2006-08-09 / Restaurant of the Week

Get Into The Zone For Food And Fun

THE ZONE 28-43 Steinway Street Astoria  718-721-8181
Gazette RESTAURANT Of The WEEK by Teresa Barile

he newly opened Zone Sports Bar, Restaurant and Lounge offers something for anyone who enjoys a fun, friendly sports bar, a relaxing lounge with a good mix of music and great food with

a Latin flair.

The friendly atmosphere

at The Zone makes for a fine place to t

meet with friends and enjoy a cocktail or an ice cold beer while you watch your favorite sports games and listen to music. The Zone opened less than three months ago and is already packed with people. Some came to watch the World Cup matches and others fled their blacked-out homes for some cool airconditioning, hot food and the comfort of neighbors, but whatever the reason, anyone who comes to The Zone will find a cordial welcome. Brothers Elvin and Rigo Pena welcome all their guests with warm smiles and invite everyone to enjoy

their sports-themed restaurant with a lot of Latin flavor, owing to their roots in the Dominican Republic. You'll also find American dishes, but no one can resist Mama Pena's rice and beans.

We beat the heat with some cool, tropical cocktails. My mojito hit the spot with a blend of rum, lime juice and refreshing mint leaves. Frozen concoctions such as the Rum Runner, Hurricane, Margarita and Pina Colada make you feel like you're on vacation, especially when you enjoy them while relaxing on one of the comfortable couches.

In keeping with the sports theme, the menu is divided into First Base (appetizers and snacks), Second Base (salads), Third Base (burgers and sandwiches) and Home Plate (entres), all served fresh by a congenial waitress. On First Base, you'll find outrageously delicious Buffalo wings, in mild or atomic varieties. I chose the latter and was impressed by the spicy, delicious flavor. Tender, crisp fried calamari taste even better dipped in zesty marinara sauce ($8.99). Chicken or beef quesadillas please a hungry crowd too, but for some authentic Dominican flavor, try the queso frito, chunks of fried Dominican cheese, or mofongo, a dish of mashed plantains and spices, laced with choice of pork, chicken or shrimp. This irresistible mound of tropical plantains really satisfies. Fried yucca with garlic sauce or tostones, fried plantains served with dipping sauce, both for $3.99 or less are delicious. Kids will love the chicken fingers or freshly cut waffle fries. You can order a Zone Sampler for a taste of different appetizers.

Second Base offers fresh salads, such as grilled chicken over greens, Caesar salad or The Zone tossed salad with choice of dressing. You'll find seven-ounce, juicy sirloin or turkey burgers topped with mushrooms or cheese on Third Base. The thinly sliced steak sandwich is a big hit at lunchtime and late night, topped with cabbage, tomatoes and a special chimmichurri sauce ($4.99).

Once you've made it around the bases, you'll hit Home Plate, where each entre is served with choice of tostones or Mama's rice and beans. A thick cut New York strip steak soothes a growling stomach, as will two center-cut pork chops marinated

and grilled with a garlic and oregano sauce ($10.99 for the pork chops). Chicken al ajillo, two tender, chicken breasts sauted with lots of garlic, onions and sliced bell peppers is just $7.99. The delicious grilled chicken breast can be piled onto a sandwich for a great lunch or late night snack. The Zone's classic arroz con pollo, or rice with chicken, is a generously sized portion of the Spanish dish, but with Dominican flair. Leftovers made for an excellent lunch the next day. A few pasta dishes have been added to round out the menu, and a healthy salmon steak or garlic shrimp dish is available, too.

Enjoy a caf con leche and a slice of sweet home-style cake for dessert and relax in front of one of nine flat screen televisions. On Friday nights a professional DJ spins a mix of Latin music and American favorites. Saturday nights feature "Throwback Night", with classic disco and club music from the '80s and '90s for all to enjoy.

The Zone opens for lunch, dinner and late night drinks seven days a week. The kitchen closes at midnight during the week, and 2 a.m. on weekends to accommodate those seeking late-night munchies. The bar serves drinks until 4 a.m. The Zone now also offers free delivery to home or office. Come any time for a drink with friends, a great meal with a Latin flair or just to listen to music in a cool and friendly setting. The Zone hits the spot during these dog days of summer.

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