East End Beacon

Top Chefs Flock to the North Fork

The Halyard Restaurant, due to open any day now at the Sound View Inn in Greenport.
The renovated Halyard Restaurant, at the Sound View Inn in Greenport.

by William Sertl

The North Fork is the new Brooklyn. You know that. I know that. But it became official this summer when Eater.com ran a headline proclaiming just that: “North Fork is Becoming the Brooklyn of Long Island.”

North Forkers also know what that means: traffic and a plague of hipsters upon our land. Let’s save that topic for another time, however, and concentrate on the good news: Farming. Food. Restaurants, lots of new restaurants. A bunch of them, in fact, all in Greenport, with three headed by big-deal chefs from Manhattan.

Don’t worry about how the North Fork can became the new Brooklyn if the chefs in question are all from Manhattan, because their restaurants are all in Downtown Manhattan, which was hip long before Brooklyn found itself on the more desirable side of the bridges and tunnels. Let’s also save that topic for another time and concentrate on the new restaurants, because they really are worthy of note—the next big step since The Frisky Oyster put the North Fork on the culinary map more than 15 years ago, followed by the North Fork Table’s upping of the ante not long afterward.

Here’s what to look for as the dining scene heats up, from the oh-wow places to some tiny local gems, with a press-time progress report:


Bruce & Son gets a pop-up.
Bruce & Son gets a pop-up.

Lucky Bee

The Big Deal

The wildy popular and wildly colorful—think pink—Southeast Asian street food restaurant of the same name on the Lower East Side—is doing its second seasonal pop-up in Greenport. This year it’s at Bruce & Son on Main Street; last year’s was up the nearby Gallery Hotel. Australians Rupert Noffs and chef Matty Bennett (also a veteran of Downtown hot spot The Fat Radish), have won raves for their year-old Manhattan restaurant, not just for exotic décor—think bamboo ceiling fans and flamingoes in potted palms—but especially for the food, dishes like fiery red prawn curry with Thai basil and crispy Asian-style fried chicken.

What to Expect

#Spicy food and eventually (perhaps)spicy décor. Next summer was to be the debut of the duo’s permanent home in Greenport, as they planned to turn the vacant Main Street mansion that once housed Ile de Beauté into a tropical Tara, all pink with palm trees, a little neon, and more flamingoes. Alas, the deal fell through.

Why the North Fork?

“We both love being surrounded by farms, vineyards and fisheries yet still so close to beautiful bays and beaches. The North Fork has that old-school Americana feel, like a back lot at Universal Studios. It’s all too cute to be true,” says Noffs, who together with Bennett is developing a new space in New York. As for an eventual brick-and-mortar dining palace out east, Noffs says, “Never say never. We might just end up out here yet with a new location.”

Status

Lucky Bee has postponed the opening of its pop-up to later in August pending the approval of its liquor license (through October); reservations a must  (luckybeenyc.com)

Meanwhile, Bruce & Son (bruceandsongreenport.com), scene of the Friday night Lucky Bee pop-up, opened in March as a breakfast and lunch spot after chef Scott (and wife Kassata) Bollman took over the cheese shop run by Dad (a.k.a. Bruce Bollman), turning the place into a SoHo vision of a country barn. The farm-to-table menu lists dishes like salad with ciabatta croutons, Wickham’s tomatoes, and snails from Peconic Escargot, the first snail farm on the East Coast, which itself was opened last year by chef Taylor Knapp (formerly of First and South in Greenport) on Peconic Land Trust land in Cutchogue. Which brings us to PawPaw (pawpawpopup.com), the pop-up restaurant Knapp runs on Saturday nights at Bruce & Son.


In The Halyard’s revamped nautically appointed dining room
In The Halyard’s revamped nautically appointed dining room

The Halyard

The Big Deal

Anything that happens at the 65-year-old Sound View Inn is big news. The new sleek, Montauk-ready hotel is already open, and the restaurant was set to debut at the end of July.

Galen Zamarra, longtime chef at West Village favorite Mas (Farmhouse), will be overseeing the kitchen. Mas (Farmhouse) in Manhattan is know for its elegant-to-cozy setting on a charming Village street and for the kind of French and American cuisine that you might call fancy, but which is never fussy—plates that appear to be works from a museum but are nothing more than the art of putting great ingredients together for dishes that taste as good as they look.

What to Expect

The Halyard will be a lot more casual: much more about fresh seafood and lobster rolls. Design for the entire project, including the motel, is by Brooklyn’s Studio Tack.

A spokesperson for the project says the firm is going for a look that’s “reminiscent of the golden age of motels, with touches of New England modernism and a nautical motif that’s a nod to Greenport’s history.” But there’s good news for retro fans of the old Sound View restaurant: The “authenticity of the piano bar will be maintained.” (P.S. A few weeks ago, I peeked into the hollowed-out shell of the old restaurant and did see the three red-leatherette banquettes and the bar under plastic wrap.) Forget local musicians singing Sinatra, though. The Halyard has a deal with Joe’s Pub in Manhattan to send touring musicians out our way.

Why the North Fork?

“I met my wife on the North Fork 15 years ago—at the short-lived-but-ahead-of-its-time Trummer Home on Main Street. Since then, we have spent our summer there, says Zamarra, adding, “I love the region’s niche in the food culture.”

As for the Sound View itself, he says, “It was full of potential, with opportunities beyond just a stand-alone restaurant.”

