High Steaks by the Sea

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From pancakes to dinner plates, the Belle Harbor Steak House has been known among locals to serve a variety of classic American and Italian dishes, and of course, high quality steaks and seafood, on Beach 116th Street. It’s the closest thing you’ll find to a diner in town, or the perfect local spot for a formal steak dinner, all wrapped into one. Established in 2004, the Steak House just celebrated its 14th anniversary this month on November 9. Though it’s considered native to Rockaway, its unique history has foreign roots in the journey of an adventurous teenager overseas.

The story begins with a 19-year old, Jimmy Condolios, co-owner of the Steak House, venturing out from home in Greece. Condolios, second cook on a ship for three years, jumped ship to America in 1962. At separate times, both Condolios and partner, Mike Mallas, abandoned their work at sea. They later met in Brooklyn. Condolios found work cooking in different restaurants for the next ten years before opening his first business with Mallas in 1972.

For many years, they owned two restaurants, one of which was the Golden Ox Restaurant, which seated 300 on Avenue U in Brooklyn. As Mallas and Condolios considered retiring, the pair took a brief leave of absence, and sold their business. However, when they found their spot in Rockaway, they decided they weren’t quite finished with the restaurant business after all. Ever since then, Condolios claims, “Business, thank God, we have plenty. The same customers come back and it’s a beautiful thing.”

The restaurant seats 70 and offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, but this wasn’t always the case. The Steak House was quick to make dynamic changes to adapt to the needs of Rockaway, trying to survive a natural disaster in 2012. “Before Hurricane Sandy, I was open only for dinner. After Sandy, to help the community, I opened up for breakfast. I was one of the first to open, and I was very, very busy,” Condolios explained. Following the change, the signs of the Belle Harbor Steak House were changed to the Belle Harbor Diner.

Though often busy, the 75-year-old works along with his staff for almost 14 hours a day, seven days a week, to keep everything running smoothly. As for Mallas, Condolios noted, “he got a little sick and he’s out of the business, but he comes almost every day.” The tight-knit team consists of four cooks, three weekday waiters, five weekend waiters, and two busboys. “One of the cooks is from Brooklyn and he’s been with me for 29 years. The other guys have been here since the opening,” Condolios said. The main cook has served with him for 33 years. Of the maître d’, Condolios noted, “We used to work together in Brooklyn. From the time I opened [in Rockaway], Mike has been with me. He’s in the front, but he also works for the kitchen. He knows the whole daily special.” Mike, the maître d’, has been serving by his side for 45 years.

Through years of experience, Condolios has established his own way of running business. For instance, the Steak House serves from opening to closing, with no exceptions. “Sometimes at night, I try to leave at nine, but I see people coming in and I don’t leave because they have to be served. It’s my way,” Condolios explained. Over anything, Condolios emphasized that quality and customer satisfaction are his top priorities. “I believe in quality. Any merchandise that comes into the store, I have to check. It’s my policy. If a customer has a complaint, I correct it right away,” he said.

Besides the quality cuisine, the above and beyond customer service is another aspect that makes the Belle Harbor Steak House a local delight. Whether it’s Condolios or other staff approaching tables to make sure everyone’s satisfied, or a friendly smile from the delivery people that brings meals, along with the hot rolls and butter that you’d find on your table if you were dining in, the staff makes its customers feel welcome whether at home or in the Steak House.

Of his experience, Condolios said, “I’m in this business for 55 years and I love what I’m doing, I love the business. And as always, I’m trying to do better.”

The Belle Harbor Steak House is located at 268 Beach 116th Street. The restaurant is open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., but closed on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information, call 718-318-5100.

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