Thai in Great Neck (and GN dining in general)
Last night my wife and I had dinner at Mint, a "Thai Bistro" on Middleneck Road right next to the movie theater. I'll briefly describe the food, but also raise a general question about Great Neck dining.
The restaurant occupies the former space of Land of Smiles and O'Zone (the former was 'eh, but we thought O'Zone was quite delicious). Last night we ordered Tom Yum soup with tofu, spring rolls, a Thai salad, Chicken with Bok Choy in oyster sauce, and vegetables in an eggplant basil sauce (the menu, like in the previous restaurants in this space, offers the sauces and then you choose the chicken, beef, etc. to go with them). All of the food was very good, and beautifully prepared and presented. While this wasn't the best Thai food I've ever had, I will certainly go back before they go out of business, which brings me to my next point.
I understand the need to go to Queens or Manhattan for the best Asian food, and we frequently do just that. However, I have been wondering why it is impossible for a town as big, and with as many restaurants, as Great Neck to support anyting other than Chinese and Japanese restaurants. Wild Ginger is successful as sort of high end Chinese, and there is a decent Japanese restaurant on every block, yet the Thai restaurant was completely empty except for us for the entire hour that we were there. All I can come up with is that the Great Neck dining population is somewhat split, with the more religious people only eating at the kosher restaurant thus limiting the number of potential diners for the non-kosher places. Then, the non-religious people, for whatever reason, seem averse to different cuisines. It's a shame, because with the large number of restaurants (even considering the proposed moratorium on new restaurants) a little diversity would make the town a lot more interesting.
At least there's some good Thai food for now and a train to take us to Queens.
I've read that making it in Great Neck is just as hard as making it in Manhattan. Problem with Great Neck is that the rents on the restaurants, especially around Middle Neck Road, are sky high. Because of this people open up places, and if they are not an immediate success, they close as soon as the lease runs out. That is also why most of the restaurants that open up are so high end, and tend to be some type of Asian fusion. That is the "in cuisine" these days." I don't think it is because the population of Great Neck is "averse to different cuisines."
Also before you condemn Great Neck, what other areas of Long Island have an array of cuisines which are not directly correlated to the ethnicity of the people around? New Hyde Park has an excellent array of South Asian restaurants, but that area has a large South Asian population. From Flushing to the Nassau boarder, Nassau Boulevard is loaded with Korean restaurants, but those are mostly frequented by the local population. Come to think of it Great Neck isn't that bad, there is the fancy Greek restaurant on Great Neck Road, a few fusion places which slant towards Thai, and Pancho's for Tex Mex.
However I will admit I would like to see a bit more. I would love a nice Vietnamese restaurant, a casual take out Thai place would be excellent. However, with the rents they charge I don't know if that is happening anytime soon.
I will admit I was happy to see Entre pop up, although I'm not sure it was still there, it was nice to be able to satisfy my bubble tea fix without having to venture to Flushing Main Steet.
I certainly didn't mean to "condemn Great Neck." I've lived there for 16 years, and I always find it amazing that I can walk out my front door and, without getting in the car, stroll to dozens of restaurants. With the exception of downtonw Huntington and downtown Rockville Center, I don't think there are too many other places on LI where you can say that (actually, I'm sure there are a few that I don't know about, but the point is that Great Neck offers a pretty terrific restaurant lifestyle).
What I do bemoan, however, is the difficulty new restaurants face and the relative conservative nature of the recent openings. I think you're right about the high rents, which impact many of the downtown businesses. Pancho's is probably our favorite family restaurant, and it's been there at least since 199 when I moved in. I love Wild Ginger and Daruma, and I've been pleased with Starfish Too. I miss Giovanni's (an old Italian restaurant that was replaced with Boca Di Rosa, which just closed). I just think it would be wonderful if one of the Thai places could succeed, not to mention Indian or Vietnamese. You're right that these restaurants do well in communities where lots of Indians or Vietnamese reside, but my selfish fantasy is for even more dining diversity that I can walk to..
By the way, Entre is still there, so you can meet your bubble tea needs, right after a quesadilla at Pancho's. That's at least some diversity.
Great Neck offers terrific restaurants, only other place I can say is better is Garden City, there are a few interesting places there.
Panchos has good food, but I will admit that I grew up in GN, and had family and friends who for a period of time insisted on eating there once per week. While the food is excellent, I'm simply bored with the place! These days if I go for Mexican, I want to see tortilla soup and a good mole on the menu. Love Wild Ginger. Like Daruma, but have had some not so pleasant experiences with the service, I also don't like the seating there, it is usually too close together, leading to awkward situations.
I spent four years in a collegetown, so I see your perspective about wanting an Indian, Thai or Vietnamese place in Great Neck, I would love that as well.
Breathing a sigh of relief about Entre, will admit that I'm in Little Neck now, and rarely have a chance to venture into town.