Grapevines heavy with ripe fruit, fields of pumpkins waiting to be picked, towering mazes of corn -- not to mention the intoxicating aroma of roasting corn. The North Fork is at its most alluring during the fall.
Since there is no excursion that isn't improved by the right meal, we have suggestions to suit every itinerary, whether you're looking for picnic provisions, a midafternoon treat, a casual lunch or a romantic dinner for two.
Comtesse Thérèse Bistro, 739 Main Rd., Aquebogue; 631-779-280
Comtesse Thérèse is the only winery on the North Fork that hosts a full-scale restaurant. Arie Pavlou, the bistro's French-trained chef, relies on local produce and fish. Try the onion soup, made with local duck broth. The wine list offers a dozen Comtesse Thérèse wines by the glass or bottle.
When Dinner Wednesday to Sunday, lunch Saturday and Sunday.
Braun's Seafood 2 Go, 30840 Main Rd., Cutchogue; 631-734-5550
Cutchogue's venerable fish market runs this casual eatery, where the outdoor dining room consists of about a dozen tables, some under a big tent, others looking out over the vineyards of neighboring Peconic Bay Winery. Here's the place to enjoy fresh, unadorned seafood. In addition to daily specials, the menu includes raw clams, steamed mussels, fried oysters, peel- and-eat shrimp and grilled swordfish, plus burgers and the like for kids.
When Wednesday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Jamesport Vineyards, 1216 Main Rd., Jamesport; 631-722-5256
Jamesport Vineyards' tasting room spills out onto a flagstone patio and a wide lawn surrounded by vines. On weekends, the winery serves pizzas (from its wood-fired oven) and local oysters on the half shell, along with its own wines, available by the glass or bottle. Kick back in one of the Adirondack chairs and listen to live music.
When Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Jamesport Country Kitchen, 1601 Main Rd., Southold; 631-722-3537
This North Fork standby, with its retro bentwood chairs and flowered curtains, has long been a welcoming haven for families. Parents can make a meal of salmon cakes, locally caught fish or chicken Niçoise salad, while the younger set partakes of mini burgers, chicken fingers or fried shrimp from the kids' menu.
When Lunch, daily except Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; dinner, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday to Friday, 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 to 9 p.m.; closed Tuesday.
Turkuaz Grill, 40 McDermott Ave., Riverhead; 631-591-1757
From your table on the porch or patio of this authentic Turkish restaurant, you can take in a view of the Peconic River along with a satisfying meal. Inside is attractive, too. The whole family can share a shepherd's salad as well as meze, or small plates. Kids have their own menu, with such options as chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, burgers or even a half portion of gyro or chicken kebab.
When Same menu all day; Monday to Thursday and Sunday, noon to 9p.m., Friday and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; closed Tuesday.
Lucharitos, 119 Main St., Greenport; 631-477-6666
Situated in the heart of downtown Greenport, this colorful spot has table service as well as a Mexican wrestler theme. There's lots of family appeal in an affordable Mexican menu, with such choices as shrimp tacos (soft or hard corn or flour), BBQ nachos with pulled chicken as well as turkey chili. A kids' menu features a mini quesadilla, kids' nachos and a mini beef taco, too.
When Same menu all day; daily, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Noah's, 136 Front St., Greenport; 631-477-6720
Noah Schwartz prepares fresh seafood at this sleek, sharp restaurant. You may dine indoors or alfresco, for lunch, dinner and brunch. His top dishes include savory Long Island clam chowder, with littlenecks, fingerling potatoes and cream; grilled sardines with piquillo peppers and lemon aioli; Tasmanian red crab tacos; and a delectable warm lobster roll. You'll also find fine Crescent Farm duck barbecue with smoked Cheddar polenta; corn risotto with Catapano Dairy Farm goat cheese; and warm flourless chocolate cake.
