Shelter Island Restaurant Review: Vine Street Café

Black Sea Bass Ceviche at Vine Street Cafe.
Black Sea Bass Ceviche at Vine Street Cafe. Photo credit: Stacy Dermont

Last year my boss said he was going to review Vine Street Café on Shelter Island because it’s one of his favorite places. Then he was promoted to CEO. To say that he is a busy man would be a gross understatement.

When the one-year mark rolled around since he’d promised to do the review, I made a reservation. Vine Street is one of my favorites too. I embrace the great service, the white interior with woodland details and that funky Euro music. And then there’s the food…that sophisticated, well-edited menu that changes with the seasons.

Long renowned for their Chateaubriand for Two with house steak sauce, Vine Street has another über popular entrée these days—their oven fried Chicken Fried Chicken with cheddar grits and greens (sautéed kale). It’s deliciously easy to see why this dish is a hit—crispy outside, very moist and tender breast meat inside. Grits don’t usually float my boat but these are remarkably creamy-smooth. Comfort food extraordinaire. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I started with Vine Street’s excellent Roasted Beet Salad with crumbled bleu cheese, arugula, Bermuda onion, lemon, parsley, EVOO, a bit of radicchio and chopped walnuts. The key is the pickling of the local beets. Vine Street takes it farther than most, right into the piquant pleasure zone.

Vine Street Beet Salad.
Vine Street Beet Salad. Photo credit: Stacy Dermont

Vine Street also offers some local wines from Paumanok Vineyards, Lenz Winery and Sparkling Pointe.

My husband took an unusual path and started with an American Jackalope—it’s a cocktail, not a beast, comprised of Laird’s applejack (the Garden State’s contribution to hard ciders), ginger beer and peach bitters. He commented on bartender Clint Skeen’s creation, “Hmmm…it speaks to my Jersey roots. It’s nice, the ginger gives it a refreshing kind of heat.”

We shared a Black Sea Bass Ceviche, cured with leche de tigre and served with watermelon radish, jicama and mango. It was excellent—just what we’ve come to expect from Vine Street, one of the best “neighborhood places” anywhere.

Husband only needed slight encouragement from our upbeat server Ryan to indulge in Vine Street’s American caviar program. He began his “study” with some Californian caviar that he said had a bit of a pleasant zip. I helped him eat two plates of the warm blini.

Vine Street Caviar.
Vine Street Caviar. Photo credit: Stacy Dermont

Then he needed some octopus—Wood Grilled Atlantic Octopus with chickpea salad. He found the cephalopod “nicely charred. Very good.”

Ryan suggested a bright, fruit-forward BonAnno red if Husband was considering the steak. Husband agreed to go with red wine and red meat and ordered the Painted Hills New York Strip, served with a classic bordelaise sauce, thin pommes frites and garlic aioli. As if this wasn’t enough, Ryan deposited a gravy boat of Vine Street’s Black Truffle Mushroom Sauce. Wow. They could call this “crack sauce!” Luckily, this mind-blowing sauce is NOT one of the many products that Vine Street now bottles and offers for sale at the VSC Market at the back of the restaurant. (Otherwise, I would be gorging on it daily.) But I’ve been assured that their wonderful mushroom Bolognese sauce IS available from the Market and is 100% vegan. Thank you, chef de cuisine Gilberto Chico and owners Lisa and Chef Terry Harwood, you just made my holiday shopping into a one-stop affair.

Vine Street Café, 41 South Ferry Road, Shelter Island, 631-749-3210,

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