Last year, it was hard to keep a running count of all the papered-over restaurant windows along Hillside Avenue in Williston Park. Today, what you see is one new place after another - a restaurant renaissance of sorts.
"We have been very lucky to attract businesses," said Williston Park Mayor Paul M. Ehrbar, ascribing the recent boom, in part, to the village being "centrally located," surrounded by areas whose populations enjoy eating out.
Bring an adventurous appetite to the roughly mile-long restaurant row along Hillside Avenue; there's lots to check out with these newcomers:
COST: $$ ($30 or less)
Red checked cloths, a tin ceiling, brick walls and mosaic-tiled floors lend a nostalgic vibe to this offshoot of a Lynbrook Italian restaurant-pizzeria. The food is robust, emphasizing red sauce. A 10-inch Margherita pizza works well, as does a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
A new Japanese spot all about fresh fish and smiling service now occupies the renovated former home of Oliver Bon Dinant. Try the inventive maki rolls (like the "honey," made with mango, avocado and tobiko) and the prettily plated chirashi.
What used to be just a bar is now a casual restaurant with a stage for live music; the fare is pub-style. Highlights include an over-the-top frankfurter topped with bacon, pulled pork and melted cheese, addictive fries (both sweet potato and regular) and the deliciously gooey tosta mista, the Portuguese version of a grilled ham and Muenster sandwich.
Miraj Healthy Grill : 171 Hillside Ave., Williston Park, 516-747-3181
The comforting yet exotic cuisine of Iran is the focus of this newcomer. Start with samboosehs, crisp, deep-fried vegetable turnovers. Other winners: the long-stewed lamb shank, juicy grilled marinated lamb chops and all manner of kebabs. Ask for the side dish called tadik, made from the crunchy bits of rice on the bottom of the pot topped with a rich lentil stew.
This handsome offshoot of the Woodside temple of authentic Thai cuisine offers a mind-blowing array of choices, spiced to specifications. Recommendations: larb (pork with mint, chile and lime), barbecued pork tenders, crisp Chinese watercress with chicken, shrimp and squid and papaya salad with dry shrimp and peanuts.
This bar and grill, closed several months, was recently reborn under new ownership. The menu focuses on pub classics (wings, burgers, sliders, wraps), pastas (lasagna, rigatoni Bolognese) and New American dishes (tuna tataki, pan- roasted free-range chicken). Catch a sporting event on the 16 flat- screen TVs in the bar.
Zen Asian Bistro & Sushi :344 Hillside Ave, Williston Park, 516-248-3707
The former home of Green Tasty - and before that, Paradise Island Vietnamese Cuisine - is now a pan-Asian restaurant with sushi bar. On a cold day, the Chinese curry noodle soup is a pick-me-up. Sushi rolls are fresh and fine.
A second branch of the Long Beach stalwart, Fresco Creperie & Cafe distinguishes itself by attention to detail: poaching, not grilling its chicken breasts, sauteing vegetables in good extra-virgin olive oil, making its own chocolate sauce from Callebaut chocolate. The crepes themselves get their nutty flavor from a soupcon of buckwheat in the batter. Also on the menu: excellent soups and salads.
Ivy Cottage: 38 Hillside Ave., Williston Park, 516-877-2343
At this quaint and cozy spot, chef-owner Joe Lester has been turning out New American dishes for over a decade. His well-priced twilight dinner is particularly popular. ($50 or less)
It's a trip back in time at this ice-cream parlor/restaurant, in business since 1927. The house-made ice cream is a treat, topped with hot fudge and clouds of freshly whipped cream. You'll also find great burgers and hand-cut fries. The big surprise is an international menu of entree specials. ($30 or less)
This traditional French restaurant has kept the pot cooking for decades. It's dependable for dishes such as onion soup, shellfish cocktails, seafood crepes, duck a l'orange, steaks, chops, pastas, plus the dessert wagon. ($50 or less)
TR's Great American Restaurant: 17 Hillside Ave, 516-294-1680
An informal Roosevelt-themed pub where burgers and wings rule. ($30 or less)