Zane Smith has taken over as executive chef at the new Toast & Tapas Neighborhood Bistro in Syosset. Smith, who worked and studied with both Wolfgang Puck and Gary Danko in California, also cooked at Wild Honey in Oyster Bay and Wild Harvest in Glen Cove.

Smith's revised dinner menu features, among small plates, filet mignon brochettes with lemon orzo ($14), Bayou crabcakes ($13) and golden beet and Brussels sprout napoleon ($10). Main courses include Southern fried chicken ($17), a "down home" gumbo ($17) as well as a Kentucky "hot brown" sandwich of smoked pulled chicken with bacon, tomatoes and Swiss on toast ($15). There are also burgers and salads.

The breakfast and lunch menus are similar to the ones at the affiliated Toast & Co. in Huntington.

Toast & Tapas Neighborhood Bistro is at 4 Berry Hill Rd., Syosset, 516-364-0516. -- JOAN REMINICK


Hoist one for The Savoy Tavern, the spirited, full-flavored establishment that has taken over the handsome Merrick spot vacated by Brooks & Porter.

Visit for the crabcakes and the fish and chips, the house-baked pretzels and the prime rib. Maybe a burger or a croque monsieur, meatloaf or a pot of mussels. And there are some family-style plates, including spaghetti and meatballs and veal Parm.

The pubby and the not-so mix easily here, all washed down with very good brews on draft and in bottle.

Savoy already is packed on weekend nights. The noise could kill conversation and the service sometimes lags. But you'll be willing to put up with all of it.

The Savoy Tavern, 16 Merrick Ave., Merrick; 516-506-7717. -- PETER M. GIANOTTI


I've never been the biggest burger fan, but I'm a sucker for kebabs made from ground meat, such as Turkish kofte kebabs, Pakistani seekh kebabs or the Persian koobideh kebabs I had for lunch recently at Zar Café in St. James.

Once the seasoned, ground meat (beef sirloin, in this case) has been pressed along the length of a flat, wide skewer, the chef makes crosswise furrows in it, to give it added texture and to pick up a better grill char in spots. Buns are often where the burger goes wrong, but the classic Persian kebab accompaniment is a big pile of basmati, the king of rices.

Zar is a curious-looking establishment. The design is extremely opulent with lush upholstery, recessed lighting, decorative columns, golden accents, a well-appointed bar and a glassed-in, open kitchen. And all of this is squeezed into a tiny box of a restaurant, 30 seats tops.

Zar Café is at 413 Lake Ave., St. James, 631-862-4444. -- ERICA MARCUS

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