Dining on Fire Island: Get your fill at these 12 spots
It's no secret that Fire Island is a haven for beach lovers. But chefs and restaurant owners on the barrier beach are striving to make some of the island's communities destinations for good food, as well. Like Surf's Out in Kismet, which shares executive chef Anthony Trobiano with Cirella's in Melville and has an impressive sushi menu. Le Dock in Fair Harbor is a gastronomic destination for celebrities such as Uma Thurman and Tina Fey.
This summer, the Island Mermaid in Ocean Beach is selling jars of the same sauces the kitchen uses -- including its Thai peanut sauce, truffled cream corn sauce and a Campagna vodka-tomato sauce. "We're trying to do things you would expect at your favorite restaurant in Manhattan," says Island Mermaid owner Scott Hirsch. He says he wants a meal at his restaurant to be "not just eating at the beach, but a memorable dining experience."
Ocean Beach is the main hub of culinary activity, the capital, so to speak, of Fire Island, with ferries leaving the mainland from Bay Shore. But communities both east and west of Ocean Beach offer their own mix of eateries. Some people ride over just to have dinner -- and extend their mini-vacation with a stroll to the ice cream parlor or candy store.
The Hideaway(Credit: Aaron Zebrook)
Ask Fire Island homeowners their favorite place to dine and one after another says, "The Hideaway." This Ocean Beach restaurant offers picnic tables with umbrellas as seating on its bayfront deck. Chef Christopher Hunter, who opened the restaurant in 2002 but left after three years, is back this summer. New specialties include paella with fish, shrimp, clams, mussels, chorizo and saffron rice served in a metal pot. When waiters lift the lid tableside, diners are hit with a "piping hot, instant waft of seaside," Hunter says. The Hideaway has multiple vegetarian offerings, including its lentil-mushroom-asparagusphyllo tart. A longtime favorite menu item is the crispy half-roasted duck, served with charred napa cabbage, smashed russet potato and roasted garlic.
The Hideaway in Ocean Beach serves huge baked clams.
The Island Mermaid(Credit: Aaron Zebrook)
Location, location, location doesn't just apply to real estate. The Island Mermaid has every restaurant in Ocean Beach beat with its bayfront spot near the Fire Island Ferries dock. With its blue and orange umbrellas and outdoor seating for 160 people, the Island Mermaid sets a festive mood for anyone arriving by ferry. "It's busy, vibrant and fun," says owner Scott Hirsch. New on the menu this year are Gulf Coast shrimp and grits, pork osso bucco and octopus salad. The weekend brunch menu features crabcakes Benedict. "We like to think of ourselves as contemporary world cuisine," Hirsch says. The Mermaid is also debuting a Tuesday barbecue night this summer.
A special of sea scallops with new potatoes is served at The Island Mermaid in Ocean Beach.
Rachel's Bakery and Restaurant(Credit: Aaron Zebrook)
If there were a Fire Island Diner, Rachel's Bakery and Restaurant would be it. The restaurant portion serves its popular breakfast dishes all day -- the breakfast burrito contains bacon, eggs, potatoes and green chili, and the bran pancakes are served with a choice of fruit and syrup. Dozens of other choices include burgers, salads and pastas. And the bakery has perhaps the best window in all of Fire Island -- the plate-glass storefront is filled with muffins, chocolate-chip cookies and oversized cinnamon buns. Owner Rachel Doering started the bakery in 1972 when she was a teacher in the Connetquot School District. Other bakery specialties include crumb cake, black magic cake, raspberry tarts, cheesecake cupcakes and lemon-coconut cake. Rachel's is on the village green and has indoor seating only.
Castaway Bar & Grill(Credit: Aaron Zebrook)
Every evening from 4 to 7 is Clam Jam at Castaway, a raw-bar happy hour when clams on the half shell are $1 each, clams casino, clams Rockefeller and oysters on the half shell are $1.50 and oysters Rockefeller are $2. Other popular items at the Ocean Beach bar and grill include seared scallops with shrimp-and-corn risotto and the skirt steak dip with rosemary jus and Castaway fries. Castaway fries are a jumble of regular, curly and sweet potato fries, so diners don't have to settle for just one type. Patrons can choose to sit at the counter facing the village green, with windows open to watch the kids hawking their hand-painted seashells and people strolling by licking ice cream cones from nearby Scoops or Beaches and Cream (both owned by Castaway owner Jon Randazzo, as is the close-by Landing restaurant). "It's a great people-watching spot," says Randazzo. Wednesday is Mexican night.
Anjali Shah, left, of Westbury, and Olu Owoseni of Brooklyn enjoy some clams at Castaway's Bar and Grill in Ocean Beach on June 22, 2013.
Matthew's Seafood House(Credit: Aaron Zebrook)
The name says it all; Matthew's is devoted to seafood. Dishes include a fisherman's stew, with chunks of fish, potatoes and black olives, a seafood Cobb salad with lobster and shrimp alongside the bacon and Gorgonzola cheese, classic fish and chips, and a fisherman's combination of shrimp, sole, scallops, crabcake and squid (all fried). Hungry boaters can dock their vessels at Matthew's and head onto the bayfront deck to dine. The outdoor seating is shaded and cooled by whirling ceiling fans. The indoor dining area is seafaring rustic, with wood floors, wood bar, wood paneling. In celebration of its 40th season, Matthew's offers a select dinner menu for $19.74 Monday through Thursday.
