When Jim Dreeben of Peconic Paddler in Riverhead eats out, he shares his findings with his friends and customers. Since he’s been in business for over 50 years, Dreeben has the inside scoop on the East End’s eateries, including many in Hampton Bays.
To work up a hearty appetite, Dreeben suggests paddling through Red Creek and Shinnecock Bays, a swim in the Atlantic or a jog over the new Ponquogue Bridge.
According to Dreeben, “you can see fist-sized baby seagulls on an island 200 yards east of the Old Ponquogue Bridge. Best time to do so: June 22 until about July 10. In the wetlands and marshes to the west of Dockers Waterside, there are so many birds that Alfred Hitchcock could make a movie and call it The Birds. We look at the birds by kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP). Tropical fish are swimming in the water in Shinnecock Bay on the east side of the inlet. We bring snorkels and flippers in our hatches and go there by sea kayaks starting just south of the Coast Guard Station.”
Here are Dreeben’s latest Hampton Bays dining suggestions:
Backbar Grille on the way to the Old Ponquogue Bridge Marine Park has unbelievably delicious tuna tacos, New England clam chowder, steamed lobster and great burgers. They have half-off burgers on Tuesdays and half-price drinks during happy hour, including the B-52, Almond Joy and merlot. My favorite: the tuna tacos, a small Caesar salad, a salmon BLT and a pint of dark beer. (And you can pick up a printout of Jim Dreeben’s most recent dining picks from this eatery.) 78 Foster Avenue, 631-728-2208, backbargrille.com
Edgewater Restaurant on Route 27A, a half mile east of the Shinnecock Canal, serves an unbelievably yummy roasted corn salad in the summertime, and, paired with a bowl of PEI muscles and a pint, you will have died and gone to heaven. They also make delicious linguini with white clam sauce, lobster pasta and potato gnocchi. Finish up with Baileys on the rocks or a hot cappuccino. 295 East Montauk Highway, 631-723-2323, edgewaterrestaurant.com
Hampton Bays Diner is the place to go for breakfast. They can make bacon, eggs (over medium), home fries and whole-wheat toast so fast that it’s on my table before I can swallow half a cup of coffee. Orange juice is included; unlimited coffee; friendly service. 157 West Montauk Highway, 631-728-0840
1 North Steakhouse is about one mile west of Route 24. I order delicious bacon-wrapped scallops, the prime beef burger with onion rings and a glass of draft beer. They have a prix fixe menu on Tuesday nights and prime rib dinner on Thursdays. 322 West Montauk Highway, 631-594-3419, 1northsteakhouse.com
Panera Bread is a very good value. I love all of their food and they give me a free, bonus pastry after I drink about two gallons of their coffee. For breakfast, try the Ham, Egg & Cheese Power Sandwich; only 340 calories. For lunch, the Classic
with Chicken Salad has just 300 calories. The Low Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup has only 230 calories. Located in the Hampton Bays Shopping Center, 180 West Montauk Highway, 631-728-3101, panerabread.com
Rumba on Canoe Place Road serves the best guacamole and cheese and Ahi tuna appetizers. I love their jerk chicken and Dominican ribs entrées. Rumba makes refreshing sangria and rum punch by the pitcher and by the mason jar. Sit outside for a beautiful view of the Shinnecock Bay. Best way to get to Rumba is by kayak or SUP. Leave your car by the old bridge. 43 Canoe Place Road, 631-594-3544, rumbarumbar.com
Villa Paul Restaurant, 162 West Montauk Highway, has been serving great food for many decades. My favorite meal is the escargot appetizer, roast Long Island duckling with cherry sauce, house salad with bleu cheese dressing, a Beefeater martini (with three olives) and peach melba for dessert. We like to sit by the warm, romantic fireplace and eat and drink slowly; the food is so good. 162 West Montauk Highway, 631-728-3261, villapaulrestaurant.com