The season is short, the weather fickle. Which is why you should seize the next gorgeous day and set your GPS (or sails) for an outdoor meal in the briny air.
Long Island has countless waterside spots tucked away along its canals and inlets, its beaches and boatyards. Here are just a few of the hidden eateries.
Bad Bob's Barbecue
86 Orchard Beach Blvd., Port Washington, 516-883-8884, badbobs.net
The scene: Order at the counter, and find an outdoor table at this marina-side barbecue joint overlooking Manhasset Bay.
The food: Try the smoky barbecued ribs, chicken, brisket or pulled pork. A surprise hit is the potato salad.
The Boat House
3100 Whaleneck Dr., Merrick, 516-378-8124
The scene: Situated on Merrick Bay, this seaside lunch and dinner spot offers sunset vistas and lots of outdoor seating.
The food: Raw clams and, oysters or simply grilled fish is the way to go. If you crave lobster salad, it's best to request it piled on a roll rather than bundled into a wrap with coleslaw, lettuce and tomatoes.
2880 Ocean Ave., Seaford, 516-783-2554
The scene: Informality prevails at the counter-service spot by a marina. Dining is at umbrella picnic tables within view of the boats.
The food: Start your morning as sailors do, with a seafood omelet. At lunch and dinner, there are raw clams and oysters, wraps, burgers, mussels, crabs and a lobster-clam bake.
(in the Glen Cove Marina), 76 Shore Rd., Glen Cove, 516-277-1710, glencovehideaway.com
The scene: Hard to find but worth the search, this restaurant in a boatyard serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Weekends, there's often live music.
The food: Early risers can enjoy banana-stuffed French toast or, later on, a classic Reuben sandwich, salad, seafood linguine or pork chops.
Docking: Free for day users.
Singleton's Seafood Shack
1 Ocean Pkwy. (Tobay Beach), Massapequa, 516-826-1610, singletonsseafoodshack.com
The scene: Seated on the patio, you're virtually on the beach, looking out at the boats on Great South Bay. The parking lot (at Tobay Beach) opens to the public after 4 p.m.
The food: The uncluttered menu is executed with care. Try the generous lobster roll or the fine rotisserie chicken.
18 Greenwich Ave., Bayville, 516-628-2291, wallsbeach.com
The scene: At this scenic summery spot, you can sit at an umbrella table that's on the beach, making it possible for parents to dine while kids build sand castles.
The food: The lunch menu has what's required -- burgers, salads and lobster rolls. Evenings, the American bill of fare (crab cakes, Buffalo wings, sesame-crusted tuna) is augmented by specials such as crispy firecracker shrimp and pan-seared halibut.
Docking: Free but limited to one mooring.
45 Orchard Beach Blvd., Port Washington, 516-944-5900, thewaterview.net
The scene: Dine on the deck overlooking Manhasset Bay.
The food: The seafood-slanted Italian menu of chef-owner Rudis Miranda showcases such dishes as blackened swordfish steak and pork chop pizzaiola.
BEACH HUT AT VENETIAN SHORES
850 Venetian Blvd., Lindenhurst, 631-956-0066, thebeachhut.com
The scene: Part of the beach concession, this upbeat spot with tropical flair offers order-at-the-counter service and dining on a breezy deck.
The food: The menu ranges from burgers and hot dogs to sandwiches, salads and pasta. Steamed littlenecks and fried calamari are good bets. The burger can be a bit overcooked, but it has a nice, smoky flavor.
28 Cottage Ave., Bay Shore, 631-666-2899, fatfish.info
The scene: Sitting on the deck of chef Brian Valdini's picturesque canal-side restaurant can feel like being on a cruise ship.
The food: A wine bar features lots of by-the-glass pourings as well as a tapas menu. The well-executed Mediterannean menu offers such seasonal fare as whole oven-roasted branzino and salade Nicoise. On Mondays, there's a fine lobster prix-fixe.
HARBOR CRAB CO.
116 Division St., Patchogue, 631-687-2722, harborcrab.com
The scene: The vibe is more Key West than Patchogue: faux palm trees and Jimmy Buffett tunes on the sound system. Dine on a floating deck overlooking an inlet of the Patchogue River.
The food: She-crab soup is briny, satiny and rich. Try the steamed blue claw crabs. A surprise: signature seafood-stuffed potato skins.
JT'S ON THE BAY
1 Curtis Rd., Blue Point, 631-363-2205, jtscornercafe.com
The scene: Dine outdoors alongside a boat-filled canal off Great South Bay. Outdoor tables are available in the sun or under a canopy.
The food: Chef Michael Wilson's sea-focused menu includes a cold seafood salad, grilled or blackened Montauk swordfish and burgers.
KINGSTON'S CLAM BAR
130 Atlantic Ave., West Sayville, 631-589-0888, kingstonsclam.com
The scene: Dine beside the pretty West Sayville Boat Basin, and enjoy the illusion of being away on vacation. Paper and plastic dinnerware are part of the casual vibe.
The food: A sushi roster augments the American menu of such dishes as baked clams, shrimp scampi and fried scallops.
248 S. Ketcham Ave., Amityville, 631-691-2722, giacomojacks.com
The scene: Accurately calling itself "Amityville's best-kept secret,” this hideaway has seating on a small outdoor deck, where owner Jack La Grassa's tugboat is docked.
The food: Surprisingly creative and satisfying. Clams casino are rich and bacon-y. Don't miss the mussels with black bean sauce, a La Grassa original. Finish with house-made cheesecake.
Docking: Free but limited
445 Waterside Rd., Northport, 631-757-7720, lacasacaferestaurant.com
The scene: On the boardwalk at Crab Meadow Beach, this restaurant-pizzeria offers outdoor seating and its own parking lot.
The food: You can get pizza from a counter window or else opt for full service and the restaurant's regular menu. Huge portions of red sauce classics are the rule.
OAR STEAK AND SEAFOOD GRILL
264 West Ave., Patchogue, 631-654-8266, theoar.com
The scene: A madly popular waterside spot, which doesn't accept reservations. Live music on weekends means the place throbs.
The food: The menu covers lots of territory: baked clams, Thai calamari salad, penne a la vodka with shrimp and scallops, marinated sizzling Black Angus porterhouse and chicken potpie.
OFF KEY TIKKI
Patchogue, 31 Baker Place, Patchogue, 631-475-1723, offkeytikki.com
The scene: Complete with a faux beach, this canal-side spot is the scene of live music and late-night partying for an over-30 crowd.
The food: What goes best with a rum-laced Tikki "lemonade?” Pub-style dishes, such as Thai calamari and pulled-pork potato skins. Entrees tend toward the sweet and skewered. On Sunday, there's a family-friendly brunch.
Docking: Monday to Wednesday, free; Thursday to Sunday, $100 (with $50 food credit).
81 Fort Salonga Rd., Northport, 631-261-2580
The scene: Dine at an umbrella table on the out- door deck of the Brittania Yacht Club in Northport.
The view: A swimming pool and an assortment of boats. Paper and plastic utensils only.
The food: Chef and co-owner Phil Andriano's menu offers a raw bar, a heady smoked seafood chowder as well as burgers, sandwiches and the catch of the day.
Docking: At Brittania Yacht Club, first 4 hours are free.