Port Jefferson rocks during the summer -- sometimes too hard. But this seaside village is a great off-season destination. Browse the shops, rent a pair of skates and take a spin (or fall) around The Rinx at Harborfront Park, take the kids to the Maritime Explorium for a lesson in historic shipbuilding and navigation. Then it’s time for dinner.
This big, bustling, bi-level restaurant has a great view of the harbor and a new chef in the kitchen: Heather West, winner of Season 2 of “Hell’s Kitchen” and a Port Jefferson native. She characterized the new menu as “casual fine dining with an emphasis on American seafood.” Case in point: West’s signature dish developed on “Hell’s Kitchen,” of seared sea bass over grilled asparagus with popped cherry-tomato sauce.
The Pie is one of a very few Long Island pizzerias with a coal-fueled oven, and the pies that issue from that inferno are terrific. The crusts have real integrity, puffy but substantial and not too tender. There are some complicated pies on the menu — including Buffalo and barbecue chicken — but you can hardly do better than the simplest, the textbook Margherita. Plenty of appetizers, salads and pastas, too.
One of the best places in Suffolk County to buy cheese, C’est Cheese is also a charming bistro with a predictably cheese-centric menu. There are dozens of cheese plates to choose from, as well as salads and sandwiches such as these grilled selections: the Parisian (Brie, apple and honey), the Capra (goat cheese, fig preserve and greens), the Big Blue (blue cheese, raspberry-cranberry relish) and the Classic (“lots of melted Cheddar, nothing else”). Lots of good beers on tap and wines by the glass, too.
This gracious dining spot, across from Port Jefferson Harbor, is committed to local and seasonal produce and also to dining value. A $29.95 three-course dinner is served all evening Sunday to Friday and on Saturdays from 5 to 6 p.m. Choices change with the season; winter selections include Long Island duck pot stickers with mango-sweet chili dipping sauce, roasted half chicken with caramelized five onion mashed potatoes, braised escarole and sherry pan sauce; and Meyer lemon cheesecake with orange-cranberry compote. Gluten-free selections available.
For all your Tex-Mex needs, there’s Salsa Salsa, a counter-serve spot where you can take out or eat in. Create your own burrito or enjoy fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, chili, nachos, soups, salads or wraps. Recommended dishes include two-bean chili, pork taco, black bean soup, roast-pork burrito and a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, brown rice, salsa fresco, black beans and cheese. No need for lunch after that.