This is one of the best times of the year to eat out, whether by land or sea, taste the freshest eats our island is serving up.
Food tastes better when it’s eaten outdoors. Who needs (or wants) the artificiality of air conditioning, windows covered with heavy drapes and Venetian blinds when the sun is shining, the gentle breeze is caressing all those who dine under the sky and prefer that to a soundproof ceiling.
Fatfish Wine Bar & Bistro
28 Cottage Ave, Bay Shore
Fatfish in Bay Shore is tucked into the end of out-of-the-way little Cottage Avenue in an area of marinas and boatyards on Great South Bay. It’s the sort of laid-back, relaxing spot that should dot Long Island but doesn’t.
It’s a casual shorts and t-shirt kind of place, a use-your-fingers, by-the-sea spot with an expansive deck, a canal-side bar, an indoor dining room and a small tap room. The outdoor, covered deck (that most patrons choose) is sufficiently sheltered from foul weather so that it’s almost always available. Fatfish is a jovial, sometimes rollicking eating place, a scene of sorts with loud, live music from the bar filling the air, waitresses in t-shirts scurrying about, happy family groups seated at the bare, marble tables, lobster fests on Monday nights, good bread and garlicky olives.
8 West Water Street, Sag Harbor
There are few if any more sensational waterfront views on Long Island or elsewhere than the one from the second floor deck of Beacon in Sag Harbor. Overlooking an on-site yacht club and marina, it’s the perfect spot for a summer dinner, but the Beacon offers more than a vista featuring boats and birds. It’s a relaxing place of bistro chairs, potted palms and soft lighting that offers inventive new American dishes, many of them made with local ingredients.
8285 Jericho Turnpike, Woodbury
Some, perhaps many, diners go to Graffiti in Woodbury for its charming outdoor garden dining. Graffiti, tucked into the corner of the Woodbury Commons, has received mixed reviews since it moved into a larger, fancier space next door and became a more upscale, less casual eating place. But there is unanimity about the lovely outdoor seating it offers. There aren’t many (if any) Nassau restaurants that provide a more pleasant open-air milieu. This restaurant, with its new American menu is a welcome outpost for diners who don’t want to travel all the way out to the East End in order to eat with only the sky overhead.
PACK A BASKET
Picnics mean freedom. The freedom to choose the setting, the milieu for your meal as well as the food you decide to eat. Whether you elect to eat at the beach, in a forest or on a deck overlooking the ocean, the island offers a remarkable take-out diversity from rough-and-ready hot dog stands to sophisticated gourmet delis to professional picnic planners. One of the last is Marty Greenstein, a certified special events professional, who for 38 years has been involved with picnics large and small on Long Island. He points out that nearly every deli and many restaurants are glad to prepare picnics, but many do so from leftover questionable ingredients, that picnics on Long Island are a big and sometimes tricky business. They vary from simple box lunches (a sandwich, salad, chips and dessert for $10 to $15) for just a few friends, to more elaborate preparations (hamburgers, frankfurters, steak, three or four salads and a drink) for 1,500 to 2,000 people at prices in the $20 to $40 category.
Among the best in Nassau/Suffolk are Jewish delis and catering halls that specialize in picnic preparation. Zans Kosher Deli in Lake Grove and Ben’s Kosher Delis in Carle Place, Greenvale and Woodbury are examples of the former, while Windows on the Lake in Ronkonkoma is a catering establishment that has for many years specialized in preparing picnics. Zans and Ben’s, like Windows on the Lake, offer multiple menus, grills, coal, etc. Oh yes, finally, the smaller the group the higher the price, so get a thousand or so of your best buddies together before you order.
“Some like it hot” is more than the title of an entertaining motion picture. It’s also the description of a group of outstanding restaurants that open only during the warm weather. If you don’t go to them now there are no second chances between mid autumn through late spring. Here are three excellent get ‘em while it’s hot picks.
Clam Bar at Napeague
2025 Montauk Hwy, Amagansett, (631)267-6348
The Clam Bar is a classic seaside snack bar, not far from the dunes and ocean. The “catch of the day” means something here. Owner Dick Ehrlich knows seafood, as evidenced by the local fishermen who he has relied on for seafood for over 20 years. The Clam Bar embodies the spirit of summer at the beach. Friends and families gather under the umbrellas at outdoor tables after a day spent beachcombing or sightseeing. Shorts and sunglasses are as formal as the dress code gets.
