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Jackson Hall

The classic meatloaf served on a bed of

The classic meatloaf served on a bed of mashed potatoes and gravy topped with crispy onions at the Jackson Hall American Bar and Grille in East Islip. (May 13, 2011) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Jackson Hall American Bar & Grill is divided between bar and dining room. So's the food.

The result is an upbeat combination -- casual, relaxed, unpretentious, with a full table of easygoing American cuisine.

This spacious eatery has an earth-tone look, from the booths to the decor. It's ringed with dark-wood, beadboard wainscoting. The wood floor shines, black-and-white photos with no particular theme give the place a nostalgic touch.

The cooking itself covers decades of American favorites, and makes a few less-successful trips overseas. Stick with the basics, and you'll do all right.

THE BEST

Jackson Hall's "real big crabcake" does deliver heft to match the taste. They're fond of frying here, so deep-fried striplets of bacon crown the cake, finished with roasted-corn relish and sweet red pepper aioli. A trio of respectable, mini-cheeseburgers slides in atop crunchy onion rings for a husky opener. Of course, the Buffalo-style chicken wings are meaty. Crisp pancetta and sweet-corn succotash bolster the thick, juicy pork "porterhouse." The house's meat loaf, with mashed potatoes and a thatch of crisp onions, also deserves your attention.

Take a richer route with tender filet mignon, under a mantle of melted Gorgonzola cheese. The herb-roasted chicken, with gravy, green beans and mashed spuds, has an appropriately homey style. Fish-and-chips adds fried shrimp to the basic cod, each all right. If all this seems too old-fashioned, they prepare a satisfactory sesame-seared tuna, with sticky rice and edamame-mango-mandarin orange salsa, with a sake-soy reduction. The macaroni and cheese is made with penne, amply cheesed and bread-crumbed.

First-class brews are available on tap. For dessert: a homey banana cream pie; and a root-beer float, frothy with Saranac.

THE REST

Forgettable pizzas, lamentable pastas. Dull baby back ribs. The strawberry shortcake means fried Twinkies with berry sauce; icebox cake, a lopsided construct of chocolate pudding with graham crackers and whipped cream. Bland rice pudding is sealed under a caramelized lid, for a cup of riz au lait brûlée.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Friendly and familiar.

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