A reproduction of a red English phone booth guards the entryway of Massapequa Park gastro pub The Good Life, signaling the presence of such British pub classics as fish and chips and shepherd's pie. You'll even find chicken tikka masala, an Indian classic popular in England. Chef Jon Cano also puts an American fusion spin on the menu, covering a lot of territory, most of it with élan.
Take, for instance, his chicken-lemongrass pot stickers -- sort of Thai, sort of Chinese -- with the subtle yet sure savor of lemongrass. There's cool vibrancy in his black-pepper tuna, flash seared and plated with a sweet-spicy apple-cucumber-jalapeño relish. Vegetarians can start their engines with a bowl of revved-up three bean chili topped with jalapeño Cheddar and cilantro-spiced cream. And find comfort -- plus a jolt -- in the crisp fried mac and pepper jack "bites." But be prepared for a letdown from the Old England clam chowder pie, an overly bacony chowder capped by an impenetrable and not terribly flavorful puff pastry "salt and pepper pie crust."
Cano's coup de grâce, though, is his chicken tikka masala, moist and tender cubes of white meat chicken in a rich, fragrant, subtly spicy sauce plated with warm flatbread and basmati rice. His fish and chips is a beaut, featuring light beer-battered cod, house-made potato chips and a zingy lemon tartar sauce. But a curiously bland shepherd's pie, with chunks of braised beef, a parsnip puree and a hash-brown Cheddar crust, reads far better than it eats. And root-beer-glazed pork BBQ ribs, with a white Cheddar jalapeño waffle, is sabotaged by sweet syrup drizzled over all.
Doing the place proud is its namesake burger, a hefty, beefy, oozy one topped with blue cheese, Cheddar, and bacon jam (made by deeply caramelizing onions with bacon). Dryness, however, undermines an otherwise flavorful turkey burger with Asian seasoning, pickled red onion and avocado.
Dessert clearly isn't a priority, since most -- like the peanut butter chocolate mousse pie -- come from an outside supplier, and the rumored house-made cheesecake isn't always available.
Sports fanatics, night owls and brew buffs take note: There are dozens of TV screens, and the kitchen cooks until 2 a.m. every night. There's also a comprehensive collection of craft brews -- beer, ale, even hard cider -- on tap and in bottles.
But even if you don't know the NBA from an IPA, chances are you'll want a taste of The Good Life.