It's a Sunday night and, as the sun sinks below the horizon, a breeze whips the locks of everyone at the bar. The Port Jefferson ferry glides in the distance, toward Bridgeport. Nearer by, a guitarist belts out a Hootie & the Blowfish cover.
Sunsets at Cedar Beach may be as quintessential a beach bar as can be, a square-shaped, easygoing spot steps from the sand where you can belly up in flip-flops to shout your order across the aqua bar top. An awning overhead gives the bar the feel of an encampment, and wherever you sit, you have a popcorn-worthy view of unfolding bar drama, the Long Island Sound — and of the sunset, which goes down over the Sound due to the angle of this curl of beach.
This isn't a bar to come to for complicated cocktails. Beer rules here, and mixed drinks come in pulsating colors and plastic cups. Order a margarita ($11.50) or a Tiki Joe’s Island Rum Punch ($14) and you’ll be dosed with sweetness as you shout to have a conversation over the music (every night except Mondays), often amplified to deafening levels.
Bikers, couples on first dates, women in cold-shoulder tops, a core squad of watchful, wizened dudes sipping beer — all gather here. On weekend nights, when everyone mingles on the “dance floor” (really, a stretch of walkway in front of the band) it’s peerless people watching, with the occasional toddler bobbing up and down with the crowd.
It can take tenacity to grab a bartender’s attention when it’s that busy, but they’re an efficient squad, craning to fill orders above the wind and the music. Each morning, they cart the liquor bottles, the frozen drinks machine, and other drinking essentials out of storage, and then cart it all back each night.
It felt like yesterday when this bar was in a state of winter abandon, the awning hanging in shreds until it was pieced together in May. Suddenly, somehow, it’s Labor Day and you’re pulling a hoodie out of your car. One more margarita, please.
Sunsets at Cedar Beach, 223 Harbor Beach Rd., Mt. Sinai; 631-743-9410. Open every day through Sept. 8, then Fridays and Saturdays until Oct. 6.