300 Main St, Greenport
American Beech was a long time coming but worth the wait. This cozy, classy, comfortable New American-style restaurant figures to be around for a while. In fact, it plans to stay open 12 months a year, in line with Greenport’s evolving culinary scene.
Brent Pelton is the moneyman and a lawyer by trade who spent $1.95 million to purchase this property in a complex known as Stirling Square. Manager Dennis McDermott is a veteran restaurateur who started out as a waiter before he became the owner of The Frisky Oyster. He wisely brought along Arielle Ferrara, his gifted executive chef from the late Riverhead Project. She’s a Johnson and Wales University graduate, a native of East Moriches and a brilliant presence in the kitchen who can cook a wide range of cuisines with equal skill.
American Beech, comprising 50 indoor seats and an expansive 45-seat patio, is named for the gigantic American Beech tree in the center of the square. Its light, airy interior of white painted pine is trimmed with the wood of this species and the pergola-covered patio features an outdoor bar and a brick fireplace. At night there are candles at every table and window.
We sampled two salads and two starters, all of which more than passed muster. The restaurants’ basic ingredients (chicken, burger, meatballs, pasta, steak) belie the refinement of the food. The meatballs are not your Italian Grandmother’s version: they are Moroccan spiced lamb with unconventional feta and pine nut couscous perched on yogurt sauce ($14). Eight baked little neck clams, rather than the usual six, are topped with a crunchy panko crust and are swimming in anchovy herb butter ($12). A generous portion of market greens are a bargain for $8 and a beautifully composed Bibb and bleu more than justifies its $12 price tag.
The deceptively simple buttermilk fried chicken ($22) is deep-fried but lacking any hint of grease. Indeed, its juicy interior and admirable crust was the best version I’ve had in these parts. A lush and creamy orrechiette of toasted crumbs and wild mushrooms ($20) had the heft of a meat course. And the Beech burger on a colossal pretzel bun was enhanced by caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms and garlic aioli ($16). But the lobster roll ($22), failed us in that the sparse lobster meat never had a chance against its big, bready toasted brioche.
The restaurant’s gracious, convivial service breaks down only when runners who didn’t take the orders and don’t know who ordered what, auction off dishes. Diners who don’t request bread (which comes from the famous Top Cat Bakery) won’t get any and unfortunately, like many new restaurants, the hard surface walls can make the room mighty loud.