16 Navy Road, Montauk, (631) 668-6868
Navy Beach opened in Montauk in 2010. It was instantly called a “perfect destination for summer dining.” The creation of Frank Davis and Franklin Ferguson, Navy Beach is a laid-back, family-friendly waterfront restaurant offering a memorable dining experience for the whole family in a beach setting with coastal food and memorable sunsets. Chef Paul LaBue heads the kitchen delivering a high-quality, fish-centric menu with an emphasis on sustainable seafood and local seasonal produce. Navy Beach is on a 200-foot private beach in Montauk.
1 Stony Hollow Rd, Centerport, (631) 754-8989
Not all the restaurants that shut down for the winter are on the East End. The Shack in Centerport is an outdoor snack spot that is a symbol of summer. Many park their cars along Route 25A to enjoy the outdoor eating and casual, American comfort food. The Shack isn’t a great destination restaurant nor does it pretend to be, but it is especially loved by children who are a major portion of the large family groups that pack this local institution.
BOAT UP DINING
It’s probably the ultimate dining experience. No LIE, no long hot driving, no traffic jams, no dressing up. Rather it’s a boat often silently gliding into a restaurant slip where diners in casual, comfortable garb disembark at one of the Island’s handful of waterfront eating places that reach out to boaters, offering a safe harbor.
Although most of these nautical oriented restaurants are on the Island’s East End, they can be found everywhere from the Nassau-Queens line to Montauk Point. Among the Nassau contingent are Wildfish and Rachel’s Waterside in Freeport, Fisherman’s Catch at Point Lookout and Villa D’Aqua in Bellmore. Suffolk’s non East Enders include Fatfish in Bay Shore, Harbor Crab in Patchogue and the Snapper Inn in Oakdale.
This summer, there will be at least three interesting new eateries in this category.
A Lure at Port of Egypt Marina in Southold on the North Fork offers boaters ten slips at the docking facilities of the marina and more. The “more” involves the people who own this new spot and their outstanding track record. Tom Schaudel and Adam Lovett, the same team that are known for their stewardship of A Mano in Mattituck, PassionFish in Westhampton Beach and Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport are running this seafood chowder house that features fresh local bounty. Jeff Uguil, the chef de cuisine and their partner is the kitchen commander of this casual 85-seat restaurant with its oversized bay windows that offer views of Southold Bay.
All the way to the West in Island Park, on the other end of the Island, is Pop’s Seafood Shack and Grill with no less than 40 slips for boaters that accommodate vessels with beams up to 17 feet. Pop’s, which opens in early June, serves dock and dine and sail away options to diners. Dock and dine patrons can be served on their boats while sail away meals or meals-to-go are also available. Axell Urrutia, who saw previous service at Miami’s Edison Hotel and the Palm Restaurant in Manhattan will be focusing on fresh seafood dishes with a sprinkling of choices for landlubbers as well.
There are only two slips for boaters at the new TR Restaurant and Bar in Hampton Bays but seafood lovers in boats or on land would be well advised to check it out. That’s because the 80-seat TR Restaurant and Bar just north of the Ponquogue Bridge and behind Tully’s Seafood Market is owned by Tom Rutyna, a chef and fisherman who made a name for himself over ten years as the executive chef of The Coast Grill in Southampton cooking local, fresh fish caught by fellow fisherman. In fact, the big blue Marlin that’s mounted in the bar was caught by none other than Mr. Rutyna himself.
The Lake House
240 West Main St., Bay Shore
Superb food, silken service, water views, warmth and wine are all part of the delightful picture at the Lake House on Lawrence Lake in Bay Shore. Although it isn’t a restaurant that seeks to captivate diners with amazingly original dishes, the quality of the food, along with the smoothness and charm of the total experience, envelope the discerning diners who have discovered this praiseworthy destination restaurant.
117 New York Ave, Huntington
Restaurants reveal themselves in many small but telling ways. The dazzling Prime on Huntington Harbor is no exception. Outside this stunning, multi-million dollar restaurant is part boathouse and part rustic lodge with dining terraces overlooking Huntington Harbor. Inside, it’s a place of Belgian chandeliers, stained-glass windows, hand-blown African light fixtures, handmade glass sculpture, French oak wine barrels, a roaring stone fireplace, an 18-foot sushi bar and a striking, gleaming open kitchen.
131 Creek Rd., Wading River
La Plage is a sophisticated beachcomber that has held forth in Wading River for over a decade. It’s no more than a slightly-upgraded seaside shack, across the road from Long Island Sound, but its food is consistently pleasurable and interesting, more so than at many more celebrated places. Additionally, its staff strikes the perfect balance between informality and professionalism. Diners can eat outdoors in warm weather and be treated to a nautical view year round.