Greenport Gets Serious About Dining

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Peconic escargot roasted in their shells with garlic, butter and herbs from Paw-Paw in Greenport. Katelyn Knapp photo

Baskets of fried clams and Peconic Bay scallops, steamed lobsters with lemon, and no-fuss burgers with classic toppings and fries populated the traditional menu of Greenport’s once short list of restaurants. A decade ago, few places, if any, were open in the veritable offseason. By the time the Chowder Pot Pub closed its harborside doors after more than three decades of serving this conventional local fare, Greenport’s dining landscape had begun to slowly change as new and young chefs found their place, offering their own interpretations of seaside culture through creative plates. Flavorful, smoky broths replaced white wine and garlic in steamed mussels. Organic and biodynamic greens became main ingredients, and fish found a new home in everything from tacos to pâté. The Frisky Oyster was the first restaurant in recent memory to offer fine dining in the village, bringing an almost-Hamptons vibe to a fisherman’s town. Seafood-inspired small plates, elevated dining experiences, gastropubs and specialty coffee shops and cuisine found their way east, shifting Greenport out of its storied sleepy seaside town paradigm into a full-fledged dining destination. Its evolution has been fast-tracked as several new restaurants ready to open their doors this summer season.

Noah Schwartz, the owner and chef of Noah’s on Front Street.

The customer’s interest in creative cuisine has been a leading change that has driven Greenport’s eateries and offerings forward. When chef Noah Schwartz opened his eponymous restaurant in the winter of 2010, he was among the first wave of younger chefs creating inspired dishes that used the same popular, local fare in a new way. Seasonal local and regional ingredients inspired small plate dishes like Tasmanian red crab salad, a clam chowder pulling the best qualities of New England and Manhattan, and steamed PEI mussels with a hazelnut Romesco broth.

Coming from Napa to the East End, Schwartz knew he would focus on seafood, a cuisine he is passionate about, but wanted to be sure not to pigeon-hole Noah’s as seafood-only. There’s a mix of traditional and creativity the restaurant offers to suit multiple palates. “We called it what we thought was creative at the time, ‘seafood-inspired small plates and raw bar,’” Schwartz explains. “We left the window open to incorporate other dishes.”

Welcoming creative competition, Schwartz finds the addition of several new restaurants brings more traffic to the area while still leaving a gap in certain types of cuisine. “What we’re really lacking is ethnic foods,” he explains. “That’s one thing I really like to do, is have good Indian food, Korean barbecue, traditional Thai, but none of that exists out here. I think it is pretty varied as far as different types of American and New American. As far as being varied as all of the different types of cuisine out there in the world, our area still has a long way to go.”

In just the last five years, options have diversified slightly to include places like Stirling Sake, an authentic Japanese restaurant that combines its traditional culture with the farm-to-table aspect. The PawPaw popup at Bruce and Son, helmed by chef Taylor Knapp and wife Katelynn, takes advantage of the food farmed, fished and foraged on the East End to create a constantly changing tasting menu. The Olive Branch Café highlights the traditional plates of various Mediterranean countries, like tarators of beets, carrots, kale or spinach inspired by France, Italy  and Greece.  The spectrum of Latin American cuisine ranges from Lucharitos’ Mexican-American version of tacos and burritos to Tikal’s traditional and casual Guatemalan offerings. Barba Bianca brings an elevated and creative version of Italian food to the North Fork, connecting the idea of farms to Italian food, with chef Frank DeCarlo opting for sustainable seafood dishes like grilled bluefish or fried eel.

Sarah Phillips Loth with Mynor Ortega. Madison Fender photo

This range is what has made the Village of Greenport a destination, according to First and South owner Sarah Phillips Loth. In her own restaurant, she collaborates daily with chef Mynor Ortega to walk the fine line of what they want to make and what the customers will want to eat. Staples like a good burger and fries provide a sense of familiarity while creative dishes pique a guest’s interest, perhaps inspiring them to try something new. The classic beef tartare one would see at Smith and Wollensky’s is reimagined with an Asian flair as a Korean style with soy, daikon radish, cucumber and Bibb lettuce, bringing a health aspect to the dish. Served with a homemade potato chip, the different elements of the dish are essentially the same thing you can do with a burger.

Beef Tartare from First and South.

In a seasonal area like the North Fork, many chefs are working hand-in-hand with the people growing the food that exists out here. It’s a must on menus to offer asparagus in the spring or squash and zucchini in the summer. Phillips Loth endeavors to make people understand why these dishes are on their menus. “We are a causal and approachable place and we want our price points to be family friendly, and at the same time we want to provide people with food that we ourselves want to eat,” she says. “We want to cultivate people in the future to continue to drive sustainability, organic, and biodynamic, and at least know what’s behind the plate.”

Phillips Loth shares a given — there will never be enough restaurants on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Choosing her own favorite place depends on the day and mood. The clean, neat, and communicative menus of Stirling Sake fill a craving for sushi and Japanese staples, while the fresh and creative brick-oven pizza and Italian-inspired dishes at 1943 Pizza Bar are a great accompaniment to a revolving menu of craft beers or, downstairs at Brix and Rye, a thoughtfully designed cocktail.

