On the Road with a Takeout Queen: Upscale fast food


When I try to cook something, the same dish always tastes a lot better if I pick it up from a cafe. If I try an easy recipe, I don’t have the patience to wait for the microwave to ding. At the same time, when I’m hungry I crave gourmet-style foods. Preferably immediately. This month I lucked out. I found three new eateries around town, and one addition to a favorite restaurant, where you’ll be served upscale meals in a flash. If you never want to cook again, try these four eateries.

Gimme Burger (39 E Main St., Oyster Bay) Jesse Schenker, gourmet chef/founder of 2 Spring and FOUR in Oyster Bay, just opened this mini, casual café. The burgers are ground in-house every day. They’re a blend of chuck, brisket and short rib. The buns are made from scratch and baked in the café daily as well. When I grabbed my burger to go, it smelled so good I couldn’t wait to carry it to my car. I plopped down at an outdoor table and ate half of it. I ate the other half during the drive home. Three other dishes are offered: veggie burgers, crispy chicken sandwiches and grilled cheese. I’m sure they’re equally delicious.

Tous Les Jours (41 Great Neck Rd., Great Neck) When you walk into this South Korean bakery, the pastel-colored pastries, breads, and desserts seem to say, “Yahoo! Come on in!” It’s such a bright, clean, welcoming place. The names of some of the elegant treats you’ll pick up or enjoy at an intimate table say it all. Imagine: mango cream croissants, cranberry apple cream cheese bread, sweet potato mini cakes, magic mocha cream bread, a loaf of green tea bread, and pink strawberry soft cakes. I left with a sweet potato loaf that was a lovely shade of lavender.

No. 1 Pancake (602 Glen Cove Ave., Sea Cliff) In this eatery, your pancake will be freshly prepared on the spot and ready to go in a flash. Since it’s an authentic Chinese shop, the pancakes are simply made of two types of flour and eggs. Each pancake is folded in half and filled with everything from ham, pork, duck, lamb, chicken, cheese, or veggies. They’re topped with an original “brown sauce” created by the owner.

While you’re waiting for your pancake, check out the desserts — especially the sugar crisps. You’ll bite into a crispy bun as the sweetest sugary syrup oozes from the center. I’m definitely going back for a green sugar pickle sandwich.

Centro Cucina (43 Glen Cove Rd., Greenvale) In addition to serving dinner, this favorite Italian restaurant is now serving lunch. I loved the Katrina Salad — greens, sauteed mushrooms, lemon dressing. But the biggest news is a dining experience known as “Centro Taste.” I call it upscale “fast food” because you’ll be served 20 bite-sized, gourmet tastings, one after the next. Begin with antipastos, move on to two or three kinds of pasta, meat and fish dishes, and dessert.  Three things to know: It’s $80 per person, offered on Mondays and Thursdays, and everyone at your table must enjoy Centro Taste together.

So, that’s it. If you hate to cook, you’re off the hook. See you next month!

Cathi Turow can be reached at: cturowtakeout@gmail.com