This summer, the Nautical Mile in Freeport is heading further south than Nassau’s South Shore — like all the way to the Caribbean. Two splashy new restaurants, Caribbean Island and Puerto Plata Seafood on the Water, are introducing Milers to Jamaican, Guyanese and Dominican flavors, along with the drinks and live music that accompany them.
2021 also marks the debut of Hibiscus on the Mile, the new incarnation of stalwart E.B. Elliot’s. The name refers to the tropical flower that is the main ingredient in sorrel, the scarlet-colored herbal tea that is popular all over the Caribbean. And while the main menu remains unchanged, a special menu features jerk pork and chicken, fried rice and lo mein — the latter two are prime examples of the contribution Chinese workers made to Jamaican cuisine.
So, if you’ve had your fill of fried calamari and baked clams but still crave the ocean breeze (or, at least, the Woodcleft Canal breeze) book a trip to Freeport.
229 Woodcleft Ave. Freeport, 516-415-7616
For Bibi Bethune, the decision to open a Caribbean restaurant in Freeport was a natural. She and her husband, Egbert, have owned a succession of Caribbean restaurants in Queens (currently, GT Kingston Diner and GT Kingston Karaoke Bar) and she knew that her customers frequented the Nautical Mile. "A lot of them come here for drinks, for the view, but there’s no restaurant that caters to them," she said.
Earlier this year, she visited the Mile to check out another vacant restaurant, but when she saw that the former Mile on the Water was for rent, she decided to take the larger space. With about 80 seats inside and the same number outside, there’s plenty of room for live music, and Caribbean Island hosts bands playing Jamaican reggae and soca, a West Indian genre that originated in Trinidad.
Bethune herself is from Guyana and her menu offers a chance to experience that South American country's distinctive fusion of Caribbean and Indian influences, including curried goat served with roti flatbread and cook-up rice, a one-pot dish of rice and vegetables cooked in coconut milk. From her husband’s native Jamaica come salt fish (salt cod) with okra or callaloo (greens), jerk chicken and pork and stewed oxtail, as well as the Jamaican-Italian-American mashup, rasta pasta: penne with jerk seasoning and coconut cream sauce.
Bethune, who runs the kitchen, figures she brought about a quarter of GT Kingston’s menu to Freeport. But, befitting the location, she rounded it out with seafood. Choose your creature (red snapper, salmon, shrimp, lobster or crab) and your preparation (steamed with Caribbean flavors and vegetables, grilled with jerk seasoning or glazed with mango sauce). Few of the entrees here top $30, with many under $25.
When Caribbean Island gets its liquor license, bartender Priya Jairaj plans to serve a slew of margaritas, including one with jalapeno-infused tequila and garnished with spicy salt.
Puerto Plata Seafood on the Water
42 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport, 516-665-3025
Puerto Plata is a coastal city in the Dominican Republic renowned for its beaches and natural beauty. Within the limited confines of Freeport, Rudy Liriano and his partners are honoring that vibe with a Latin-inflected seafood restaurant that's already drawing crowds.
The seed of the restaurant was planted in Brooklyn in 1998 when Rey Liriano opened a modest Dominican restaurant called Puerto Plata. His son Rudy grew up in the business and, in 2013, started his own seafood market with the same name. During the pandemic, the market was closed to customers so Liriano started selling trays of steamed, seasoned seafood through a window. Aided by his social media presence — he currently has more than 100K followers on Instagram — it blew up.
Customers, Liriano said, were clamoring for a sit-down location and a waterside one seemed like a natural. Earlier this year, he, his father, Lance Diaz and Diony Urena took over the former Craft House, redecorating the sprawling gastropub with a contemporary, nautical décor.
The menu is dominated by steamed seafood trays that are designed to be shared by groups — each one serves 5 to 6 people — and range from a salmon-only tray ($92) to the King’s Feast of snow crab and king crab, lobster tails and jumbo lobster tails and shrimp ($292). Trays, which all include potatoes and vegetables, can be downsized single diners or couples.
There’s not a whole lot of Dominican food on the menu at Puerto Plata, but among the appetizers you’ll find "sopa revive muertos," a seafood soup to revive the dead, and "La Doña del Sazon’s famous ceviche." Both get a kick from the superlative hot sauce made by Liriano’s mother, Aracelis Diaz. The rest of the starters skew more East Coast than Tropical Beach: clams and oysters on the half shell, crab cakes, lobster rolls.
Craft House’s second-floor craft-beer bar now accommodates a battery of nine frozen-drink dispensers in alluring pastel shades. And its former beer garden right across the street is in the process of being converted into an open-air bar whose menu will feature Dominican picadera (fried tidbits) and live music such as merengue tipico, drum and accordion.