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.
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.
The Blue Whale
The Blue Whale, Fire Island Pines: 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. Currently open weekends only.
A mushroom cheese frittata, topped with wilted kale and a citrus vinaigrette, at The Blue Whale.
The Hideaway, Ocean: Beach This Ocean Beach restaurant offers picnic tables with umbrellas as seating on its bayfront deck. Craig Attwood, former chef at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport, is the new one here. Attwood's menu at the waterside spot includes dishes such as pan-seared local bluefish with ratatouille; strozzapreti pasta with summer squash, tomato confit, herb pesto, and goat-cheese fondue; tilefish ceviche; corn-and-clam chowder; a lobster roll; ahi tuna burger; fish tacos; Korean-style barbecued short rib; and a Painted Hills rib-eye steak with heirloom tomato salad and avocado sauce Bearnaise.
The Hideaway in Ocean Beach serves huge baked clams.
Surf's Out, Kismet: Surf's Out encourages day trippers to enjoy both the beach and dinner by offering 30 free lockers and two outdoor showers, so people can wash off the suntan lotion and sand and indulge "without eating dinner in a wet bathing suit," says co-owner Dean Cirella. "It's bring your own lock and bring your own towel." Another Surf's Out advantage: People who don't want to rely on the ferry can park at Robert Moses Field 5 and walk for 30 minutes or so down the beach instead. Specialties include an extensive range of sushi rolls -- one popular choice is the Time Out, which has cucumber, avocado and spicy crab inside and tuna, salmon, white tuna, shrimp and mango sauce on top. Another customer favorite is the Out Calamari appetizer, squid rounds that are mixed with hot chili pepper, broccoli rabe and Gorgonzola cheese. Currently open weekends only.
Soft-shell crab is served with lemon butter at Surf's Out in Kismet.
Le Dock, Fair Harbor: 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, 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. Currently open weekends only.
Matthew's Seafood House
Matthew's Seafood House, Ocean Beach: 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. Currently open weekends only.
Maguire's, Ocean Beach: Maguire's may have the best sunset view of all the restaurants in Ocean Beach. On Friday and Saturday nights, the cavernous interior turns into a dance floor; the vast deck has more than 200 seats. Dinner selections include seared ahi tuna, Alaskan king crab legs, drunken pork chops and 1 1/2-pound Maine lobsters, steamed or broiled and served with baked potato and corn on the cob. Currently open weekends only.
Flynn's, Ocean Bay Park: When an establishment turns the Y in its logo into a martini glass, that's a clue to its atmosphere. Flynn's 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. Currently open weekends only.
Start with breakfast at Rachel's Bakery and Restaurant
Start the morning off with poached eggs on salmon, sliced fruit and a side of home fries (pictured) at Rachel's Bakery and Restaurant. This cozy bistro is far from being the only breakfast spot on the island but is a frequent choice for those in search of a filling meal, and an early morning sugar rush. Try the 'black magic cake' with layers of fudge or the oversized chocolate chip cookies for proof. Crowds arrive around noon so plan to get there before then. Ferries are available from Bay Shore. 324 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach
Nicky's Clam Bar
Nicky's Clam Bar, Bay Shore: 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. Currently open weekends only.