During a survey in 2018 of Greenport’s businesses for the Business Improvement District, Estefany Molina counted more than 55 eateries, including coffee shops like Aldo’s and D’Latte, Sterlington Deli with its bacon-packed breakfast sandwiches, and the North Fork’s first brewery, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. Some places have now closed to make room for new restaurants, the dreaded turnover in tourist destinations.

Ellen’s on Front led by Chef Jennie Werts will replace Salamander’s, bringing Asian and Latin-influenced comfort food, including a take on her own popular version of fried chicken with a sweet tea brine and hot sauce honey butter. Terra by American Beech will maintain a tapas-style menu in the former Basso space, while the Taste Boutique clothing store is set to become Pearl restaurant. Anker, a seafood-centric restaurant utilizing a daily catch and focusing on light, bright and clean flavors, is replacing Deep Water Bar and Grill. This restaurant will be the third in the Green Hill Group’s portfolio, which includes neighbor Industry Standard and Green Hill Kitchen across the street.

Wolfgang Ban of Green Hill Kitchen Industry Standard. Madison Fender photo

“We’re inspired by the incredible ingredients available to us here from surrounding farms and waters,” shares Green Hill Group executive chef Wolfgang Ban. “The abundance of local, seasonal North Fork ingredients is one of the many reasons why we chose to make our home in Greenport. Right now, we’re especially excited to see the first hints of spring arrive — ramps, nettles, rhubarb, morels.”

Industry Standard, purchased by the group in 2018, serves as a low-key neighborhood bar. Green Hill Kitchen, opened in 2018, was designed to fall between a tavern and chophouse, offering homemade sausages, house-cured bacon, and grilled and smoked fish and meats. It also launched as a music venue, in part inspired by Amagansett’s Stephen Talkhouse.

Fresh fish tacos from Jennie’s at Drossos.

“In designing these restaurants, we’ve looked at what our colleagues are already doing well here, and then set out to create experiences that we hope will only add to the culinary landscape,” shares owner Robin Mueller, who likes to grab a burrito from Tikal or a Happy Hipster smoothie at The Market during a rare break. “Of course, a big piece of that is keep it local and seasonal, celebrating area farms and Long Island waters.”

Brand new is not something that comes easily to Greenport. Most of the structures have been in place for decades, undergoing renovations as new ownership takes hold. Completely new from the ground up, The Menhaden hotel plays to both its audience and the community. A nod to the village’s fishing roots, the hotel’s name is a simple yet profound way of emphasizing their desire to add to the culture of Greenport.

Peconic Bay oysters on the half shell from Little Creek Oyster Farm and Market.

Contrasting white and black inside and out, the boutique hotel and restaurant is clean, bright and sophisticated, yet approachable to guests and locals. Standing in the restaurant space as it undergoes final construction, owner Kristen Pennessi shares that while they are still working out their own details, they are inspired and amazed by what other restaurants are doing. Little Creek Oyster Farm is one of her all-time favorites and as the mother of two young children, The Frisky Oyster is her choice for a rare date night. With this in mind, The Menhaden aims to offer something a little different as a hotel lounge bar.

“Our space is very loungey and casual, with low slung seating and cocktail tables,” she explains. “We have our bar and we are focused mostly on our wine menu, cocktails and small, locally sourced fresh small plates with 12 to 15 rotating dishes.”

Kristen Pennessi of The Menhaden. Madison Fender photo

Local fish and homemade pastas will add to a more Mediterranean theme. A retail space with a coffee counter and grab-and-go sandwiches, salads and freshly prepared snacks will cater to beach and boat crowds. Though the rooftop bar with harbor views is only available to hotel guests, as per the village, The Menhaden hopes to add to the feeling of a different experience, menu, and atmosphere found at other restaurants in the area when they plan to open pre-Memorial Day.

To talk about Greenport’s dining renaissance, one of the oldest establishments and previously the oldest family-run restaurant in the country, Claudio’s, cannot be overlooked. A trifecta of a classic seafood restaurant, the popular Clam Bar on the wharf that brings scores of tourists and locals out in summer months, and the more laidback Crabby Jerry’s make up a unique compound that has long defined Greenport tourism. This, too, has changed though when the restaurant was sold in 2018. Helmed by Seasoned Hospitality’s Stephen Loffredo and Tora Matsuoka, maintaining the restaurant group’s legacy while breathing new life into the guest experience is a delicate venture.

Comfortably familiar dishes with a subtle hint of creativity maintain the historic waterfront property’s atmosphere. Classic or Connecticut style lobster rolls, 1.5 to 5-pound steamed or broiled lobsters, crispy calamari with miso dipping and tomato sauces, and non-seafood dishes like chicken under a brick and beer-marinated porterhouse pork chop are comforting options. Matsuoka is thrilled by the opportunity to join the movement and support the progression of Greenport’s culinary revolution.

