The spot on Bedford Avenue that, for the last couple of years, had turned out New Orleans fare now has a new identity. Pete and Chronis Tsempelis, the brothers behind the Bellmore staple Mediterranean Diner, have taken over the former Top Hat Oyster Bar and French Quarter Kitchen and turned it into a chic and modern gastropub — Avenue Social Kitchen and Cocktails.
The decor alone demands attention, with eye-catching chandeliers and built-in liquor cages that can display up to 500 bottles of liquor.
Tom Santamaria masterminds the kitchen's crowd-pleasing menu. Among the appetizers: Buffalo cauliflower bites ($13), tuna avocado tartar ($18), wings ($13) and bacon-wrapped dates ($13); tacos: duck confit ($15), pulled short rib ($14) and crispy shrimp ($14); and larger plates such as skirt steak ($32), lemon shrimp fettuccini ($28), seared diver scallops ($35) and garlic chicken ($25).
You’ll also find salads, flatbreads, handhelds and sides, including the "angry home fries," a spicy twist on classic home fries cooked with several kinds of peppers, including jalapeños.
The restaurant's bar received a notable upgrade, too, with a brick wall backsplash, white countertops and glam-looking white studded chairs with under-the-bar teal lighting. Cocktails include a mango habanero margarita, passion fruit mojito and The Gentleman’s Drink (honey bourbon, tequila reposado, bitters, honey and cinnamon). Wines can be paired with a charcuterie board ($23), prosciutto crostini ($13) or a trio of dips ($13).
But wait — don’t overlook its dessert menu, which features a warm skillet cookie and the drunken doughnut, a whiskey-infused buttermilk doughnut served with a side of whiskey glaze.
The Tsempelis brothers opened their diner 24 years ago and grew up in the industry, working for their father at his restaurants Pier 3 in Copiague and Amityville back in the '70s, and later, at his High Seas Restaurant in Huntington.
Avenue is currently open for dinner only, Tuesdays to Saturdays from 4 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 3 to 9 p.m., 516-900-1660, avenuesocialkitchen.com.