There’s something to be said for a solid, old-school meal.
What this means varies, of course, depending on where you are. In the U.S., I’ve always relished the mom-and-pop low-key restaurants that still roll out unfussy, decades-old standbys — hot turkey platters, melts, meatloaf and more. (If you’ve read “A Tiger in the Kitchen,” you’ll know what a meatloaf obsessive I am.)
I find myself craving these meals when it gets a little chilly. And so on a recent rainy day, we found ourselves heading over to a little restaurant called Belle Harbor Steak House in Rockaway Park, New York.
I’d caught a glimpse of the menu a few days before and it seemed like just the place to warm you up on a cold drizzly afternoon …
Step into the Belle Harbor Steak House and you’ll feel like you’ve set foot in any number nice-ish diners or eateries in Anywhere, America.
After a few days of exciting eats, however, we were ready for the expected.
The menu here is sizable — there’s breakfast all day, a host of dinner items and a big “lunch specials” menu, which offers an entree with soup or salad and a dessert. Not a bad deal considering most of the lunch specials were about $11 or $12.
To start, we sampled the minestrone, which came packed with vegetables. It was fine — nothing out of the ordinary.
The onion soup was terrific though — a little on the sweet side but packed with mushy, delicious onions and topped with a crusty slice of herbed bread.
Sous chef’s chicken parmesan was so massive the plate was barely large enough to hold everything. The chicken was a little thin but this was otherwise perfectly fine.
The star of our meal, however, was my hot turkey platter.
Now, I had been hesitant to order it — it’s not exactly the sexiest or the most complicated dish, after all. How hard is it to slap slices of turkey on bread and pour gravy over it?
As I remained conflicted as the minutes ticked by, sous chef said, “How often do we eat somewhere that has a hot turkey plate on the menu?”
A very good point. And I certainly had no regrets once it (pictured up top) arrived — I did’t have to get very close to smell the rich gravy dousing a giant mound of turkey on bread, with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce on the side. Each bite was a delight, that lovely mix of herbed warmth from the gravy paired with sweet cranberry sauce, cool to the tongue.
After I’d mopped up the last drop of gravy with my last piece of turkey, I was instantly sorry that there wasn’t more.
Though we were stuffed, dessert was part of the deal — all made in-house, we were told. And so a chocolate pudding it was. (Not bad but not terrific.)
The rice pudding, topped with generous sprinkles of cinnamon, was delicious, however. This, we demolished.
Was this a memorable meal? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. (Though the next time I find myself in Rockaway Beach, I might just head to Belle Harbor Steak House for another delicious hot turkey platter.)
But one can’t live on sexy meals alone. Sometimes, it’s memorable in its own way to just celebrate the basics.
Belle Harbor Steak House, 268 Beach 116th St, Rockaway Park, N.Y.; 718.318.5100