Olde Trading Post Tavern
1218 Jericho Tpke., New Hyde Park
SERVICE: Efficient and friendly
ESSENTIALS: Monday to Wednesday 11 to 2 a.m., Thursday to Sunday to 4 a.m. No reservations for parties less than 6; small lot and street parking; wheelchair accessible
In the Age of Gastropub, the neighborhood tavern is an endangered restaurant species. But since early May, one has been flourishing in New Hyde Park. Olde Trading Post Tavern delivers on its modest promises of good food, a lively bar and friendly service. No drizzles of truffle oil, no neo-retro cocktails, no Edison light bulbs, no subway tile. No bricks were exposed in the making of this establishment.
OTP comes by its traditional values naturally. Built in the late 19th century, the wide-porched structure hosted New Hyde Park’s first general store, its second post office and a succession of eating and drinking establishments, the most notable of which was Henry’s Tavern from 1971 to 2008.
Breda and John Murnane bought the building in 2015 (when it was operating as Walk Street Tavern) and John, a contractor, resurrected as much of the building’s historic features as possible without making it look like a stage set.
The front dining room features a bar with 16 taps (mostly national brands; no nano brews). You also can dine in a back room or, weather permitting, in a spacious beer garden with its own bar and a festive vibe that can give way to dancing as the night wears on.
In the kitchen is veteran L.I. chef John Brill, whose résumé includes Ayhan’s Fish on Main (Port Washington), Jack Halyards (Oyster Bay) and Red Fish (Plainview). Brill has reined in the New American creativity here, but keeps standards high: the result is pub grub practiced at a very high level.
I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed loaded potato skins this much, but the play of potato, Cheddar, bacon and scallions was entirely satisfying and, because the chef cut up the skins into manageable segments, they were easy to dip into the accompanying ranch dressing. Wings were big and meaty, the Buffalo coating just the right degree of spicy. The breading on the mozzarella sticks tasted of fresh herbs and fresh garlic. Chicken quesadilla had the right proportions of crispy and gooey, spicy and mellow.
These fine starters had me expecting a classic Cobb salad with discreet sectors of lettuce, chicken, bacon, avocado, chopped egg and blue cheese, but what showed up was merely a tossed salad with bits of egg and cheese mixed in and crumbled blue cheese and dry grilled chicken on top.
But many of the Cobb ingredients — chicken, bacon, guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes — showed better in the grilled chicken BLT, abetted by a mellow roast garlic mayo and a crisp, lightly pressed bun.
Of the six on the menu, we tried the classic “plain Olde” burger and the “OTP double stacked burger,” two 5-ounce patties stacked with bacon, Cheddar, fried onion straws and barbecue sauce. I was grateful for the fresh leaf lettuce and red-ripe tomatoes, but the burgers themselves were too lean and needed salt. All the sandwiches and burgers come with seasoned fries that evince little potato flavor.
Don’t pass up the shepherd’s pie, another example of the kitchen’s humble artistry. Coarsely ground lamb and beef are tempered with sweet peas and carrots, spooned into a cast-iron skillet and then topped with a browned cap of mashed potatoes. Or, if you’re in the mood for something more demure, the pan-roasted salmon was flawless, sitting on a healthy pile of rice with shredded vegetables.
“Honest” is how I would describe the menu at Olde Trading Post, and that goes for the service too. The hostesses level with you about the wait on a busy night and, one evening, when we were seated in the bar area, I asked if the music could be turned down. “We don’t do that in the bar,” was the response. “This is a tavern.” She was right. (But that said, the back dining room, all hard surfaces, is much noisier than it should be.)
OTP’s secret service weapon is waitress Diane Sheridan, a 30-year-veteran of the old Henry’s Inn who returned to grace this new incarnation. She could probably serve in her sleep but she is completely awake to the nuances of her craft — warm, welcoming and efficient without any hint of performance or overfamiliarity. This is true hospitality, and it never goes out of style.