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D19 Sports Lounge & Eatery

Jesse Frascella, head chef at D19 Sports Lounge

Jesse Frascella, head chef at D19 Sports Lounge & Eatery, serves up a spaghetti and clams in the dining room of D19. (Dec. 4, 2011) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

D19 is one suave-looking sports bar, a bi-level gray and white space with eight big screen TVs tuned to all kinds of games.

"This isn't pub food," the young woman behind the bar advises. "It's way better."

As it turns out, chef Jesse Frascella's honest pub classics are the dishes I'd come back for, sidestepping such pretentious items as linguine with clams laced with an overdose of herbs and a tower of chicken Marsala adrift in a gravy moat. Give me a juicy burger any time.

Judging from what the boisterous bar crowd is putting away, the old favorites are winning out. Crisp, seductive hollowed-out potatoes are filled with bacon and Cheddar, topped with scallions and sour cream. Chicken wings are meaty and crunchy, spiced with a Cajun dry rub. Heaped onto a huge platter are light, tender fried calamari ringlets. I get them Thai style, their hot and saucy topping covering about half; I prefer the naked ones. Soups are a forte, both the spicy, hearty lentil and the spot-on traditional French onion topped with melted Gruyère.

An enormous casserole of mac and cheese with bacon and fried onion wisps proves rich, satisfying. What takes me by surprise are the oddball but pretty good barbecued Cajun pork sliders, bacon-wrapped burgers made with pork, sweet potato and apples.

Burgers rule here. The 8-ounce patties on fresh ciabatta rolls come out gorgeously charred, oozy, beefy. I've tried them black and blue Buffalo-style, wherein they're Cajun-blackened and crowned with blue cheese, bacon and hot sauce. Another winning version involves traditional Cuban sandwich fixings -- ham, Swiss, pickles and mustard. A turkey BLT burger is almost, but not quite, as good. But forget the sugary cinnamony sweet potato fries. And spice-dusted fries, the previously frozen sort, are ordinary.

I'd also pass up such entrees as the boring stuffed shrimp and oily panko-crusted chicken. For dessert, batter-dipped fried strawberries are a soggy disaster. Better is a cappuccino mousse cake from an outside baker.

Servers, while well-meaning, clearly need more training.

Hopefully, these kinks will be soon worked out. In the meantime, there are bar snacks, soups and burgers -- 11 kinds -- to put away while watching the big game.