Danny’s Chinese Kitchen in Bellmore may look like a typical mom-and-pop Chinese takeout, nearly ubiquitous across Long Island, but the reality is quite different.
The restaurant, which opened six years ago, is owned by two Jewish brothers from Merrick, Danny and David Antin.
“Some people come in and see us behind the counter and they look confused as to whether we’re a real Chinese restaurant,” says David, joking.
The origins of Danny’s can be traced back to the Rockaways, where the brothers were raised. As Danny tells it, he started working at a local Chinese restaurant while attending college at Long Island University.
The restaurant, East Meets West, happened to be owned by a family friend and retired NYPD detective, Bill Keating. Keating, who still owns East Meets West and has been in the business for 25 years, recalls Danny as a “sweetheart, one of the best.” He explains that Danny started out as a counter person and then learned “the ways of the kitchen, forging strong personal relationships with the chefs and kitchen workers.”
Keating helped Danny before he opened Danny’s Chinese Kitchen. Unbeknownst to Danny, his past relationships at East Meets West would prove vital to the new restaurant.
Before Danny’s existed, both Danny, 36, and his brother David, 45, were working as accountants. Danny worked for eight years for a large public accounting firm while David had a successful 20-year career in finance.
When Danny pondered a career change, David recalled Danny saying he was “never happier” than when he worked at the Chinese takeout place. And David recalled people in his neighborhood lamenting the lack of “good Chinese food” in the area.
That helped steer Danny to the restaurant business, and with David as a silent partner, Danny’s opened its first location in 2014. Danny even tapped the former chef at East Meets West, Mr. Lin, to take over kitchen duties, although Danny would continue to help with cooking.
As Danny’s got busier, it became evident that he needed help. So, it was natural that David, who was wrapping up his career in finance, would join Danny as a full-time partner in the business in March 2019.
But then the pandemic arrived with the new year and threatened to derail the restaurant’s strong growth. Danny’s closed on March 16 for 35 days due to concerns for the staff and customers alike.
From January through March, the brothers say their business was down by almost 40 percent because people thought “they could get Covid-19 from eating Chinese food.”
“People were scared,” David recalls. He added that they had to work through various fears of people regarding touching surfaces, bags, etc.
He says that being entrenched in the community and hiring mostly local employees meant taking precautions seriously, including buying high-quality masks and using enhanced cleaning protocols. When Danny’s reopened in mid-April, David said they had to take matters into their own hands because few workers were available.
“At one point, we were driving a truck to our Hicksville warehouse and getting all of our food supplies since things were so stalled due to Covid-19,” David says, recalling how he smelled like “raw chicken,” on most days. “People were dying for Chinese food…they hadn’t had it for months and we wanted to be there for the community.”
But, despite Covid-19, the brothers opened a new location in Massapequa in May of this year, near another former Chinese takeout, Chow Superb Chinese Food.
“We couldn’t get any contractors to come out, so we did much of the work on this spot ourselves, including painting and electrical work,” David notes.
And the brothers’ expansion plans aren’t yet complete, as they are planning an Oceanside location, set to open in 2021.
Danny’s varied menu includes more than a few hundred items to choose from, including specialties such as sesame chicken, beef with broccoli, General Tso’s chicken, salmon Hunan style, spare ribs, and special creations, such as pastrami and apple pie egg rolls.
“We’re obsessed with customer service, cleanliness, and quality food that includes getting daily shipments of fresh vegetables, chicken and meat,” David says, explaining what makes Danny’s different.
He also adds that their prices are comparable to most other Chinese takeouts.
“We’re not reinventing Chinese food,” he says, “but we’re doing it right.”
Danny’s Chinese Kitchen is located at 2370 Merrick Rd., Bellmore 516-783-9000 and 20 Broadway, Massapequa 516-809-9970. Visit at dannyschinesekitchen.com.
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