Maybe it’s the times, but there’s something especially touching about encountering a pleasant surprise these days, which is exactly what Del Sur, a new sports bar and eatery in East Rockaway, was for me. The occasion was an afternoon downpour — why does rain so often lead to good discoveries? — and a cold wind blowing down Atlantic Ave. that almost demanded I seek shelter.
Checking the website swiftly led me to an elevator pitch announcing that Del Sur "specializes in making our customers enjoy many delicious tastes from different countries of South America while also enjoying amazing cocktails." The food looked familiar, the apparent focus on coercion did not. But the rain kept coming. Sold.
Despite having just opened last month, Del Sur felt like somebody’s old stomping grounds, and maybe it was. Smith’s Modern, a bar-restaurant of New American intent opened there in 2018 and appears to have closed last year. A handsome bar area led to an electronics store-style display of big-screen TVs, the sports channels all scrounging around for whatever games still get played, along with a large "Beer Makes Me Hoppy" poster, and walls painted a cheerful shade of green. If mint-flavored Orbit gum ever opens its own bar, I thought, this is what it will look like. In the back, a couple of employees were shooting baskets on a makeshift court.
Figuring that there'd be no better antidote to the day’s inclemency than mezcal and bar snacks (an assumption that turned out to be correct, by the way), I embarked on a brief tour of the bar menu, ordering a chicken tinga sandwich on toast ($12), a basket of potato and cheese empanadas ($6), and a curious offering by the name of pork belly ceviche ($8) doused with red onions, avocado and a citrus dressing. With the exception of the latter dish (the pieces of fried pork were too hard for these canines), Del Sur's small plates were a tasty change from typical sports bar apps, and they paired well with its extensive cocktail list, led by La Toxica ($12), a mezcal, lime and pineapple juice, ginger and egg white cocktail that will forever change my opinion of Wednesday afternoons.
If the weather hadn’t started to clear, I'd have been tempted to audit Del Sur’s entree menu, which beckoned with the promise of Peruvian lomo saltado, fajitas, and Colombian-style chicken. I’ll be back, though. It’s always good to find a new-old haunt in the neighborhood.
Del Sur Sports Bar & Grill is at 451 Atlantic Ave., East Rockaway, 631-561-2344, delsursportsbargrill.com. Opening hours are Monday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 11 p.m.