Garden Social opened to a crowd on Nov. 5 and, five days later, the celebration continued for the beer garden and kitchen when it was presented with a ribbon cutting from the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce and two grants from PSEG Long Island.
This includes its Main Street Revitalization Program, which is “designed to support the economic vitality of a business district” by offering $25,000 to a business that beautifies a storefront its neighborhood through interior renovations, façade improvements, streetscape improvements and other investments.
The Vacant Space Revival Program offers bill discounts to businesses existing in a space that has been vacant for a year or more. Garden Social’s owners also took advantage of over $1,500 in PSEG Long Island energy efficiency rebates by installing energy efficient heating and cooling systems, energy efficient lighting fixtures and by using LED bulbs.
Partners David Boller, 45, Bob Russo, 46, and James Paloumbis, 45, met at SUNY Oneonta where they were members of the fraternity Phi Kappa Sigma. Boller said that it has always been a 20-year dream of his to open a restaurant.
The team brought on a fourth partner, Kevin Liebov, a chef with 25 years of experience who owned Nicholas James in Merrick before taking over the kitchen at Merrick’s Savoy gastropub in 2014.
Liebov brought with him a versatile menu with small plates including a loaded poutine called "hot mess" pommes frites, kung pao calamari, pots of mussels, baked clams and an artisanal cheese board. Other meals include blackened shrimp ’n’ grits, cavatappi with “Sunday ragu” and linguine and clams.
to complete their mission, the team also joined with another general manager John Hayduk. Boller said that he and his team spent the past five years spent finding the right location and, in the end, choose East Meadow where Russo has lived most of his life.
“[Russo] chose to support his hometown by opening this beautiful restaurant, and that’s what our Main Street Revitalization and Vacant Space Revival programs are all about — supporting the small business owners who are supporting their neighborhoods,” said John Keating, the manager of economic development for PSEG Long Island. “This grant provides a head start toward a successful future.”
“Thriving businesses in any community keeps residents shopping local and it’s great to see that PSEG Long Island shares our commitment . . . in a big way,” said Frank Camarano, the president of the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce.
Garden Social broke ground six months ago and includes in its interior wood sourced from a 19th-century Ohio barn, brick reclaimed from a 1940s-era Brooklyn warehouse and custom murals from a Manhattan artist.
The bar includes in its repertoire a 24-tap tower with beer from primarily Long Island breweries, in addition to some favorites from Manhattan and greater New York. A dimly lit archway leads visitors to Garden Social’s back-most dining room, emulating the experience of walking into a wine cellar.
What also stands out are the pictures on the wall, all of which were provided by local historian Scott Eckers and depict pieces of East Meadow’s history. “The idea was to always incorporate the community into our restaurant,” Boller said. “I love history. And when you start to dig in, you find out how much a place like East Meadow influenced the country and the world.”
Each photo includes a description detailing a significant portion of East Meadow history, such as a photo depicting the start of the Vanderbilt Cup Races. Willie Vanderbilt, who would often get in trouble for racing on local roads, began the races when he created his own private highway called the Long Island Motor Parkway, which is part of today’s Salisbury Park Drive.
“It has always been a staple of the town,” said Boller of the location, adding that he wanted to keep it that way and give local residents a comfortable place to go after a football game, school event or on a weekend with friends. “We want our customers to come here, forget about life for a while, create relationships and have a good time,” he said.
Boller has worked in online advertising for almost 30 years, servicing companies like Citibank, E-Trade and Proctor and Gamble. His role on the Garden Social team is as a managing partner and customer relations specialist along with Russo, while Paloumbis handles operations and general management.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article did not list Kevin Liebov as a fourth partner. The herald apologizes for this error.