Back in 1938, an ice-cream parlor called Mitchell's was born on Rockaway Avenue in Valley Stream. More than two decades later, the place moved to an address across the street. Then, in 1995, John Drakopoulos and his wife, Sheryl Morson, bought it, expanded the menu to an 11-page tome and, in 2004, opened a gleaming new locale in Oceanside. (In 2006 they sold the Valley Stream store to the Dimitrios family who had recently sold the Sherwood Diner in Lawrence.)
Despite the patina of newness, though, Mitchell's still makes its own ice cream, syrup and whipped cream.
It's the adherence to old ways that elevate both locales above the status of diner. A friend thumbed past the low-carb menu and roster of fancy salads to a list of beverages. "Look," she said excitedly. Here was a long-lost treasure: freshly squeezed orangeade.
Unlike the commercial variety — the liquid equivalent of a lollipop — this was a thin, pulpy mixture, the essence of orange sweetened only with plain syrup. It was as refreshing and old-fashioned as a breeze on a back porch. We also ordered fresh mouth-puckering lemonade, made with lemon halves squished into tall glasses. A superb chocolate egg cream wore a thick head of foam. It was a trip back in time.
I dutifully ate my way toward dessert and, en route, I enjoyed the chargrilled juicy burger but deemed the thick fries rather ordinary. I would definitely return for the well-turned-out BLT, made with lots of crisp bacon, as well as for the huge tuna salad sandwich, done with just the right amount of mayonnaise and celery. But a thick pot roast sandwich was undermined by dry meat and gloppy gravy, and a bowl of matzo ball soup floated one of the blandest spheres I have yet encountered. While I thought both the "Hamptons" and the "East End" salads OK, (the first made with grilled chicken, the second with salmon), I was truly taken with an entree of wild salmon topped with grilled vegetables. This was a colossal slab of delicate fish complemented, not overwhelmed, by its savory topping.
Portions are large, so exercise restraint when eating your main course — there's always the doggie bag option. Dessert, however, should be approached with all-out abandon. The hot fudge here is shiny, silky bittersweet bliss. I'm sold on the pure-tasting vanilla ice cream and its variants — cookies and cream and chocolate chip — but I'm not wild about the somewhat innocuous chocolate. The coffee flavor, however, is intense and creamy. A bright green pistachio has depth of flavor and lots of nuts.
A new item — a toasted ice cream sandwich (three scoops) on marble pound cake drizzled with caramel and chocolate — proved sensational. I watched as a teenager in our group finished a banana split in what seemed like a split second. And I saw my husband devour his "Nutty Professor" sundae made of butter pecan and maple walnut ice creams with a wet walnut topping, maple syrup, fresh whipped cream and a cherry.
"This may be the best sundae I've had as an adult," he said. Adult? C'mon. At Mitchell's, everyone's a kid.