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Althouse 1848 in East Rockaway: First bites

A classic burger at Althouse 1848 in East

A classic burger at Althouse 1848 in East Rockaway in October 2014. Credit: Newsday / Joan Reminick

Althouse 1848, a new gastropub in East Rockaway, makes its home in a historic wood building dating back to 1848. Inside and out, the handsome structure evokes the 19th century.

A steep staircase leads from the first floor bar area to the upstairs dining room, with a beautiful antique-looking lighting fixture, expanses of window and a water view.  What might also catch your eye is an oddity: A set of  floor-to-ceiling glass doors is padlocked, opening onto nothing but a precipitous drop to the deck at ground level. Over the next few months, I was told, an upper deck is to be built.

Construction wasn't the only work in progress, as I found on a recent visit. Well-credentialed chef Franco Maffettone’s food also seemed tentative, inconsistent. The first letdown was heavily breaded jumbo lump crabcakes ($11.95) served atop a rather flat-tasting red pepper puree. I had high hopes for the veggie burger ($10.95), since Maffettone had previously cooked at Houston’s, a small national chain that serves a stellar vegetable patty. But the one here, fashioned mainly of quinoa, black beans and sweet corn, turned out to be gritty and dry.

Infinitely better was the beef burger, both the classic version ($10.95), cooked to specs and topped with melted cheddar and a mayonnaise-based “secret sauce,” as well as the 1848 burger ($13.95), crowned with crisp fried onion straws, bacon and balsamic ketchup. In the case of each, the inside of the roll had been scooped out, allowing for an ideal bread-to-burger ratio. And if the fried potato wedges on the side were the previously frozen sort, they weren’t the least bit objectionable. Another plus: a great, generous Margarita made with cucumber, pineapple and watermelon-infused tequila. And a respectable list of brews, some local.

Dessert was an up-and-down affair. On the bright side was a moist house-made banana bread pudding with crème Anglaise. But a skimpy wedge of cheesecake from an outside supplier was served minus its promised accompaniment of sliced strawberries and blueberries. Where were they? Our server pointed to two stripes, one red and the other dark blue, squirted onto the plate. Upon further questioning, I learned that the strawberries in the kitchen that day had been unfit to serve. No mention of that beforehand, no offer to take the mostly uneaten dish off the check. Likely, no training, either, in the art of hospitality.

The restaurant is new, though, and, one would hope, evolving. Maffettone has his work cut out for him.

Althouse 1848 is at 101 Althouse Ave., East Rockaway, 516-341-0020.


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