Tora Matsuoka of Claudio’s.

“Our menus will continue to feature classic American fare influenced by Greenport’s seaside lifestyle incorporating the fresh, bright ingredients of the surrounding bounty,” Matsuoka shares as the culinary program continues to be defined. “We are increasing our emphasis on local and seasonal seafood, as well – we’re blessed to be so close to the source! By partnering with local companies and fishermen, like Haskell’s Seafood, we hope to feature local, hyper-fresh products that are season-specific and sustainable.”

Interspersed, though not as prevalent, are casual eateries part of everyday life, like the usual Italian-American pizza places, Chinese takeout spots and Spanish delis. Here you’ll find the native locals and restaurateurs who sometimes just want something simple. Grabbing something to go or finding a place to socialize, Greenport’s establishments go hand-in-hand to inspire one another.

“You can play off each other, figure stuff out, and do stuff that they’re not doing,” Phillips Loth says of the relationships various chefs and owners have with one another. “Sometimes seeing someone else’s menu reminds you of things you’re not doing that aren’t even on their menu. You’re like oh, right, I forgot that was a food group.”

Though changing with new talent coming in and established businesses working to maintain a sense of creativity and newness, the Greenport dining landscape remains very much a community-centric machine inspired by its waterfront location and neighboring farmlands.

Quick Bites

 

Thin crust, wood-fired white pie with potato, red onion and rosemary.

1943 Pizza Bar

Creative brick oven pizza, salads and a rotation of Italian-inspired plates are an easy takeout choice.

Barbecue Duck Nachos from Lucharitos.

Lucharitos

Grab tacos, nachos and burritos seven days a week at the busy family-friendly restaurant by ordering online through ChowNow.

Egg sandwich packed with crispy bacon and smothered in melting cheese.

Sterlington Deli

Since the 1980s, Sterlington Deli has been a staple for bacon-packed sandwiches and lunch to go in Greenport.

Chef Jennie Wert’s fried chicken.

Jennie’s at Drossos

Just outside the village, the popup serves Asian and Latin-inspired American fare to be enjoyed at a classic mini golf course. Fried chicken is a must.

Warm spiced grilled chicken and handmade pupas with bean, port and cheese.

Rose Deli

Authentic Latin American cuisine at Rose Deli is an affordable option for hot dishes like homemade pupas and fried chicken.

Something to Wash It All Down With

A quartet of new specialty crafted cocktails for an old port town

 

Photo by David Benthal

Oaxaca Thyme Old Fashioned by Jon Cepelak of Industry Standard

  • 1 oz reposado tequila
  • 1 oz mezcal
  • ½ oz thyme simple syrup
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Stir, serve over large ice cube
  • Orange peel and charred thyme sprigs for garnish

“I used reposed to complement the smokiness of the mezcal, creating a balance of the two spirits. Traditional Old Fashioned recipes infuse raw or simple sugar into bourbon or rye. I thought the botanical notes of the mezcal would benefit from an herbal syrup — in this case thyme — for a somewhat mellow, nicely balanced cocktail. Charred thyme and an orange peel lend a beautiful garnish and aroma.” – John Cepelak

Bright Flight by Evan Bucholz of Brix and Rye

  • 1 oz Tapatio Tequila 110
  • ½ oz Kina L’aero D’or
  • ½ oz Yuzushu
  • ¾ oz lime juice
  • ¼ oz simple syrup (1:1)
  • 1 drop saline solution or small pinch of salt
  • 2 drops absinthe
  • Combine all ingredients in a shaker, strain into an ice filled highball glass top with 1 ½ oz chilled club soda garnish with a grapefruit twist

“The elevated proof of the tequila helps lift the drink while still only using an ounce. The salt and absinthe are almost imperceptible, used to create a kind of dramatic tension in flavor. Like small amounts of salt in food. Elevates the other flavors.” – Evan Bucholz

Pomelo Quemada “The Scorched Grapefruit” by Shannon O’Shea of The Frisky Oyster

  • 2 oz Casamigos Reposado
  • 2 oz smoked pink grapefruit juice
  • ½ oz lime juice
  • ¼ oz Giffard Pamplemousse
  • Splash of agave
  • Salted rim

“The Pomelo Quemada is a bright yet rustic cocktail with well-balanced citrus notes and the lingering smoke of charred grapefruit. Casimigos reposed serves as the backbone of this drink, imparting a rich caramel and agave flavor.” – Shannon O’Shea

Rhu-Boo Boock by Taylor May of American Beech

  • 1 ½ oz Tito’s Vodka
  • ¾ oz house-made rhubarb jam
  • Dash lemon juice
  • Top with ginger kombucha and serve over ice

“Using locally brewed kombucha and house-made rhubarb jam, the Rhu-Boo Booch is what we would choose to sip on a beautiful spring day. With spicy ginger, tangy rhubarb, acidic vinegar and sweet jam, this drink is anything but lacking flavor. As far as we’re concerned, drinking one of these counts as a serving of veggies, so it’s guilt free, right?” – Taylor May

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