The Good Steer, an iconic Long Island restaurant, closed its doors on Saturday after 65 years of operation in Lake Grove. The restaurant announced the news on Facebook on Sunday morning that Saturday, July 9, was its last day open.
“We came to this decision about three weeks ago or so,” said owner Robert McCarroll, who noted he was devastated by the loss of his family business, one that his grandfather began in 1957. “I’ve been carrying this news around for three weeks.”
McCarroll’s grandfather (also named Robert) opened The Good Steer on property he owned back in the 1950s after having run a diner in Smithtown for a brief time. It was a place for people to gather with friends and family much like the places you see portrayed in the movies or on television about the era.
“It was very much like Arnold’s in ‘Happy Days,’” he said, even down to having roller skating waitresses serving food for a time.
What started as a seasonal restaurant, grew into a year-round establishment.
“As the area grew, we grew,” said McCarroll.
After his grandfather passed away in 1965, McCarroll’s father (a second Robert) took control of the restaurant at age 23, having just graduated college. Then, in the mid-1980s after learning the ropes of the industry working at other restaurants, McCarroll started running the place.
His three children all worked at the restaurant as well.
Closing was hardly an easy decision for McCarroll, but the economic pressure due to inflation forced his hand. He cited both rising prices with “costs are going through the roof” and a 60% drop in patrons since March.
“It happened really, really fast,” he said. “We always take a hit during the summer but nothing like this. This has been brutal. People just don’t want to drive to the local restaurant to get a burger when it costs $125 to fill your tank.”
After 65 years in the community, most people don’t remember a time when there wasn’t The Good Steer sign lighting up Middle Country Road. With its folksy charm and a throwback look, the restaurant gave people a sense of nostalgia in trying times.
“We give value to the community,” McCarroll said. “When things are very bad in the country, we do well because we’ve been such a comfort for people over the years.”
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant survived by providing takeout.
“And our busiest year ever was the year after 9/11,” McCarroll said. “People wanted to go places where they felt safe.”
McCarroll told a story about a family that came to the restaurant on a recent weekend. It was a celebration of life for the family’s matriarch.
“She said, ‘I don’t want a wake or a funeral. I just want everybody to go to The Good Steer for dinner,’” he said.
The iconic name and logo will go dark, as McCarroll takes a break from the restaurant business and plans his next steps.
Franchising the name isn’t on the table. The family has never thought of franchising or expanding The Good Steer.
“A big part of what makes The Good Steer, The Good Steer is that one of us is always here,” he said.
That family atmosphere, customer service, and always striving to accommodate any reasonable request is something you cannot emulate according to McCarroll.
“We never say that we can’t do something for a customer,” he said.
McCarroll owns the property and has opportunities he is fielding, but nothing has been finalized.
“We’re thinking different things depending on what the village will let us do with it,“ he said.
For now, he’s preserving The Good Steer brand. And while he doesn’t think The Good Steer will return in its current incarnation, there might be a future for the beloved restaurant.
“But in a much smaller way,” he said. “Possibly a quick-service.”
McCarroll said that the hamburgers were the most popular item on the menu by far. The Bacon Cheese Supreme was their biggest seller. And their onion rings.
“At times, we would move 2,500-3,000 pounds of onions a week,” he said.
The phones were ringing off the hook Sunday morning after the news broke on The Good Steer Facebook page with people wanting to know what was happening. The message McCarroll wanted to express most was gratitude for all the years that the community supported his family’s restaurant. He was also audibly shaken as he spoke about The Good Steer, his family legacy and the work he has ahead of him.
“It’s going to take me a while to put this to bed,” he said. “It’s been a one man show for years.”
His Facebook message today read:
Dear Good Friends,
As they say, All Good Things must come to an end. Saturday, July 9th will be the last night of service for The Good Steer. We have truly enjoyed serving you for these past 7 decades, but it is time for us to end this story. We will miss you all. We will miss sharing the occasions, celebrations, and milestones of your lives and those of your families and friends that you chose to mark with a visit and a meal at The Good Steer. Our guests are more than just customers, they’ve been family to us, and we so very much appreciate that.
We hope that you’ll think of us and smile at the “Good” times you’ve had here.
…and who knows… keep an eye out. We might be back someday!
With much gratitude, appreciation, and love,
Bob, Linda, Bob jr. and The Good Steer Family.