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A tour of restaurant row in Kings Park

The Thornton family dines at Dixie's Smokehouse in

The Thornton family dines at Dixie's Smokehouse in Kings Park. (Aug. 6, 2009) Credit: Newsday / Ana P. Gutierrez

It happened, seemingly, overnight: Kings Park -- not so long ago a virtual dining desert -- simply burst into bloom. These days, the once-dreary downtown area has something it never did before: a serious food scene.

"We have such a variety of very good restaurants," said Dee Grasso, executive director of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. Grasso added that the high caliber food and "comfortable" price level draw people from the community and other areas.

Here's an overview of the newest eating destinations in and around town:

Ciro's Italian Restaurant

Info: 74 Main St., 631-269-2600,

Cost: $$

Last April, Ciro's 107, a small Italian ristorante, relocated to larger, snazzier digs. The vibe here is upbeat, the service solicitous, the Italian classics prepared with skill. Recommended: briny baked whole littlenecks oreganata, delectable meatballs and spaghetti and chicken a la Ciro's - bone-in poultry, sausage, potatoes and vegetables, enough to feed four. Don't miss the Napoleon, layered and coated with freshly whipped cream.

Café Red

Info: 107 Main St., 631-544-4500

Cost: $$-$$$

Café Red is the eastern offspring of Red and Osteria da Nino in Huntington. The buoyant eatery is already packed on weekends. The menu is a combo of Italian and New American, with blackboard specials each night. There's a crunchy shrimp spring roll to start and flavorful baby back ribs with house-made slaw. Winners include tender Berkshire pork osso buco and mellow beef short rib, off the bone in a red-wine reduction, with mashed potatoes and crisp fried onions. Lush tiramisu for dessert.

Sarin Thai

Info: 25 Main St., 631-269-4130,

Cost: $$-$$$

The offshoot of an established Greenvale Thai restaurant, this newcomer is a bit more formal than the two Thai predecessors that occupied the same address. On the menu: hoy ob (steamed mussels with lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves), pla lard prig (fried whole fish with chili pepper and garlic sauce), shrimp red curry with fresh pineapple and frog legs with basil. And, of course, the standard pad Thai.

Mrs. Brown's Kitchen & Grill

Info: 2 Pulaski Rd., 631-292-2740

Cost: $-$$

Breakfast and lunch (but not dinner) are the attractions at this tastefully contemporary new diner, named for the wife of co-owner Don Brown. Chef co-owner Matthew Hudson cooked at Maureen's Kitchen in Smithtown and Sweet Mama's in Northport. Strong suits thus far: a fluffy, light Western omelet with oniony home fries and a Thanksgiving-style sandwich of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and mayo on lightly grilled rye. Hand-cut fries are a big asset.

Plum Crazy

Info: 95 Pulaski Rd., 631-544-1000

Cost: $

It's a deli. A market. A pizzeria. A café. This multipurpose spot has lots to offer those who want to grab a meal - to stay or to go. The Neapolitan pizza is cheesy and satisfying, a Cuban panino big enough to feed two. Very good sweet potato fries add to the appeal.

Dixie's Smokehouse Texas B.B.Q. & Rotisserie

Info: 12 Indian Head Rd., 631-292-2520,

Cost: $-$$

Across from the Kings Park LIRR station is this 2-year-old barbecue spot serving smoky and tender baby backs, outsize beef ribs and juicy brisket. You'll also find savory rotisserie chicken and big bright bountiful salads. There's alfresco dining in summer - but you'll get an earful every time a train pulls in.

Also in Kings Park

Martino's Pizza Restaurant: 52 Indian Head Rd., 631-269-2880. A pizzeria up front, dining room on the side. Great "pasta night" deals.

Long River: 4 Main St., 631-544-4666. Spacious Chinese restaurant with some Indonesian and Malaysian dishes on the menu.

What will it cost?

Average meal price per person:

$$$$ = $100, $$$ = $60, $$ = $30, $ = $15