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Dining Out: Good mix of surf-and-turf choices at Leo’s

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LEO'S

355 Plandome Road, Plandome

516-365-0255/0235

They took the 75-year-old Wright's Hardware store in Plandome, gutted the whole thing and opened Leo's. Who's Leo? He's the guy who sold them the original, still thriving Leo's in Garden City. And that was 29 years ago.

Plandome Road is the main thoroughfare and Leo's fronts it just a half block north of the LIRR station. Don't worry - reserved parking is in the rear. Then, enter by way of the small, attractive back patio surrounded by a tall, white lattice fence. Then there'll be outdoor waiting benches. Leo's has an open-seating policy establishment with reservations for parties of six or more.

Step inside. You walk down a long hall lined with hooks aplenty for wraps, and etched glass panels listing the history of Manhasset, together with All-American Championship teams in Nassau and statewide. To the left there's a small dining room - a bar area that seats 100, and a 40-foot bar with 20 bar stools. Music here is brighter than in the large dining room to the right. There are nine huge handmade mirrors with rounded tops and dark-wood frames, seven television sets, and a satellite TV with sports.

Booth seating makes the large dining room a favorite, almost as if you were at Lundy's at Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay or were along Long Island's South Shore. The feeling is reinforced by a hostess wearing sandals and a sweater tied around her waist as if she'd just rushed in from the beach. It's a relaxed, family-oriented place with locals coming to eat and hang out. (The menu proclaims in bold type, "Here Mountain Men and Debutantes Meet.")

The American menu is well priced and there are pub specials, too, like shepherd and chicken pie in the classic, deep white, flan dish, French onion soup and chili with an outrageous amount of flavor. Angel was brought over from the Garden City Leo's to preside over the fare. Kevin Boyle Jr. is general manager.

My dining companion ordered a shrimp and corn chowder, and ipswich clams with steakhouse fries and cole slaw. I went for a barbecue combination platter. We decided to split the house salad with Greek vinaigrette (our choice.)

Portions were large. The shrimp and corn chowder was creamy and flavorful. A cup of Manhattan clam chowder was part of my barbecue deal. It was the most intensely clam -flavored one I have tasted, and was very light - no thickening whatsoever.

Our salad was enormous. The broad-rimmed soup plate, 14 inches across with greens, tomato, onion and red peppers, came with two individual containers of distinctively Greek dressing. It could have been a meal in itself.

The barbecue combination was a unique offering of chicken breast, two terrific sausages, and a (surprise) lamb chop plus an ear of corn. It went beautifully and the half ear, doggy bagged, cold the next day was (surprise, again) great.

The dessert list is comfort food all the way. I'm a pushover for puddings - here was chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch. And not a small serving either. The butterscotch was liquid velvet and slid right down. My dining companion had rice pudding and was talked into having a topping of crumbled Oreos. (Also gummy bears, rainbow sprinkles, 50 cents extra). We were dubious. And it didn't work. Leo's special is toasted pound cake with ice cream, hot fudge sauce and whipped cream. And that always works.

P.S. There's a late night bar menu with chili, appetizers, sandwiches (no nonsense ones like baked Virginia ham, egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, grilled cheese alone or with tuna, or tomato or bacon and ham), roast beef and roast turkey, and the favorite - French dip.

Leo's is open 365 days a year.

THE BOTTOM LINE

"Where mountain men and debutantes meet." Casual family dining. Large portions, well priced. Breezy service. Glass panels of Manhasset history and All-American Championships in Nassau and statewide. Late-night bar menu. Open 365 days a year for lunch and dinner.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Pork Dumplings (served with outra

geous scallion dipping sauce)...$7.95

Leo's Famous Chili (cup of chili

served with crackers/bowl of chili

served with buttered

roll)...$3.95/$5.95

French Dip (served with french

fries and cole slaw)...$7.95

Food: American and Pub specials

Setting: Glass panels with

Manhasset history and All-

American

Championships statewide

Service: Breezy

Hours: L & D 7 days, 365 days a year

Reservations: For six or more.

Location: Two traffic lights north of

Northern. (Half block from LIRR)

Parking: Rear (and rear entrance)

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major

Children: Special menu

Smoking: Bar area

Music: Separate line for bar area

Noise: Louder in bar

Takeout: Yes

Off-premise catering: Yes

Private parties: Back room to 40

Handicapped access: Yes

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