Summer only, Outdoor Seating, Waterside
Singleton's Seafood Shack has an excellent bayside view with a menu full of seafood treats that could certainly make for a relaxing after-work stop (even better: they have added private parking, meaning non-residents can now do lunch while parking for free). From the vantage point of a patio table, you're almost sitting on the beach. The restaurant's uncluttered menu is well executed; try the generous lobster roll or the fine rotisserie chicken.
11 a.m.-10 p.m.: Daily. (Open Memorial Day-Columbus Day.)
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At 5 p.m. on a brilliant summer afternoon, I arrived at Tobay Beach, not to swim but rather to eat at Singleton's Seafood Shack. On that day, the place looked like little more than a town beach concession with umbrella tables outside. Soon, I learned, there would also be tables under a new screened-in canopy.
"How long a wait?" I asked the hostess.
"An hour," she said in a manner so deliberately calm it sounded like a challenge.
I told her to put our party of four on the waiting list. Then, for lack of anything better to do, we set out down a footpath near the beach.
It led to a sobering sight: a memorial dedicated to the Town of Oyster Bay victims of Sept. 11. We paused to read the names and to remember.
It was just 15 minutes later that we returned to the hostess' stand to check on when we would be seated. Surprisingly, we were next on the list.
The table we were shown to was ideal. Situated on the beach, it had just the right combination of shade and sun, as well as an unobstructed view of the water traffic in Great South Bay.
Although it was our waiter's first day on the job, we soon learned he had previously worked with Singleton's chef, Kevin Vincelette, at Thom Thom in Wantagh, which shares the same ownership. "He's good," we were told.
True. First came a bowl of local steamers cooked in beer with butter and parsley, the kind of simple fresh fare you want at a summer seafood restaurant. A straightforward bowl of Manhattan clam chowder worked well, too. I liked the tropical salad of mixed greens, grilled pineapple and macadamia nuts, dressed with a perky citrus vinaigrette that meshed nicely with the warm weather.
So, too, did a fine lobster roll, a potato-enriched hot-dog bun stuffed with lots of lobster meat and very little mayonnaise. Accompanying waffle fries, while of the previously frozen variety, were, at least, hot and crisp.
A real hit was the rotisserie balsamic-marinated half chicken, coppery-skinned, moist and full of flavor, served with buttery chunky mashed Yukon Gold potatoes. A friend's burger was thick, smoky and juicy. A sandwich of jerk-spiced grilled swordfish was infused with the flavor of the islands and the grill; it came with a Caribbean-spiced tartar sauce.
We had come too early to catch the sunset. Over a dessert of bananas Foster ice-cream cake (not house-made but pretty good), we observed the tableau.
At the next table were two babies wearing sun hats. On the beach, children played in the sand; a few waded in the water. An occasional boat motored by.
In such proximity to that memorial, it was hard not to feel grateful to be alive at such a place on such a day.