East Meadow has a new beer garden-restaurant that has been 20 years in the making.
According to co-owner Bob Russo, three of the four partners went to SUNY Oneonta together. "We loved hanging out and partying together and we always wanted to open our own place.” So he, Dave Boller and James Paloumbis took over an East Meadow spot that has hosted a number of watering holes over the years (DF Meadows, Callahan’s, RedBeard’s), tore out everything but the ceiling rafters, and redecorated with stylish brick, reclaimed wood and wrought iron.
Inside, the roomy bar and dining room accommodates more than 75 people; outside, the landscaped “beer garden” sits beneath a 40-food cedar pergola and easily seats another 75 at communal tables.
Boller took charge of the beer. The two dozen taps feature Long Island and New York State beers almost exclusively, plus cider and rosé from Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack and Sail Away Nitro cold brew. There are more craft beers in bottles and cans.
None of the three partners has much restaurant experience so they brought on board a fourth with plenty: Kevin Liebov was the longtime owner of Nicholas James in Merrick before he took over the kitchen at Merrick’s Savoy gastropub in 2014.
At Garden Social, he’s put together a freewheeling menu that can take you from lunch through the wee hours. Small plates ($8 to $17) include kung pao calamari, “hot mess” pommes frites (poutine with bacon, scallions, jalapeños, mozzarella and Cheddar), pots of mussels, baked clams and an artisanal cheese board. There are soups and salads and, among the pasta and grains ($16 to $26) are blackened shrimp ’n’ grits, cavatappi with “Sunday ragu,” linguine and clams.
Burgers and sandwiches ($14 to $22) include a French dip au jus with Gruyere and “Kevin’s signature” pan-seared burger with caramelized onions, pork belly, jalapeno-spiked barbecue sauce and Cheddar. Mains ($22 to $34) include fish and chips, chicken and waffles and a “Hawaiian” rib-eye steak with a soy-ginger marinade.
Garden Social opens at noon every day and closes at midnight Sunday to Thursday, at 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
1964 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow, 516-750-5338, gardensocialli.com