Classic American

The Cubano -- ham, pulled pork, swiss, dijon The Cubano -- ham, pulled pork, swiss, dijon mustard, dill pickle on a French baguette with French fries -- at Classic American Restaurant in West Babylon. (Feb. 10. 2011) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

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REVIEW

There was weeping. Also expletives - with bleeping. And, ultimately, sweeping changes when Gordon Ramsay and his "Kitchen Nightmares" team stormed through this little roadhouse. Even if you haven't seen the episode, you'll want to check out the spiffed-up red-white-and-blue dining room whose crew sports T-shirts reading "We rocked . . . Gordon's Nightmare."

Servers are cheerful and proud. Co-owners Naomi Cotter and Colleen Gaertner use newly acquired managerial skills; in the kitchen, chef Kevin Gaertner (Colleen's son) turns out Ramsay's fresh, mostly from-scratch recipes. Portions, not prices, are big.

ROCKED

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Dinner kicks off with a trio of exemplary pulled-pork sliders, smoky shreds in a perky house-made BBQ sauce. Mini shrimp rolls (a lovely riff on the costlier lobster roll) feature poached shrimp in tarragon mayo. What really wows is a big bowl of fragrant, rich tomato soup paired with a perfect little grilled cheese sandwich.

Ramsay's Cuban sandwich ranks as one of the most delectable in these parts. An exemplary turkey burger (so light, so juicy) comes on a multigrain roll topped with Muenster cheese, cranberry mustard and arugula. Have yours with toasty sweet-potato fries.

For all-American satisfaction, it's hard to beat the bacon-wrapped meat loaf with creamy mashed potatoes and string beans. Or chicken potpie, served in a bowl crowned with flaky pastry. A smoked half chicken (done in a small kitchen smoker) could be proudly served in a barbecue joint.

Finish with a chocolate shake topped with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

ROCKY

Baked mac and cheese is mushy, bland. Batter-dipped fries (not house made) are OK but hardly on the level of everything else. Dessert takes forever to arrive. Cookie ice cream sandwiches (dulce de leche on oatmeal raisin, vanilla on chocolate chip) are undermined by overbaked cookies.

BOTTOM LINE

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It took a Brit to make this proud American one of the better values on Long Island.

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