
As much a sports bar and restaurant as a pool hall, Cue Nine has a vibe that's upbeat and fun. The most ambitious offerings of the lot, Cue Nine's evolving menu has a crowd-pleasing selection of salads, burgers and full entrees such as a flatiron steak ($22). Kids are welcome, too.Hours: Mon-Thurs: 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Fri-Sat: 11 a.m.-3 a.m.; Sun: 5 p.m.-12 a.m. Ambience: Good Service: Very Good Credit cards: Accepted Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible
Cue Nine is not your daddy's smoke-filled pool hall.
For one thing, it's got a restaurant. And the only smoking going on involves ribs and brisket, cooked in a perforated pan over soaked wood chips.
That little makeshift barbecue trick comes from chef-consultant Marc Anthony Bynum (former head chef at Tellers Chophouse in Islip, a finalist on Food Network's "Chopped" and a Newsday All-Star Chef). Bynum and well-credentialed chef de cuisine Tony Kang offer a menu of well-priced comfort classics served by a cheerful crew.
As you eat, check out the action in the game room -- or tune it out -- in an ambience best described as lounge-y chic.
An appetizer of spareribs comes out meaty, smoky, saucy. Forget preconceptions about calamari; the amazing version here stars tender-crisp ringlets and tentacles fried with lemon slices and hot cherry and banana peppers, every few bites a mini explosion in the mouth. Other eye-opening openers: spicy, sweet, sticky, crunchy kung pao rock shrimp. And hand-cut pommes frites with truffle oil, Parmesan and parsley. Even the house salad, gratis with entrees, is big, bright, dressed in style.
Such a treat, the juicy roasted half chicken, which is mostly deboned but still covered with crisp skin. A real kick is the subtly spicy MB's pasta rustica, long corkscrews with escarole, white beans, hot and sweet Italian sausage in a garlic white-wine sauce. I'm not usually a fan of pasta with chicken, but the penne ala vodka, made with tender strips along with prosciutto, is one arrangement that works.
How very wicked and beefy-good is the juicy hustler burger, topped with barbecued brisket, crisp fried onions and coleslaw. Accompanying fries retain their seduction factor even after cooling.
An open-face sandwich of tender flatiron steak is somewhat skimpy, a turkey club good but humdrum. And why bother making a waffle sundae if you're going to use a frozen waffle?
Overall, right on cue.