John Fraser, a Michelin-starred Manhattan-based chef, and a group of investors have purchased the North Fork Table & Inn, culinary jewel of the North Fork. The restaurant closed on New Year’s Eve promising, on social media, to “reopen for summer next year.”
When it does, it will be part of a group that includes Fraser’s The Loyal in Manhattan’s West Village and NIX, a Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant in the East Village. Fraser was also chef-owner of the acclaimed Upper West Side restaurant Dovetail from 2007 to 2018, and is partners with hotelier Ian Schrager in all the food and beverage venues at Schrager’s EDITION hotels in Times Square and Los Angeles.
North Fork Table’s executive chef Brian Wilson, who took the reins about a year ago, and co-founder-pastry chef Claudia Fleming will be staying in the kitchen, Fraser said. “I have great respect for both of them. Claudia — I knew who she was a long time before she knew who I was.” The food truck parked in the restaurant’s parking lot is also staying put.
Fraser, 44, cooked years ago at Shagwong Tavern in Montauk, but over the years gravitated to the North Fork where he would rent a house for a few weeks every summer. “Over the past six years,'' he said, ''I fell in love with the farms, the wineries, all the little communities.”
The North Fork Table held a special appeal as it reminded him of the Napa Valley’s French Laundry, where he worked as a young chef. “I always wanted to have a restaurant in a place like this,” he said. “Follow the farms, follow the wine, be close to the sources — that’s the dream.” Vegetables, he noted, are a driving force behind all his restaurants, not just the vegetarian NIX, and, in season, he already uses a great deal of North Fork produce. (He was quick to add that he had no intention of bringing French Laundry-style “tweezer food” to Southold. “We will be keeping the menu approachable,” he said.)
For now, the menu is a work in progress, as is the property. Fraser said he considered any construction more of a restoration than a renovation. “We understand this place has a special feel. We’re not touching the important parts, we’re looking to get some paint going, give the kitchen some love, stuff like that.”
Fraser knew that the Southold restaurant “was for sale for a while, but it was out of my reach.” Last year he hooked up with a group of investors who could help him realize his dream. One of those investors, Jonathan Tibett, is also an owner of Heron Suites in Port of Egypt and the newly developed retail-residential Einstein Square in Southold.
TIbett is also involved in a proposal to develop a property on a 6.75-acre site on Main Road in Southold, about 200 yards west of the North Fork Table. According to the draft environmental impact statement submitted to the town, “The Enclaves” would include a 74-seat restaurant and the development of a two-story, 40-room hotel with four detached cottages and amenities such as a swimming pool and lounge areas. As Newsday has reported, the proposal has been met with some community resistance.