Summer Dining: What’s New on the North Fork

Big changes are in store for the North Fork’s dining scene this summer, and each one promises to be as delicious as it is exciting. New restaurants, new locations and new menus will make exploring the North Fork a mouthwatering endeavor.

Among the summer’s highlights will be The Square in Greenport, where renowned chef and North Fork native Keith Luce will be turning the North Fork Oyster Company and historic Sterling Square into his own culinary village. “We want to showcase the beauty of the square,” Luce said. “It’s the kind of place that I would go and frequent myself.”

Main Restaurant and Oyster Bar, which will take over the former North Fork Oyster Company space as The Square’s centerpiece, will be a casual-fine dining restaurant. “We’re going to source great ingredients and great technique, but the concept will be American comfort food, with a twist.”

Next door to Main will be Luce’s flatbread shop, called Prep, which will serve handmade flatbreads and cured meats, and across the square, in the former Sweet Spot bakery, will be Nosh, serving coffee, tea and desserts. Finally, the Meat tasting room and shop on Main Street will offer tasting flights of artisan wines, beers and distilled spirits.

The Square will frequently host live music events, as well. “Music’s a really important part of my life and who I am, so it’s something we’re going to try to do as much as we can,” Luce said.

Also in Greenport, Claudia Helinski will be moving her famous Salamander’s General Store, home of the finest fried chicken on the North Fork, to Front Street. The new space will feature a mezzanine with added seating, a small bar that will serve craft cocktails and artisanal bitters, and an expanded menu. “We’re going to add a bistro menu with steak frites, grilled fish, local vegetables, and of course, we’ll always have our fried chicken,” Helinski said, revealing plans to have Salamander’s in its new location by June, just in time for the summer crowds. “I’m so happy for Greenport,” Helinski added. “It’s becoming a real food destination.”

Salamander’s Front Street neighbor Noah’s has also expanded and is unveiling a new late night lounge for the summer. After two successful seasons owner and Executive Chef Noah Schwartz has expanded into the vacant art gallery next door. An open wall and wrap-around bar now connect the original dining room and expanded area, which features a cocktail lounge seating area and a private room available to rent for parties.

Other new additions in Greenport include Blue Canoe Oyster Bar & Grill, a casual seafood spot on 3rd Street; Lucharitos Taqueria & Tequila Bar, a Baja-style eatery with authentic dishes and a fun atmosphere in the former Butta Cakes bakery (but same owner!) on Main Street; and the new Artisan Shoppe, featuring a bounty of locally produced artisanal foodstuffs on Main Street.

In downtown Riverhead, Maple Tree Deli saw an opportunity in the down economy, and emerged a tasty success. “We’ve always wanted to do this,” said owner Kevin Judge. “The economy went bust, and we decided that the only way out was to build and to specialize, and that’s what we did—we specialized in barbecue.”

The new Maple Tree, which features country-style seating, both inside and out on the Peconic River, as well as take-out and catering, has an all-new barbecue menu smoked and prepared on-premises. “It’s really interesting fare. We’re not just talking chicken and ribs,” Judge said, noting Maple Tree plans to add dinner service with beer, wine and cider for the summer.

While the economy may be looking up, a number of businesses weren’t as lucky when it came to Superstorm Sandy. One historic restaurant in particular, the Galley Ho in New Suffolk, was nearly destroyed. “It was 18 feet from the bulkhead,” said Barbara Schnitzler, Chair of the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund. “When the bulkhead failed, we lost a lot of foundation.” The Galley Ho Café won’t open until next June, after repairs to the bulkhead and foundation are complete.

Baiting Hollow’s Cooperage Inn has better news this summer. The restaurant will open a new Craft Beer Garden on Saturdays and Sundays at noon. Patrons can enjoy local and imported microbrews, a pub grub menu, music and more in an outdoor setting, starting Memorial Day weekend.

For those who like to eat truly delicious fare while  on the go, North Fork Table & Inn in Southold is introducing lunch boxes for the summer season. The new lunch boxes will be available for pick-up at the North Fork Table & Inn Lunch Truck Thursday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and they’re ideal for vineyard and beach picnics. For $20, boxes include a soup, salad or sandwich selection, North Fork Potato Chips, bottled spring water and one of Claudia Fleming’s chocolate chip cookies—now that’s what we call dining out!

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