White Oak oyster bar to take over for Eleanor Rigby’s in Mineola

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Restaurateur Dean Miller and chef Steven Del Lima plan to open a Mineola location of White Oak, their oyster bar and tavern seen here in Manhattan. (Photo from Google Maps)

The downtown Mineola space that was home to Eleanor Rigby’s until the longtime watering hole closed last week will look quite different once White Oak LI, the oyster bar and pub that will replace it, opens later this year.

But Dean Miller, the new owner, said the bar will be just as much a local hangout as its predecessor had been for 23 years.

“We are not bringing a New York City lounge to Mineola,” said Miller,  the restaurateur behind White Oak’s original Manhattan location. “We plan on maintaining it as a neighborhood bar first and foremost.”

Miller closed the sale last week on the building at 133 Mineola Blvd., which he bought from Larry and Cathy Monachelli. They decided to sell the Beatles-themed pub they opened in 1994 to spend more time with family and friends.

A Garden City native, Miller said he was a patron at Eleanor Rigby’s when he worked in Mineola, so he knew first-hand how much of a community staple it was.

Miller’s connection to Long Island and Mineola’s recent efforts to revitalize the downtown area, including the opening of new commuter apartment complexes and the growth of Winthrop-University Hospital, drew him to the location, he said.

Miller is planning a full renovation of the restaurant that includes a new fresh oyster bar and a larger space for live music, he said. He also hopes to add an outdoor patio and a catering and event space on the second floor, he said.

White Oak head chef Steven Del Lima, formerly of Vitae Wine Bar and Restaurant in Huntington, will oversee the Mineola menu. Del Lima’s dishes are “unique and simple but not overbearing and scary,” Miller said.

The menu will emphasize oysters and seafood, and the bar will have 18 beers on tap and a selection of wines and spirits, Miller said.

Some of the Manhattan restaurant’s “elevated pub grub” menu will stay in place, Miller said, including the truffle fries, burger, chicken sandwich and “dirty chips,” kettle-cooked potato chips topped with pulled pork and cheddar cheese.

But that can all change based on what customers want, Miller said. He spent the first three months after White Oak opened asking patrons in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood what they liked and disliked and altered the menu accordingly, he said.

“That’s what we want to be, is the place where you can walk in after work for dinner and it’s home,” Miller said.

Miller’s commitment to the neighborhood convinced Rich Lindeman, the Eleanor Rigby’s bartender of 23 years, to take on drink-pouring duties at White Oak when it opens.

Some have told him they’re worried about a high-end New York City bar replacing Eleanor Rigby’s, but Lindeman said he is sure the new pub will draw the same diverse crowd, “from the painters to the brain surgeons.”

“It’s going to reach the people that are making $30,000 to $300,000,” he said.

Miller also wants to continue the Monachellis’ service to the Mineola community. He plans to auction the Eleanor Rigby’s Beatles memorabilia and donate the proceeds to the Mineola Knights of Columbus, which will give the money to a needy family, Lindeman said.

Miller said he expects that the former owners will not be strangers to the new White Oak.

“Once my doors are open, you’re not going to miss them,” he said. “They’re going to be a part of my place as well.”

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