A Look Back

Eating, Historically, in East Meadow

Posted

While not particularly known for its fine dining, East Meadow has had its share of beloved eateries throughout its history. Residents from every generation can recall a favorite restaurant or two that provided more than just a few good meals.

In East Meadow's early days, two important establishments also served as restaurants of sorts. The East Meadow Hotel (at various times known as the Noon Inn, Schultze Hotel, Andrew Hoeffner Hotel), located on the current Prospect Pool property, was the "center of town" for much of the 19th century. It featured a beautiful bar where travelers stopped and locals enjoyed themselves. The other location of interest was the inn on the Carman-Lowden homestead. The Carman-Lowden family, residing in the Town of Hempstead since its 17th century inception, managed the only inn on the Hempstead Turnpike, which ran to Farmingdale. At a time when it could take an entire day to journey out to Long Island from New York City, East-west travelers would stop for a bite to eat and a good night's rest right here in East Meadow. In the early 20th century, spectators enjoying the thrilling Vanderbilt Cup Races would patronize the inn as well.

On Newbridge Avenue, now East Meadow Avenue, a restaurant known as The Keyhole opened in a building that once held the Polish-influenced Gniewek's Deli. The Keyhole later became Dr. Generosity's, which was a local hangout for New York Islanders fans. Today, Majors Steak House operates in the same building.

For those seeking a hamburger instead of a steak, the earliest fast-food joint was the Fortress, owned by Berkeley Andrews. This drive-up mid-century restaurant had the slogan "fortify yourself" and served burgers, sodas, frozen custard, and seafood sandwiches. The oddly shaped property, purchased from the Lowden estate, became Mr. Donut (which in turn became Dunkin' Donuts). It was recently demolished to make way for a new fast-food restaurant.

When I spoke to dozens, if not hundreds, of East Meadow Baby Boomers, one fast-food restaurant came up over and over again: Dave Shor's. Shor's, like the Fortress, opened in 1949. It was a drive-in at the corner of Hempstead Turnpike and Merrick Avenue and quickly became a popular spot for neighborhood youngsters. The restaurant claimed it was "Shor" to satisfy hungry customers with its typical American fare. It lasted until 1976. Interestingly, very few people seemed to remember Fortress Restaurants.

Across from Dave Shor's, the Central Island Restaurant opened before 1950. By that time, Hempstead Turnpike was growing into a major thoroughfare with prime real estate for commercial establishments. In 1955, the three Borrelli brothers purchased Central Island and converted it into the Italian restaurant that thrives to this day. Business grew so quickly that large additions to the structure were completed in 1962.

One cannot speak of eating on Long Island without mentioning diners, and East Meadow has had its share! The original Greek diner here was Pop's Place. Near Pop's Place was Jahn's, a franchise of a small chain of ice cream parlors where one could order the "Kitchen Sink." The Empress Diner opened in 1955 and was run from 1967 until 2018 by the Panagatos Family. The Stardust Diner opened in 1966 and is now known as the Colony Diner. Finally, the Apollo Diner on Merrick Avenue began operating in 1967. Each diner was remodeled throughout the years, following fires and the latest restaurant trends.

For Eastern European fare, East Meadow residents could visit Brodie's Kosher Delicatessen, which was a staple in the Mitchel Manor Shopping Plaza. There, one could order a tongue on rye and a Dr. Brown's soda! That property became Waldbaum's and is now under construction for transformation into a health care facility.

I'm getting hungry. Let's eat!

© Scott Eckers

Dr. Scott Eckers is the author of East Meadow in Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series. He is Vice President of the East Meadow Board of Education as well as Social Studies Chair for the East Williston School District. Scott is also an entertainer and recording artist.