Peppercorn Cafe is nothing if not cozy. At a wrap-around bar made of unpolished granite and waxed cherry wood, bartenders pour draft beer or cocktails as guests converse and watch football. Just around the corner from the lounge, diners gather around tables draped in white linen that brightens under torrents of natural light by day and softens under the wall sconces by night.
The homey family restaurant is the joint venture of two Long Islanders, and the menu reflects it. Executive Chef Dave Moritz sticks to the founders' North Atlantic roots with a menu filled with unconventional takes on New York seafood favorites. Pot pies, for example, come stuffed with lobster, and the crab cakes are served on cranberry scallion couscous—a break from the traditional method of serving them inside a grizzled sea captain's pipe. Little Neck clams mingle with chorizo on the appetizer menu, creating a segue into the turf portion of the menu, which includes braised beef short ribs and New York strip steak with crumbled gorgonzola.
"Treat folks special." That was the mantra of Country Kitchen's founder, Bill Johnson, a mere teenager with an eighth-grade education when he moved to Cincinnati in the 1930s. But by the end of that decade, both Bill and his aspirations had done a great deal of growing up. With some experience flipping burgers beneath his belt, Bill and a friend opened their own restaurant—Country Kitchen. It was the first time Bill could put his treat-folks-special philosophy into practice as he pleased.
Today, Country Kitchen no longer sells burgers for a nickel apiece. But Bill Johnson's legacy still lives on in friendly customer service at each of the restaurant's locations—they now span the country. And Bill's preference for simple, homestyle grub is still apparent in the menu: pancakes for breakfast, burgers and sandwiches for lunch (or supper), and country-fried steak or roast turkey for dinner.
Maybe it's the food—classic burgers and fries with rugged upgrades such as Jameson whiskey sauces, jalapeño and chipotle mayo, or crispy onions and pepper jack cheese. Maybe it's the drink menu, which ranges from craft brews on tap to flashy cocktails served in fishbowls. Maybe it's the decor, which features tin ceilings, unfinished wood walls, an array of hubcaps, and furnishings made from vanquished beer cans. Or maybe it's just the restaurant's habit of spelling everything with a Z. Now under new management, there's something about CANZ that makes an old-fashioned road warrior feel right at home.
The Old Olive Tree Restaurant first opened its doors to diners in 1980, as a celebration of rustic, homestyle Greek cuisine. In addition to following time-tested family recipes, the chefs also recreate familiar Mediterranean flavors by hand-making spanakopita, grinding lamb for their kebabs in-house, and wrapping to-go dishes in first-edition copies of The Odyssey. Other Attic flavors include greek sausages with hints of orange and cinnamon, golden-brown falafel patties, and saganaki with melted greek cheese.
Curry Kebob House expands beyond the bounds of its name with a diverse menu of beef, chicken, and lamb dishes, all made with halal meats. Helmed by chef Sameer Ahmad, the kitchen team slow-cooks shredded beef and lentils for a dish called haleem, dappled with blackened onions and lemon, as well as whips up plates of creamy and tangy chicken tikka masala. Delicately spiced Pakistani specialties include karahi gosht—goat cooked in a thick tomato sauce with chilies—and chicken karahi, which is cooked in an iron wok with ginger and spices.
The Indo-Pak restaurant is modeled after the casual eateries in India and Pakistan, with red tablecloths draped over petite tables and traditional artwork adorning the exposed-brick and wood walls. Strings of twinkling lights dangle at the entrance, signaling to diners that they’ve found the right place and confirming that fireflies are very cooperative after being fed kebabs.