“I wanted to do something besides what I was doing,” said Peter Van Der Mije the other day, by way of explanation. What the chef-owner had been doing was Osteria Leana, which has been serving Oyster Bay since 2016, and the something besides is Taco Bay. The new taqueria, which opened earlier this month, is just a stone’s throw from Van Der Mije’s regional Italian restaurant, but distinguishes itself by occupying a 1,000-square-foot storefront on South Street, whereas Osteria is behind it, facing a municipal parking lot.
“It was probably kicked around for about two years,” he said of his new eatery. “When Cooper Bluff first opened” — an Oyster Bay waterfront bar that debuted this summer — “they approached me about doing food down there.” Ultimately, that didn't happen, so Van Der Mije shelved the Mexican menu he’d already created with his Osteria cooks until the nearby space became available.
Van Der Mije sees Taco Bay as a takeout place that also offers casual service and a lean but potent menu of taqueria favorites. There are burritos and bowls ($7.50), finely seasoned pupusas ($5.50), and tacos that start with a base of either a hard or soft shell ($3.50). Proteins are extra, and include a carne asada perked up with pumpkin seeds (add $2.50), shark with pineapple salsa or chicken with pickled onions ($1.50) and house-cured and braised pork carnitas ($1). Sides include guacamole with a generous stack of chips ($4.50), pico de gallo ($3.50) and rice and beans ($4).
Additionally, the drink list includes a few beers and wines, as well as two sizes of “spiked punches” in flavors like lime margarita, hibiscus mezcal and horchata rum punch (all $8 or $12).
“There won’t be too many moving parts, which is good for a single operator,” said Van Der Mije of his latest venture, which shares more than a block with his first. “We just wanted to do what we do at Osteria Leana in a way — always fresh food, really good technique, and not too experimental.”
Taco Bay is at 80 South St. in Oyster Bay, tacobayob.com. Opening hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.