If streets could speak, those that crisscross Bay Shore would have a story to tell. After its earliest chapter as a home to the Secatogue tribe, and its subsequent Colonial-era rise as a fishing and clamming community, this hamlet became a turn-of-the-century magnet for well-heeled urbanites seeking sand and a salty breeze. When Bay Shore’s fortunes took a sharp dive in the 1970s, the grand hotels that had been built for the summer folk became homes for the down-on-their-luck, as downtown weathered vacancies, crime and blight.
Stroll downtown Bay Shore any given evening now and that gritty past is a speck in the rearview mirror. Beneath the oak and ginkgo trees of Main Street, a dynamic tableau unfolds each evening — clusters of pub crawlers, families pushing strollers, and sure, the occasional panhandler — and culinary worlds collide, from mofongo (El Pilon) to salumi (Frank & Maria’s), cold-brew coffee (Bay Shore Bean) to craft cocktails (The Cortland), and plenty of oysters, burgers, pizza and avocado toast in between.
More than 100 eateries call Bay Shore home, a staggering number for a place that’s about five-and-a-half square miles. That restaurant boom can perhaps be traced back to the late 1990s, when entrepreneurs such as Gina and Lenny Jaworowski opened the boho-esque Milk & Sugar Café (which they transformed into Barndoor 49 in 2017). The year 2001 saw the advent of Arts by the Bay, the annual street festival that highlighted Bay Shore’s powerful sense of community. (Its younger cousin, Alive by The Bay, takes over Main Street for a few weeknights each summer with food vendors, live music and craft vendors.)
These days, there's a spectrum of places to eat and drink, from a longtime Thai eatery (Galanga) to sushi palaces (Aji 53) to more pubs than you can shake a pool cue at (The Penny Pub, T.J. Finley’s, Southside Bar & Restaurant and newcomer The Tap Room, to name a few). Further afield, visitors can, and should, track down some of Long Island’s choicest breweries: Destination Unknown Beer Co., Great South Bay Brewery, and The Brewers Collective. And if you need a moment of repose, there’s even a Community Reflection Garden on East Main Street.
Below, we list a lucky 13 of spots worth the whirl through Bay Shore. Almost all of them are concentrated along the main drag, but a few are near Bay Shore’s sprawling bayfront, an idyll of playgrounds, beaches, marinas and more than a few places to catch the sunset with a margarita in hand.
Toast Coffeehouse (9 South Park Ave.): This was the third Toast to open on Long Island, and like its brethren in Port Jefferson and Patchogue, it has a theme -- in Bay Shore, booths resemble carnival rides and a Coney Island mural covers one wall. Breakfasters, lunchers and their spawn, the brunch set, descend here for Toast stalwarts such as scrambles, Nutella-drizzled French toast and sandwiches full to bursting with meats and melted cheese. Ornate bloody marys, and sometimes long waits, round out the weekend brunch experience. More info: toastcoffeehouse.com
Tula Kitchen (41 E. Main St.): With its sides open to the street, Tula Kitchen appears to be a French provincial, open-air movie set, but beneath those chandeliers and white beamed ceilings is the rare kind of place where both meat and plant-based eaters can enjoy themselves in equal measure. Breakfast features parade of hearty plates and bowls, such as huevos rancheros or a bowl of roasted veggies. Later in the day, the kitchen's meatless, dairyless version of a Reuben -- filled with Vegenaise-based Russian dressing, roasted tempeh and sauerkraut -- is emblematic of the fare here: Healthy and whimsical, but somehow still indulgent. More info: 631-539-7183, tulakitchen.com
The LakeHouse (135 Maple Ave.): Perched on Great South Bay, The LakeHouse combines two elements that aren't always found together: Superb food, and a view to match. Start with local Lucky 13 oysters on the half shell or exceptional clam chowder, and segue (depending on the season) to crisp suckling pig backed by Parmesan polenta, honey-glazed pearl onions and maple vinaigrette. For in-your-face waterfront vibes, grab a drink at the outside bar and take a seat next to the fire pit. More info: 631-666-0995, thelakehouserest.com
The Linwood Restaurant & Cocktails
The Linwood Restaurant & Cocktails (150 E. Main St.): The Linwood is the hottest opening in Bay Shore so far this year. Its sultry looks evoke a 1930s hotel bar -- a la the actual Linwood hotel that once stood downtown -- and dinner is equally alluring, from vivid spreads with house naan or a pork chop with cabbage marmalade. Cocktails are peerless, with unexpected juxtapositions and plenty of seasonal touches. The mocktail list is unmatched on Long Island. More info: 631-665-1256, thelinwoodbayshore.com
Nicky’s Clam Bar
Nicky's Clam Bar (99 Maple Ave.): Because of its position across from the Fire Island Ferries terminal, the takeout window here can get fantastically busy. For those with time to spare, though, Nicky's dining room is a homey spot with about a dozen tables and a small bar, plus filling dishes like seafood bisque, shrimp-salad sandwiches, and their signature fried whole-belly clams. More info: 631-665-6621, nickysclambar.com
