Dining with Dan and Dave: Deer Park eatery well worth drive for service, food
That was our expectation when we were told that we had to try a prime rib dinner in Deer Park.
That was reinforced when we arrived at the First Street Bar & Grill and walked inside to see the staff wearing black T-shirts.
But the interior was quaint and clean, and the employees were certainly attentive, so we were optimistic that we would be rewarded for our long drive.
And we were.
It started with a nice glass of wine ($5) after we were informed they didn't sell bottles.
Next was an unusual appetizer with a great name: Turkish cigar ($6.95 for four eggroll-sized cigars). The marinated feta cheese and fresh spinach leaves in a light pastry was very tasty, and that was before testing the sauce, a house balsamic vinaigrette.
Dinner filled a large plate and, with the Mediterranean green beans, mashed potatoes and medium-rare prime rib, was pretty as a picture.
We dug in and, as usual, kept our thoughts to ourselves until we came up for air. The beans were crunchy, the potatoes real. Definitely good.
Then we focused on the reason for our visit.
Finally the initial observation came out: The prime rib, though cooked just right, was a bit unusual because it was so thin. It was excellent but certainly couldn't be considered a slab, which is what we were used to seeing.
When our waiter stopped to fill our water glasses and check on our satisfaction, we just couldn't help but engage in a conversation.
That, also, was a treat. Our waiter turned out to be the owner, Halil Demir, who is, indeed, from Turkey.
We learned a number of things that made it obvious why this is a hidden gem, at least on our visit.
The thickness of a prime rib is determined by the size of the roast; this big prime rib allowed for a thinner cut. We liked it because we were almost able to cut the rarest piece with a fork, rather than having our plate slide, which can happen when you saw through a thicker cut, especially when rare.
The owner had arrived very early in the morning to put the meat on a slow cook at 185 degrees, which says a lot about his dedication, as did the fact he was waiting on us 12 hours later.
As for the wine, well, it's just not a priority to other customers. Bottles sat around too long, so the decision was made to sell it by the glass. The quality was good.
When we finished, the deserts sounded scrumptious, but without our wives, we showed great restraint, opting instead for that second glass of wine while we enjoyed the old black-and-white photos adorning the walls.
We noticed a steady stream of customers, which says a lot considering it was homecoming at the high school. Of course that $15.95 dinner has to be a huge draw.
When we checked the Facebook page, though rarely updated, we noticed a 2-for-$20 prom night special, the choices being Jalapeno Burger Fettuccini, Barbecue Burger Penne Pesto or Classic Burger Penne Vodka.
Those offerings surprised us because of the location and, along with the deserts, had us plotting a return.
We understand that that one visit doesn't allow us to judge one of the most important criteria for a restaurant, which is consistency in both service and food, which for restaurant reviews can be problematic.
That is why we focus on three things – cleanliness, service and perceived value – because taste is much more of a personal opinion. And it is also why we occasionally tell a story rather than delve too much into a particular eatery.
After two years of doing this, you'll find that any place we write about is worth a visit, especially if it is in your neighborhood. We enjoy hearing if you agree or disagree with us – but we urge you to tell the owner. This is a tough racket and is often a labor of love. To survive – or want to continue – what you tell them is the best way for them to know if they're on the right track.
We think the First Avenue Bar & Grill is.