The signature Clementine cocktail at Bar Clementine in Islip.

The signature Clementine cocktail at Bar Clementine in Islip. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Bar Clementine has been open in Islip for a month but the cozy-chic spot already feels like a local landmark. Soon after the doors open at 4 p.m., the long bar is full of locals working their way through cocktails and wine. Many are enjoying the signature Clementine cocktail: clementine-infused vodka with clementine and lime juices, Aperol, vanilla, egg white and a lime leaf. It goes down easier than a Creamsicle. Then come the bar snacks — crab-filled deviled eggs, smoked-salmon pizzas, mushroom arancini with truffled pecorino. Later, drinks give way to dinner.

But this is hardly an overnight success. It was four years ago that the owners of Bay Shore’s Lake House, Matt and Eileen Connors and Jay Gut, started thinking about a second venue, something smaller, more casual and drinks-forward. Opened in 2006, The Lake House has been fixture on Newsday's Top 100. Gut, who lived in Islip for four years, believed that the town would support a place that was “grown up, sophisticated and reliable,” and when the corner spot that had been Treme became available, the team made its move.

Next came the build-out. Eileen had a definite vision for the décor, inspired by a fancy hotel bar in Dublin right down to the hanging ferns, retro light fixtures and deep green and gold color scheme. The name “clementine” had been her idea and she pursued it down to the still life painting that dominates the front of the restaurant and the citrus wallpaper that covers the back. She spent years acquiring vintage art and flatware. She agonized over the marble bar and tabletops. Would they scratch and weather? Yes, and that was just fine.

The bar scene at Bar Clementine in Islip, March 1,...

The bar scene at Bar Clementine in Islip, March 1, 2024. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

One challenge the trio did not face was hiring staff. The Lake House was brimming with employees ready to step up. “We are who we are because they stuck with us,” Eileen said. Added Gut, “you amass so many good employees and if you don’t give them opportunities to grow, they leave.”

Shannon Popp, now a partner at Bar Clementine, and Tamra Wong were longtime Lake House staffers tasked with developing the new bar program.

Bar Clementine’s kitchen is under the command of partner Andrew Castano, a 10-year Lake House veteran. The French-inflected menu includes starters such as duck confit, onion soup, bacon-goat-cheese tart and escargot in garlic butter and frisée lardon salad, entrees like skirt steak frites, sea scallops Provençal and herb-roasted chicken. Non-Gallic items include fritto misto (fried calamari, rock shrimp, artichoke and zucchini), local clams and Shamrock oysters on the half shell, chopped Greek salad, a cheeseburger and fettuccine with Gulf shrimp and melted leeks. Most snacks and starters range from $12 to $17, sandwiches from $19 to $25, mains from $29 to $36.

Bar Clementine, 553 Main St., Islip, 631-277-2753, Open Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday 4 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4 to 10:30 p.m., closed Monday.

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