Aleksander Betko moved to Port Washington three years ago and could not find the type of restaurant he wanted to eat in: a cosmopolitan bistro whose food and drinks were ambitious but whose vibe was casual. So he opened his own and, in honor of the town’s aviation history (including the nation’s first regular commercial transatlantic airline service), he named it Secrets of Flight.
Betko, who emigrated from Poland as a child and has worked as a painter, a salesman and an executive, has returned again and again to the restaurant business — in both the front and the back of the house. In Manhattan he worked at, among others, Balthazar and Boqueria Spanish Tapas. On Long Island he was most recently at The Wild Goose, also in Port Washington.
At Secrets of Flight, Betko runs the kitchen — though he makes frequent visits to the dining room, where he greets many patrons by name. His menu is vaguely French, with nods in both Mediterranean and New American directions.
Among the starters ($12 to $17) are pâté de campagne, shrimp bouillabaisse and salmon tartare. Mains ($22 to $38) include roast half chicken with choucroute garnie (sauerkraut) and potatoes, orecchiette with house-made sausage and broccoli rabe, striped bass with butternut squash and bouillabaisse sauce and a 14-ounce Brandt Beef New York strip steak au poivre.
Many of the cocktails ($15) name-check aviation history, such as the hellcat (brandy, citrus, orange bitters and ginger beer) and the paper airplane (bourbon, citrus, Contratto and Amaro Nonino). The wine list draws from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, California and Long Island.
Secret of Flight’s dining room consists of a bar and fewer than a dozen tables. The décor recalls the Jazz Age with Art Deco elements and seems so at home here on Main Street that you may not remember that this address was the former home of the short-lived Le Bleu Bird Cafe, the even shorter-lived Troy’s and the late, lamented Main Street Bakery (2008 to 2013).
Secrets of Flight is at 170 Main St., Port Washington, 516-883-1863, secretsofflight.com.