I thoroughly enjoyed dinner a few nights ago at the Roslyn Chalet. This imposing structure, built in 1840 according to owner Kevin Durson, looks very much the rustic chalet—if it weren’t for the parking lot full of Mercedeses, Lexuses and BMWs. The ground floor is occupied by the “tap room” with the aspect of a rough-hewn, low-lit neighborhood bar.
But ascend the narrow stairs and things change dramatically. The upper two floors contain a modern bar elbowing around to a lounge whose focal point is a roaring fire, and then a series of intimate gathering rooms. The style is modern—seating is provided by mod white tuffets and white leather-and-steel chairs. But the vibe is warm thanks to the fireplace and the lovely proportions and architectural details that generations of renovators wisely left in place.
Durson said that the building was converted from a house into a restaurant in 1975. When he bought the place in 1997, he initially transformed the French-American bistro menu into a Mediterranean one but soon settled into an American-Continental groove. In 2001 he turned the restaurant into more of a lounge and adapted the menu accordingly.
Two years ago, the upper floors were made over into their current swanky sleekness. He describes the menu as New American comfort food. There’s a full roster of small plates including wings, spring rolls, crab cakes, sliders, fondue, quesadillas, coconut shrimp. We enjoyed a big pile of garlicky hummus and olive tapenade served with warm pita triangles. Less successful were steamed chicken dumplings, tasty but over-steamed into limpness.
I had a nice big cheeseburger. My pal had a chicken kebab whose breast meat had dried out in the cooking. (Chefs: It always does! Why not use thigh meat?) Neither the thick-cut fries that came with the former nor the thinner cut that came with the latter made much of an impression.
Service couldn’t have been nicer, and we were very content sitting by the fire for a few hours. We left before 8 p.m., long before the evening “lounge” crowd shows up.
Interesting side notes: Diane Margaritis, owner of Diane’s Bakery in Roslyn, got her start baking desserts for the Chalet, and it was there, in the late 1980s, that she met her husband, John Durkin, who was the maitre d’. (He is now chef-owner of Roslyn's Trattoria Diane.) In 1996, the Chalet’s kitchen was run by Richard Desmond, then a recent graduate of the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, now the chef at Public House 49 in Patchogue.
Roslyn Chalet is at 1 Railroad Ave., Roslyn, 516-621-7975. The tap room is open 7 days a week, from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. The restaurant / lounge is open from 6 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday, 6 p.m. to 1 p. m. on Thursday, 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., and from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.