Status

Should be opening any day; check first (soundviewgreenport.com)


Barba Bianca
Barba Bianca

Barba Bianca

The Big Deal

The tucked-away dockside setting that housed Scrimshaw is now Barba Bianca, from one of New York’s most venerated chefs: Frank DeCarlo, owner of Peasant (and Bacara), who installed a wood-fired oven at his Nolita restaurant some 20 years ago and helped start the trend, at least on the East Coast, for grilled pizza, vegetables, and seafood. Peasant caught on quickly, especially among fellow chefs, who turned it into an after-hours hangout where they could go to sip wine, grab a pasta, and kvetch after their own restaurants had closed for the day.

What to Expect

You can easily spot Frank’s barba bianca (white beard) by looking down the long dining room toward the kitchen at the landmark red barn on Preston’s Wharf that used to be Scrimshaw. It’s not the best view, perhaps, in a room outfitted with windows looking out on the harbor that grows even more expansive outside on the deck. On a balmy evening, with boats bobbing and summer breezes threatening to blow your napkins overboard, you might be thinking Portofino rather than Greenport.  Brooklyn won’t come up at all.

Typical of the food at the latest wave of North Fork restaurants, this menu is sourced from North Fork farms, foragers, and fishermen. It’s also full of fish—whole-roasted porgy (the East End version of a Mediterranean orata), skate, bluefish—and coastal Italian specialties like fried zucchini blossoms with ricotta spilling from inside and spaghetti flecked with blue crab. Olive oil, though, will be imported from Italy.

Why the North Fork?

“My wife is from here. We have a house on Shelter Island. I used to dream about cooking inside that beautiful red shack at the end of the pier in Greenport. Now I’m doing just that,” says DeCarlo.

Status

Open for dinner, Thursday through Monday, into the fall, with cocktails and canapés on the deck from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting (barbabiancany.com)

If you’re looking for Rosa Ross, the former chef-owner of Scrimshaw, she’s cranking up her red dumpling truck with chef Gregg Ling from Industry Standard on Front Street, to be ready later in August. Ross also does the occasional pop-up at her home in East Marion, with one in the works for an upcoming weekend. Call 646.234.8837 or email rosaross@aol.com for details.


Port chef Mike Fortino
Port chef Mike Fortino

Port

The Big Deal

Who wasn’t sad when the outdoor space formerly occupied by Blue Canoe sat empty last year? To the rescue this summer: Salt, the restaurant at the Island Boatyard on Shelter Island that’s owned by Alison and Keith Bavaro, who live on Shelter Island year-round.

What to Expect

Port will be a close cousin of Salt, with the same type of menu but with lots of room for individual interpretation, says Alison Bavaro. Example: Both serve chowder, but Salt does a classic with clams while executive chef at Port, Mike Fortino, prepares one with scallops and corn roux. Of the almost 200 seats, more than two thirds are outside, all the better to watch the ferries coming and going on a lazy August evening.

Why the North Fork?

“We saw the place sitting vacant, and it broke our hearts,” says Alison Bavaro, who thinks it’s great that so many well-known chefs are coming out from New York. “We all want to celebrate our local bounty.”

Status

Open; no reservations (portbarandgrill.com)


The Olive Branch Café: Coming Soon

Olive Branch Café

The Big Deal

A new restaurant in the courtyard space on Front Street, right across from Mitchell Park, from restaurateur Yusuf Alptekin, a Turkish chef, originally from Izmir, who says he’s cooked in 26 countries. (Maybe you’ve seen the Olive Branch sign on the bench at the entrance to the courtyard, which has been up for months.)

What to Expect

Turkish food, sure, but also Greek. Lots of Mediterranean, plus French, Italian, Spanish, a little Middle Eastern, all in three different spaces in the courtyard, with one a self-serve operation.

Why the North Fork

“My wife, Michelle, and I were visiting and we fell in love with Greenport. I grew up in a big city. No more. I want the ocean, the clean air, the nice people. I want to cook for nice people in our nice family restaurant.”

Status

Could be opening this month, but check first.


Drossos owner Elaine Fredricksson (center) with counter staff Elizabeth Clark (l) and Angie Bucci (r) with the Jenni’s at Drossos pop-up menu.
Drossos owner Elaine Fredricksson (center) with counter staff Elizabeth Clark (l) and Angie Bucci (r) with the Jenni’s at Drossos pop-up menu.

Something to Nibble On…

Jennie Wertz says she remembers miniature golf at Drossos every summer, and even though the chef now lives in New York, she’ll be out east every weekend through Labor Day for Jennie’s at Drossos, a pop-up at the classic 1950s Drossos Motel on Route 25 (Saturday and Sunday; jenniesatdrossos.com). Fish tacos, tempura broccoli, Korean BBQ, and duck schnitzel are some of the high-end snacks you might find on the menu. And, yeah, you can still get a corn dog from the same window at Drossos Snack Bar.

Back in the Greenport Village, Marie Eiffel has landed at the Greenport Theater, serving the same sandwiches, salads, and baked goods you’ll find across the water at Marie Eiffel Market on Shelter Island (marieeiffelmarket.com).

And stay tuned… Greenport is heading west. Lucharitos is opening a smaller place on the Main Road in Aquebogue later in August with the same Mexican dishes as the Greenport restaurant.


William Sertl

William Sertl was the travel editor of Gourmet until its closure in 2009, and worked as an editor for Saveur and Travel & Leisure. A native of St. Louis, he escaped to New York City early and is now hiding out in Cutchogue, where he swims in the bay, bikes to King Kullen and does yoga.


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