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Chow Down Diner in Bethpage falls flat

The cheeseburger deluxe at Chow Down Diner in

The cheeseburger deluxe at Chow Down Diner in Bethpage comes with fries, Dec. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

Since it opened in February, Chow Down Diner has been going steadily downhill.

In her initial review, Newsday’s Joan Reminick praised “its sleek decor and contemporary-retro vibe” but noted that its “real attraction” was “the cuisine of chef Steven Del Lima. Instead of offering the typical encyclopedic diner menu, Del Lima presents a well-edited repertoire of cleverly tweaked American classics.”

Now, Del Lima is out of the picture and Chow Down is offering ... the typical encyclopedic diner menu. Based on a recent visit, it's a poorly executed one at that.

The chef left the day-to-day management of Chow Down in May when he was dispatched to another restaurant owned by Gold Coast Hospitality, Coolfish in Syosset. Reminick revisited Chow Down in July and, although Del Lima’s menu was still in effect, much of the execution was sloppy.

By September, the chef was no longer in Gold Coast’s employ, and now most traces of Del Lima have been expunged. The restaurant’s facade is festooned with pennant banners and signs announcing “Grand Opening” and “Brand New Menu.” Seated at a booth, our mood was much less celebratory. The new laminated, multipage menu is every inch a diner menu, down to its spiral binding, “Classic Greek Selections” and “Italian Delights.”

My pal’s macaroni and cheese was a soupy mess, tasting barely of cheese — or even salt. My cheeseburger was tough and tasteless; the fries, which used to be hand-cut, were now of the dreaded batter-dipped, frozen ilk. Rounding out the plate was an expanse of iceberg lettuce seemingly hacked off the head.

I have never seen a sorrier Cobb salad. Dried-out, deli-level sliced turkey breast was sprinkled over a pile of lettuce along with gray-yolked, hard-cooked eggs, one thin wedge of fibrous avocado and a few small bits of undercooked bacon. Some enterprising cook had neatly paved the perimeter of the plate with slices of unripe tomato. Blue cheese was MIA.

Del Lima’s matzo ball soup seems to have survived the purge; it was perfectly respectable. Service, though rudderless, was very friendly and accommodating.

Chow Down Diner is at 4011 Hempstead Tpke., Bethpage, 516-597-5310, chowdowndiner.com

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