Maguire's(Credit: Craig Ruttle)
Maguire's, Ocean Beach (Ferry from Bay Shore): Ocean Beach is home to a number of restaurants with bar scenes -- Maguire's stands out with its selection of craft beers including LI-born options such as Montauk Brewing Company's Driftwood Ale. Specialty cocktails also are available, such as the "Coco-Tini": (pineapple rum, coconut rum, pineapple juice, toasted coconut on the rim) and the "Frozen John Daly" (citrus vodka, sweet tea vodka), as well as the Fire Island favorite, Rocket Fuel. On weekends, there's a special edition of happy hour from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Ice Castle Sweet Shoppe(Credit: Aaron Zebrook)
Ice Castle Sweet Shoppe in Ocean Beach offers homemade fudge in flavors such as mint chocolate swirl, cookie dough and maple walnut (ask for a free sample) plus chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate-covered wasabi peas, chocolate-covered Swedish fish and a dozen varieties of chocolate-covered pretzels. Candy includes vintage favorites such as Gold Rocks gum nuggets sold in little tan sacks and Mary Janes. Ice cream flavors include old favorites such as moose tracks and newcomers such as churro ice cream, a cinnamon-flavored base with pieces of fried dough mixed in. New this year is a self-serve frozen yogurt bar.
Ice Castle Sweet Shoppe in Ocean Beach offers a variety of ice creams, homemade fudges and gourmet chocolates.
Flynn's(Credit: Johnny Milano)
When an establishment turns the Y in its logo into a martini glass, that's a clue to its atmosphere. Flynn's in Ocean Bay Park is a party place, with an outdoor bar that's a hopping magnet for sharehouse-renting singles on weekends. But there's another side to Flynn's -- literally. The restaurant section, with white tablecloths and garage doors that open to the bay, serves such popular dishes as pan-seared ahi or sea scallops, according to owner Michael Flynn, whose father and grandfather opened the business in 1937. From Tuesdays through Thursdays a designated ferry leaves Captree State Park in Babylon at 7 p.m. and returns diners at 10:30 p.m., so mainlanders can hit Flynn's' all-you-can-eat lobster buffet featuring baked clams, shrimp, steamed lobsters, macaroni and cheese, barbecued ribs and more.
The Blue Whale(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
The Fire Island Pines and neighboring Cherry Grove cater to a predominantly gay community. In The Pines, rainbow flags fly from the outdoor deck of The Blue Whale, announcing the restaurant's welcoming of all patrons. Diners can indulge in island cuisine in the dining room or alfresco on the Pines' U-shaped harbor. Dinner choices include branzino and filet mignon au poivre; dinner starts at 8:30 p.m. The Blue Whale also serves brunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with items such as brisket and biscuit, and seafood crepes.
A mshroom cheese frittata, topped with wilted kale and a citrus vinaigrette, at The Blue Whale.
Le Dock(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Fair Harbor residents will argue that Le Dock has the most refined fare on Fire Island, and even though they may be biased, they also might be right. Executive chef Patrick Adams' restaurant is the only sit-down restaurant in Fair Harbor, situated adjacent to the dock, the center of activity in the community and site of the nightly, informal, outdoor, bring-your-own-drink "sixish" sunset party. Le Dock offers both indoor seating and outdoor tables. The signature dish is the poppy-almond-herb-encrusted flounder (pictured, top), served with mashed potatoes and kale. Other choices include sesame-encrusted salmon and grilled hanger steak with frites and balsamic caper sauce. Top it off with the Lighthouse Cake -- a tower of three layers of chocolate cake with strawberries and whipped cream between the layers.
Surf's Out(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Surf's Out, Kismet (Ferry from Bay Shore): Although dining is the basic business, the bar sees plenty of action. No need to stand indoors by the taps -- a large courtyard equipped with lounge furniture is set in a sandpit, plus a bean-bag throwing game keeps patrons entertained. Parties tend to pop up throughout the season, so be sure to check out the Surf's Out website for upcoming theme nights.
Soft-shell crab is served with lemon butter at Surf's Out in Kismet.
Nicky's Clam Bar(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Hungry but only have a couple of minutes before your ferry leaves Bay Shore? Grab something from Nicky's Clam Bar. "Half of our business is to-go because of the ferry," says co-owner Joe Parini, who calls the takeout window "the crazy-busy takeout window." Popular items include the homemade soups, which include seafood bisque and corn chowder, and the shrimp salad sandwiches (pictured) and platters. Nicky's is also a destination for fried whole-belly clams. Take your meal on the ferry or eat at one of the 10 tables indoors. And, if you're heading to the Ocean Bay Park ferry dock across the street, Nicky's also runs Nicky's Little Snack Bar there.