A highly anticipated new restaurant and beer garden has opened in an unexpected location in East Meadow. What once housed Redbeard’s, then Callahan’s and lastly DF Meadow’s, all of which were known locally as small neighborhood bars, is now home to Garden Social.
“It has always been a staple of the town,” said co-owner David Boller, 45, of Long Beach, 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,” Boller said.
Owners 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 with the past five years spent finding the right location. In the end, the owners choose East Meadow where Russo has lived most of his life.
Before the restaurateurs took over, not much had been done to modernize the façade and interior, which qualified them to receive two grants to renovate the spot, totaling $25,000, from PSEG Long Island.
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. “We wanted people to come in and see that we put everything we had into this and really sweated the detail,” Boller said.
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.
“Women are gonna love our bathrooms,” Boller added with a laugh, explaining that he put extra detail into the design and architecture with his fiancée’s taste in mind.
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.
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. They also joined with John Hayduk, also a general manager who owns Billiards restaurant in the Bronx, and Kevin Liebov, a chef with 25 years of experience.
Garden Social opened to fanfare on Nov. 5 and, on Nov. 9, they will be having a ribbon cutting presented by the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve struck a chord, there’s no doubt about that,” Boller said. The owners intend to continue to build their brand and expand to more locations.