Slice of Bay Shore
Slice of Bay Shore (298 W. Main St.): Bay Shore does not want for slice shops; one of the best, Buseto, is nestled next to Best Buy on Sunrise Highway. Closer to the center of the action is this relative newcomer, a busy spot that took over a former Friendly's. Out front is a bustling pizzeria with a gas oven and an array of pies to choose from; out back, a comfy trattoria serving Italian classics, plus beer and wine. The margherita pizza is on point, but one bite of the eggplant pizza may leave you hooked. More info: 631-647-9016, sliceofbayshore.com
Coastal Kitchen & Daiquiri Bar
Coastal Kitchen & Daiquiri Bar (12 E. Main St.): Coastal is a gorgeously distressed hipster haven with darts, pinchos and poke bowls, and a massive bar pouring excellent beer and cocktails. A few doors down is Verde Kitchen & Cocktails (70 E. Main St.), a stylish temple to chef-driven Mexican fare such as ceviche, octopus tacos and charred pork chops with poblano-peach puree. They are both under the same ownership, albeit with different chefs, and each is worth a visit, depending on your goals. More info: 631-665-6300, verdekitchen.com
Savor Eatery (631 E. Main St., Bay Shore): OK, so this may not be downtown (it's in a strip mall east of town) but the takeout spot Savor is a gem worth the jaunt. The owner, originally from Hong Kong, has plucked dishes from across Asia and repackaged them for a health-minded, feed-me-fast clientele. Banh mi, noodle soups, donburi rice bowls and Malaysian-inflected curry all make appearances, as do veggie-focused dishes, such as fried tofu sticks with a house sauce. Hot citrus-green tea and iced, booze-free blackcurrant sangria are among the teas and juices. More info: 631-969-1000, savorbayshore.com
Salt & Barrel Oyster & Craft Cocktail Bar
Salt & Barrel Oyster & Craft Cocktail Bar (61 W. Main St.): This is the village's resident raw bar, and the undulating bar itself, with a shucking station on one end, is a showstopper. Behind it, bartenders will pour finely tuned cocktails (the spot is owned by the Flynn family, who also own the storied Flynn's on Fire Island, so creating good times is in their DNA). Besides the wealth of oysters from both the East and West Coast, diners can also score seafood classics such as a warm lobster roll of butter-poached meat and celery. More info: 631-647-8818, saltandbarrel.com
Tullulah's (12 Fourth Ave.): Bay Shore should be chuffed to call a place like Tullulah's its own. A few steps off Main Street, this bistro is an oasis of imagination on both liquid and solid fronts. Dishes hopscotch both around Long Island (local seafood) and around the globe; on the menu this summer, for instance, are grilled scallops with local corn, pickled corn shoots and labneh, or agnolotti with 'nduja sausage, a raw tomato sauce and fresh ricotta. And then there's the wildly original cocktails, such as a dash of carrot juice with tequila and basil shrub, or cachaça with kiwi and falernum. More info: 631-969-9800, tullulahs.com
Fatfish on the Water
Fatfish on the Water (28 Cottage Ave.): Fatfish may be tucked away on the edge of town -- literally on the edge, perched over the bay -- but scores of regulars find their way here each summer for the vibrant outdoor bar (and frequent live music), uberfresh seafood and generally good vibes generated by chef-owner Brian Valdini and his staff. From Spanish-style tapas to a raw bar to whole grilled fish and a killer tarte tartin, Valdini has kept his menu refreshed for over 15 years. (And the décor, too: After Superstorm Sandy took Fatfish down to the pilings in 2012, he rebuilt it). Open May to October. More info: 631-666-2899, fatfish.info
Local Burger Co.
Local Burger Co. (62 E. Main St.): All rustic-industrial styling and roadhouse-slash-warehouse ethos, Local Burger's focus is no secret: Burgers, from beef to turkey to bean, topped with Cheddar or eggs or avocado or even peanut butter. Each is branded with this 'burg's zip code, 11706, and most are far below $10. Revelers might be happy to learn that their milkshake can be spiked, the beer list is solid and they can soak up the alcohol with one of nine kinds of fries, including a gravy- and cheese-slathered twist on poutine. More info: 631-647-8300, localburgerco.com
Golden Chicken (164 E. Main St.): This simply but cozy Peruvian café specializes in rotisserie chicken whose skin is burnished to a deep copper. Half a bird, with a heaping side of fries and an avocado salad, will set you back a whopping $11, and arrives in about five minutes flat. Slather on some of the fiery aji verde to turn the volume to 11, and wash it down with fruity house sangria. The menu is also dense with other Peruvian standards such as ceviche, lomo saltado and anticuchos. More info: 631-647-8240, goldenchickenperuvianrestaurant.com