When Dinner daily from 5 p.m.; lunch five days from 11:30a.m.; no lunch Tuesday and Wednesday
The Riverhead Project, 300 E. Main St., Riverhead; 631-284-9300
Newly installed chef Lia Fallon excels with New American cuisine, homey and refined at Dennis McDermott's ambitious modern restaurant in a remade 1960s bank building. Fallon's recommended dishes include fried chicken with pineapple-cabbage slaw, grilled avocado and sweet tangerine honey; lobster with cavatelli in a lush, peppered tomato sauce with tarragon cream; shrimp-and-crab fritters; kale salad with smoked paprika vinaigrette, radish, manchego cheese and marcona almonds; and braised, pulled pork with beer-barbecue sauce and smashed fingerling potatoes.
When Dinner daily from 4 p.m. Lunch, Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The North Fork Table & Inn, 57225 Main Rd., Southold; 631-765-0177
This refined, handsome restaurant and inn offers exceptional American cuisine, emphasizing what's local. Main courses include local hake fillet wrapped with bacon; duck breast with confit-potato rosti, roasted root vegetables, broccoli rabe, and a beet reduction; roast loin of lamb with caramelized fennel and bell pepper-caper relish; and Claudia Fleming's delectable sweets, such as the chocolate-caramel tart, cornmeal-almond butter cake, and warm sugar-and-spice doughnuts.
When Dinner Thursday to Monday from 5 p.m. Lunch, Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. Closed Tuesday, Wednesday.
Snowflake, 1148 W. Main St., Riverhead; 631-727-4394
Great ice cream with a dollop of nostalgia defines Stu Feldschuh's Snowflake. The flavors include a perfect peach, full-flavored black raspberry, classic French vanilla, and the chocolate-brownie-and-raspberry swirl Peconic Swamp Thing. There's also a flavor of the week, which may include "school lunch," or peanut butter with Welch's grape jelly; and "scrapple from the apple," spiced like an apple pie. Outstanding sundaes, especially when local fruit is in season; shakes, and peerless soft-serve, too. Bring a cooler and stock up on the ultimate brown bonnets and flying saucers.
When 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday to Thursday; and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday.
The Magic Fountain, 9825 Main Rd., Mattituck; 631-298-4908
Exotic flavors are a highlight at The Magic Fountain, which in 1966 was a Dairy Queen. Eleven years later, the magic started. Today, you're likely to find custom and seasonal flavors from owner Choudry Ali, in addition to the basics. Among the very good and very different ones: lavender, rainbow cookie, cinnamon bun, Boston cream pie, goat cheese, fig and date, kulfi, lychee, olive oil, ginger, Guinness, red-wine strawberries, chocolate-chili, sweet corn, and Mighty Joe Young -- with banana, caramel and nuts. They're fun.
When 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday to Thursday; and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.
Sandpiper Ice Cream, 142 Main St., Greenport; 631-477-1154
The most easterly of the North Fork's top ice cream destinations, Sandpiper makes more than 20 flavors. The winners from ice-cream maker Paris Stachtiaris include the seasonal pumpkin, fruity cherry vanilla and black raspberry, chocolate-peanut butter, and mint chip. Cones, sundaes, malteds -- all recommended. Have a seat on the bench outside and enjoy the day.
When Noon to 6 p.m. weekdays; noon to 9 p.m., Saturday; noon to 8 p.m., Sunday.
Salamander's on Front, 38 Front St., Greenport; 631-477-3711
Recently moved to Greenport's main street, Salamander's offers a wide range of consistently delicious soups, salads, sandwiches and sides. The main attraction here is the fried chicken, which must be ordered a few hours in advance and is well worth planning the day around.
When Sunday to Thursday, 10a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Love Lane Market, 170 Love Lane, Mattituck; 631-298-2200
Love Lane Market will helpfully pack a lunch for you, complete with fruit, North Fork potato chips and a cookie. Among the selections are roast beef with arugula, aged Cheddar and spicy mayo; and a vegetable wrap with hummus, arugula and balsamic vinegar. Better yet, pick up a whole rotisserie-roasted duck, a singular North Fork treat.
When Daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Provisions & Ingredients, 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic; 774-641-7488
This intimate specialty grocery-tapas bar carries a well curated selection of cured meats and cheeses (both local and imported), marinated vegetables, bread and other picnic fixings. These same elements are put to good use in about half a dozen imaginative sandwiches.
When Friday to Monday, noon to 7 p.m.