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Leo's Midway brings new taste to Garden City

By Sara Kay, Features Editor

Lately, I've spent most of my restaurant tastings in Garden City because of the comfort that I feel with each one. Tonight, however, I broke that trend by going to Leo's Midway on Franklin Avenue.  All thoughts of subtle trendiness went out the window at Leo's.  At first, I was intimidated by its incredibly casual interior, but it didn't take long for me to put that aside, and enjoy a cozy and thoughtful meal.So what makes a thoughtful meal?

Everything. It's not just the food; the décor or the people who work there: It's all of these aspects rolled into one and brought out to the table with a smile that isn't just looking forward to a tip at the end of the meal. Everything about Leo's screams comfort and warmth, from the plaques and pictures of local athletes to the fun caricatures of regulars. The theme of the Irish-style pub during my meal was in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, which even though it isn't for another week, is clearly on the minds of every employee there.

I wouldn't say that I am an uptight person when it comes to food, but certain things to me come off as a bit daunting. When I asked the server what he recommended, he looked at the menu thoughtfully, and then wholeheartedly went with the corned beef Rueben. In the theme of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day, I decided to take his advice. I was intimidated by the thought of sauerkraut anywhere near the rest of my food, but I trusted this server for some reason.  After all, he said he was Irish.

The start of our meal was a basket of fried zucchini sticks and stuffed potato skins. The zucchini sticks were served with a horseradish dipping sauce, and were surprisingly light despite all the fried batter. The zucchini managed to remain crunchy and full of flavor inside its crispy crust, and the dipping sauce added an exciting kick to something that would remain bland without it. The stuffed potato skins, although a little burnt on the bottom, were stuffed to perfection with melted cheese and incredibly crispy bacon.  These made chain restaurant potato skins look like an amateur-hour performance.

It was time for our main course when I started to get a little nervous. I trusted this server with my order because he said it was his favorite thing on the menu, but now the thought of corned beef covered in swiss cheese and sauerkraut was getting more and more realistic. However, my first bite into this tower of crispy bread, corned beef and cheese changed my beliefs forever. The beef was tender and full of flavor, and the cheese was perfectly melted over everything. The bread added a wonderful crispiness to each forkful.

Now it was time for the sauerkraut: something so terrifying to me that asking the server to put it on the side even made me cringe a little. I picked up a small taste and placed it neatly on top of the corned beef and cheese. Somehow, this tangy little addition made everything melt together perfectly.  Its acidity was a great contrast to the heaviness of everything else, and when the server came back around to see if I was enjoying it, all he had to do was look at the empty dish to see that I had liked it.

Leo's is a sore thumb in Garden City. With expensive little bistros and café's surrounding it, it's a wonder that Leo's is there at all.  It simply doesn't fit in. However, after having a cozy meal, I'm curious as to why people eating at these other places aren't eating at Leo's.  Everything has a feeling of thought and authenticity. My server's recommendation was one of the lower priced meals on the menu. What's not real about that?

An interior photo of the bar at Leo’s Midway in Garden City. The restaurant has a casual, Irish pub feel to it. (Kristen Mutarelli/ The Chronicle)

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