Growing up the way I did in Brooklyn could sometimes be difficult.
I was a very active child with poor eating habits, an over active metabolism, so I was very, very thin. I had three women who would generally cook for me: Mrs. Paul, Sara Lee and Aunt Jemima.
Over the years, my wife has learned to cook some great dishes, with the help of her self-cleaning oven and favorite device, the slow cooker, which probably is the reason I have increased in girth. My love handles and breadbasket have become more of a chest latch and potbelly over the years.
With all of our busy family schedules we tend to eat home less and less lately. Eating out more and more has also become increasingly difficult in our current economy. A few weeks ago we went out with another couple to a chain restaurant in Suffolk County and spent over $100 per couple, not including the liquor tab or tip, on what was a mundane and mediocre meal and flaccid service in an overcrowded, over decorated, over advertised eatery.
My wife has tried saving us money as we plotted and planned to eat out, using things like Restaurant.com, L.I. Radio Group Half-Price Deals and the Entertainment Book, but with all the restrictions and limitations, we’d sooner get on a outer space shuttle mission than get to eat a great meal and save some real dollars.
Nevertheless, in recent years we have found some amazing places with fabulous dishes locally at bargain prices without preplotting, prepaying and prearranging our banquets. Not to take anything away from food critics and culinary columnists like Ms. Reminick, Ms. Woods and Mr. Hogan, I just figured that it might be a good idea to share with this blog.
One of our favorite places to eat in is Buongusto PieSanos on Hempstead Turnpike In East Meadow. It is marvelous Italian food, with great sauces and gravies. My wife loves their Greek Salad, which is always fresh and crisp and the homemade house dressing is a perfect blend with it. Her other meal of choice is the baked ravioli which melts in her mouth. I love their steamed mussels in white wine and their eggplant parmigiana hero. If you order the steamed mussels appetizer it is as big and filling as the entrée, except without the extra pasta. I like to soak up the garlic chunks and yummy sauce with one of their great bread sticks, as my ration of carbs for the night.
Funny, but we rarely have room for dessert. If I want to splurge, I really like their mixed drinks (martini) or a glass of Shiraz. We have eaten there over 100 times and never had a bad meal or service there. G.M. Neil “Nunzio” Koenig runs a tight ship and the waitresses, like Gina and bus lady provide professional, friendly and attentive service always. They take reservations. No standing and waiting with flashing beepers like with other chain restaurants. We can spend as little as $25 there as a couple and walk out happily stuffed, plus they have a Piesano's frequent eater point card for discounts and email specials on personal holidays. We have brought a host of friends, relatives and guests there and they leave in awe of the place too, each and every time.
Another favorite place to eat in East Meadow on budget is Gyrolicious. I have found this to be a superb quality, greatly relaxing, sit down restaurant instead of a fast food, and take out Greek pit stop that I originally thought it was. The family that owns it treats its customers like long lost relatives from the old country.
My son and wife love the falafel sandwich and my mouth waters just thinking about a Taramosalata, a caviar pita dip. Occasionally, two of us will share the chef’s special dinner platter for two, which isn’t on the regular menu, but is always a pleasant surprise mixture of culinary delights.
Here too, we can spend as little as $25 as a pair and waddle out stuffed to the gills. Except, the dessert is so good, sometimes I will eat just a large bowl of Avgolemono, which is lemon chicken soup with orzo, so I have room for the Baklava. It makes you want to scream “opa” and throw your plate against the wall, but I choose to restrain myself here. We have eaten here over and over with the same results- great meal, great service, totally affordable.
A third place that we visit when time is short and budget is tight is Pollos El Paisa, down the road a piece, on Old Country Road in Westbury. You can shoot down Carmen Avenue and be there in no time. Pollos El Paisa is probably Columbian for “chicken to die for”. It again is a family-run, family-style, non-chain linked restaurant with huge portions, excellent service and easy on the wallet pricing. My wife relishes their rotisserie chicken, which is so soft, juicy and succulent that is like no other dish anywhere. A whole rotisserie chicken is only $7.95 and can easily be split in two or four. Add to that a satisfying portion of yellow rice with peas and diced carrots plus a plate of sweet plantains and again the check should come just under $25 and you will leave filled to the brim of your sombrero.
I say just don’t forget to get the “green sauce” on the side, for the chicken. It is a chopped pesto, onion, oil and blend of seven secret spices which is sure to help enhance the chicken’s already excellent essence on your palate, if you like it a little tangy and twangy, like me. On special occasions, I will treat myself to homemade glass of sangria, with the meal. Some of our friends and co-workers that we have turned on to this great food establishment have been known to come as a group for just the side orders and have multiple pitchers of tasty sangria. I heard that they actually asked the waiter to help them draw straws to pick a designated driver. Here too, we have eaten many, many times and are always 110 percent satisfied.
So what is your favorite restaurant on a limited budget (Aka funds-a-low weekend) and what did you eat there that made you supremely happy? To avoid getting stuck in a rut, or wasting any hard earned money like I did a few weeks ago, I’d really like to know. Please, no dumps, dives or drive thrus!