Patrons who visit the popular Cooperage Inn in Calverton are greeted with a warm atmosphere filled with the mouthwatering aroma of delicious comfort food guests have come to love.
Now, after more than two decades in business, adding to that allure is the newly established NoFo Pot Pies window. NoFo Pot Pies, the brainchild of Jonathan Perkins, who owns the Cooperage Inn with his wife Rene, takes the same pot pies that customers have enjoyed for decades, and allows patrons to take them to-go. The pies come frozen and need to be baked in the oven for 70 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the pie. The result is a flaky, warm and decadent restaurant quality pot pie fresh at home.
“We’re educating the customers so they know the Cooperage Inn pot pie that they have had for over 20 years now is NoFo Pot Pies. But they’re the same pies,” Perkins says. “We have the staff wearing NoFo Pot Pie shirts as part of their uniform now to increase brand awareness.”
The idea of serving these pot pies to-go came to fruition during the pandemic, a tough period for all restaurants who were forced to close for dining, and later operate at reduced capacity. Perkins, who with his team fed the local hospital for free for two months and was later able to seat 100 diners instead of 200, wanted to experiment with the pot pies more. At the time, the Cooperage Inn was only serving chicken pot pies.
Now, the Cooperage Inn, and NoFo Pot Pies, offers flavors ranging from original chicken, turkey, vegetarian, short rib and even sweet pies.
“I decided (during the pandemic) to change things up here and there and now I’m running two businesses in one,” Perkins says. “We have never been this busy. We’re trying to get a finger on why.”
Perhaps, the reason the Cooperage Inn is so busy is because people simply love the food, which utilizes produce from local farms owned by friends of Perkins. The use of local produce is why the Cooperage Inn has diverse offerings depending on the seasons; whether it’s a strawberry shortcake in June or apple desserts in the fall.
Another reason the restaurant is so popular could be that many restaurants on the East End close once winter comes. And the Cooperage Inn certainly offers a warm ambience with seasonal decorations arranged by Rene Perkins.
Perkins says that much inspiration comes from the Vermont lodges they frequented as avid skiers.
“Rene is such a genius with decorating,” says hostess Karen Otano, who has been at the Cooperage Inn for approximately 13 years. “So it’s a lovely place to work and a lovely place to eat.”
Before the Cooperage Inn was what it is today, it was a smaller restaurant that originally opened in the 1960s called Bernie’s that, after new ownership, had a name change to the Cooperage Inn in 1994.
In the late ’90s, Perkins, who has been in the restaurant business for 45 years, had been looking for a spot to open up a new restaurant on his beloved North Shore, when he stumbled upon the Cooperage Inn.
“We walked in,” Perkins says. “My wife and I went to the bar and started chatting with them, and then one thing led to another and we were able to purchase the property.”
Twenty-three years later, the building, the ambiance and the food the Cooperage Inn serves are much different. A sizable extension was added to the restaurant in 2002, with a kitchen extension put in this year for the NoFo Pot Pies business.
The menu developed by Perkins and main Head Chef Jeff Russell has kept the Cooperage Inn busy all year round.
“We really haven’t changed much from what the concept was in the beginning, which was really comfort food and catering to the diners,” Perkins says. “You can come in here for a special occasion or you can come in here and have a pot pie, ribs or a sandwich.”
The Cooperage Inn is located at 2218 Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow. It can be reached at 631-727-8994 or cooperageinn.com