The current revival of Riverhead, notably marked by the newly restored art deco 1930s Suffolk Theater and a spruced-up Peconic Riverfront, as well as by the opening of a handful of new restaurants and bars, has brought new energy to the area.
Tweed’s Restaurant & Buffalo Bar is a landmark location among these new places, having opened in 1896 as the restaurant and bar of the J.J. Sullivan Hotel. The restaurant’s Victorian chandeliers, stained glass, original stamped tin ceiling and oak-mantled fireplace provide a cozy, welcoming atmosphere for fine dining. On a Friday evening, there was simply no better place to be than sitting comfortably in a booth, my fellow diner across from me in a very comfortable armchair (from the original Stork Club in New York City), under dim lighting. Like a small-scale university club, it exuded history and familiarity. Live music played softly, allowing conversation to take presidence. Taking it all in, I began with a glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay—a personal favorite I was pleased to find on the wine list. There are times in life when ordering what’s local, organic or correct in pairing with a certain dish ceases to matter. Oftentimes, this is after a long week. Had I been so inclined, I would have gone with the Lenz Merlot “Tweed’s Label.” The wine list is impressive but not overwhelming and prices by the glass were refreshingly what they ought to be.
Naturally, we began our culinary adventure with Bison Kebobs, served with Tweed’s own homemade BBQ sauce. Owner Edwin Tuccio’s bison farm isn’t far from the restaurant. Started in 1985 with 2 bison, North Quarter Farm now has a herd of over 300 bison. The bison kebobs were so delicious and flavorful that we didn’t even bother with the BBQ sauce. The meat slides right off the skewer and melts in your mouth like filet mignon. Bison, we learned, is also significantly lower in fat and cholesterol than chicken, beef and pork. Being a bit of a bore, I also ordered the shrimp with guacamole appetizer, since the combination sounded like a good one. To my delight, the shrimp were perfectly firm, making not only for a good bite but also as a good utensil for the creamy guac.
Up next was something the chef highly recommended—Baked Bison Bone Marrow. Two giant bones arrived on a plate—well, one, cut horizontally like a butternut squash. Two toasted pieces of garlic bread accompanied the bones, with a little espresso spoon to scoop out the marrow and smear it on the bread. My fellow diner voraciously devoured the marrow while my timid spoonful was enough for me to tell you bison bone marrow is rich and a lot like condensed beef broth. Marrow is known to be a “superfood”—rich in calcium, sulfur, iron, potassium, as well as collagen and gelatin.
For the main course, it was a toss up between the highly recommended roasted quail, roasted lamb chop and the prime rib, and every other mouth-watering land and sea entrée on the menu. I balanced my company’s red meat selection of New York Strip with my choice of lobster ravioli—which were above and beyond any lobster ravs I’ve ever come across. Atop fresh cheese-stuffed pasta (and not too much cheese) was a sauce so filled with meaty lobster it was as if the ravioli was the bed of lettuce beneath a burger. Each luscious bite of lobster was doused in a savory tomato sauce that was bursting with flavor. Upon finishing the lobster, I had barely eaten any of the ravioli and asked for them to-go. (They were fantastic heated up the next day for lunch.) There was no New York Strip left
to take home.
Tweed’s Restaurant & Buffalo Bar at the J.J. Sullivan Hotel is located at 17 East Main Street, Riverhead. Call 631-208-3151 or visit tweedsrestaurant.com.