Months before the pandemic, the owners of Rockville Centre’s Parlay decided to transform the space into a branch of The Ainsworth, an upscale sports bar with four locations in New York City.
COVID-19 required a change of plans.
On the one hand, they felt like the time was right to establish an NYC brand in RVC. "There are a lot of people moving out of the city to Long Island," said partner John Cestare. "We wanted to make them feel like they are in Manhattan."
On the other hand, though, new regulations governing capacity and hours argued against the establishment of a new sports bar. And so, Cestare and his partners pivoted. "We moved away from the sports bar aspect of the concept," he said, "and raised the bar on the food."
The Ainsworth was founded in 2009 by Matt Shendell. The Chelsea original venue was followed by others in the East Village, Hoboken and Nashville (still operated by Shendell) as well as Midtown Manhattan, the Financial District and Louisville. The menu at Rockville Centre features many "greatest hits" such as 24-karat-gold-plated chicken wings and a burger topped with mac and cheese. But it also leans hard on steaks and chops: In addition to a double-cut pork chop served with creamed corn ($35), there’s a 12-ounce filet mignon ($49), 14-ounce New York strip ($52), 14-ounce rib-eye ($52) and a 38-ounce tomahawk that serves three to four ($125).
(About those gold-plated wings — gold-foiled wings is a more accurate descriptor — 10 of them will set you back $60, 20 are $110 and 50 wings, plus a bottle of Dom Pérignon, is a cool $400.)
The rest of the menu blends steakhouse (shrimp cocktail, wedge salad) New American (braised short ribs, chicken and waffles), Mediterranean (hummus and chips, Margherita flatbread) and global (tuna tartare tacos). The RVC burger ($18) is topped with American cheese, frizzles onions, thick-cut bacon and housemade steak sauce. Most starters are under $20; most non-steak mains are under $35.
Signature cocktails ($16 to $18) include the RVC Mule (mango vodka with raspberry liqueur, ginger beer, pineapple and lime juice) and Mr. Golden Rocks (rye, elderflower, lemon juice and rosemary topped with raspberry liqueur).
Running the kitchen is Mario Sorto, who also is chef at the group’s Salt on the Water in Merrick (which plans to reopen for the season on Mother’s Day).
The Ainsworth’s décor is rustic — reclaimed wood, exposed brick and ductwork — with touches of bling, such as the crystal chandeliers that illuminate the lounge and dining room.
The Ainsworth is open for dinner every night, 5 to 11 p.m. Weekend brunch, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will launch April 10.
210 Merrick Rd., Rockville Centre, 516-442-2600, theainsworth.com/rockville-centre.