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The Cortland: Coolest bar on LI

The Rock Paper Scissors Tourney is one of

The Rock Paper Scissors Tourney is one of many informal tournaments held on Thursdays at the Cortland Bar in Bay Shore. (Jan. 12, 2012) Credit: Barbara Alper

It's not just any bar.

Consider the weekly theme nights: Magic Mondays (featuring a live magician), Tacos & Trivia Tuesdays and Rock-Paper-Scissors tournaments on Thursdays.

And the wacky special events: "Winterfest," starring patrons in their ugliest sweaters and a faux snow machine ... and the upcoming "Drink and Draw" (Feb. 12), inviting folks to create their own canvas paintings at the bar.

You can order any number of locally made craft brews (like Port Jefferson Brewing Company or Great South Bay Beer) or sip a drink mixed with a house-made vodka infusion. Hungry? There's retro Jiffy Pop popcorn with flavored toppings -- the restaurant next door also delivers.

This is The Cortland in Bay Shore, quite possibly the coolest bar on Long Island.

"It's the personality," explains Kristen Kirby, 21, an artist from West Islip. "The people are cool, and there's a lot to do."


The Cortland opened just over a year ago on Main Street. It's a tight space -- a long and narrow bar with little room for walking and a sidewalk patio out front. The vibe is hip and insider-like, drawing a crowd of mostly 20- and 30-somethings. The dress code: Definitely casual.

"Everybody's friendly, there's no attitude," says Ryan McCabe, a graduate student from New Mexico who often visits friends in Bay Shore. "It's very funky."

That's exactly what owner Bobby Gulinello says he's going for when he hatches up random one-time-only affairs, such as last year's "Power Failure Blackout Party," when The Cortland did business for a night with no lights, no television, no music system. Just because.

"At least it gets people talking," says Gulinello, of East Islip. He personally referees the oh-so-popular Thursday night Rock-Paper-Scissors tournaments, which (yes) involve patrons playing the classic game of strategy and hand gestures. The top finishers get $15-$20 bar gift certificates.


Gulinello devised The Cortland to be a "locavore" business. He serves beers by draft, cask, bottle or can -- but all are from New York breweries. Wine is fine, too -- as long as it's sourced east of Queens. "How dare I not support my neighbors?" Gulinello says. And he's being literal.

The Cortland's back door faces the rear entrance of Tullulah's restaurant on Fourth Avenue. Since his bar doesn't have a kitchen, Gulinello struck a deal with the eatery to create a short menu of pub food that's available 5-10 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. Gulinello uses a walkie-talkie to place orders for items such as smoked Gouda mac and cheese ($9) and Kobe mini burgers topped with berry compote, Gorgonzola cheese and a warm truffle cream sauce ($13) -- then ducks out the back door to personally fetch the food for delivery.

Regulars say it's that kind of personal, jovial touch that keeps them coming.

"The Cortland has more of a relaxed, alternative vibe which I love," says Elizabeth Smith, 23, a cosmetologist from Westbury.

Tricia Apostolides, 26, arrives straight off the train home from work in Manhattan on Thursdays. "A cocktail and some Rock-Paper-Scissors sets my weekend off nicely," she says.

For Nicole Altieri, a paralegal from Farmingdale, The Cortland's charm lies in all the quirks. Says Altieri, 26: "It's ahead of its time."


27 W. Main St., Bay Shore

INFO 631-206-2220,


The best way to find out what's brewing at The Cortland is to sign up for emails or check its website/Facebook page (or try the old-fashioned way: hang out at the bar). Dates aren't set, and attendance can be limited by capacity.

Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament

WHEN 9 p.m. Thursdays

Bracket-style elimination for prizes, with live acoustic music.

The Cortland Mortgage & Investment Co.

WHEN It's a secret (you'll have to find the hidden details on the bar's website)

The staff will transform the bar into a speakeasy by blacking out the windows, making the exterior look shut down and changing its sign to read "The Cortland Mortgage & Investment Co." Drinks will be served Prohibition-style out of coffee mugs and teacups.

Drink and Draw

WHEN 6 p.m. Feb. 12

For $25, patrons will get a blank canvas and painting supplies (plus 2 pints of Greenport Harbor beer) to create a work of art that's theirs to keep.

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