The Snapper Inn
500 Shore Dr., Oakdale
SERVICE: Friendly, attentive
AMBIENCE: Old World, New World
ESSENTIALS: Lunch, Wednesday to Saturday noon to 4 p.m., Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.; dinner, Wednesday to Saturday from 4 p.m., Sunday from 3 p.m.; closed Monday year-round and Tuesday from November through April; weekend reservations recommended; major credit cards accepted; wheelchair accessible
Ninety is the new 50.
The Snapper Inn, which began as a fish stand in 1929, is celebrating its many decades, situated on the banks of the Connetquot River, getting younger with the season.
Henry Remmer, an immigrant from Germany’s North Sea coast, became a successful businessman in Brooklyn and Sayville. He’d been in the soda fountain and candy trade, and then went east. He started a family rowboat and bait operation.
Remmer bought some waterfront land and eventually established The Snapper Inn, named for the small bluefish, which proved to be a big catch.
From the Great Depression through superstorm Sandy and what followed, The Snapper Inn has endured and become a local landmark.
The Remmer family continues to own and manage the now-sprawling restaurant, bar and catering facility. The niece of current owner Richard Remmer, Kerry Blanchard, is the general manager. The site of innumerable parties for weddings, anniversaries, showers, birthdays and more, the main dining room, rebuilt post-Sandy, seems decorated with balloons every weekend and a site for festivities almost daily.
And if you’re 90 years old, bring a valid identification and join in. You’ll receive a free entree.
Naturally, the woodwork is very polished all around. There are glass-enclosed models of sailing ships and a vintage, evocative rowing shell at ceiling height above them. The stained glass window that decorates the nearby “balcony room” is from Henry Remmer’s candy store. His two-masted fishing boat, from the 1880s, shares docking facilities and has been active on Great South Bay.
The history around the restaurant extends to Remmer’s recipe for sauerbraten, a tender, mild mainstay, flanked by red cabbage and a potato pancake. It’s a suitable main course during the cool-weather months.
From executive chef Maureen Denning's selections, begin with crisp, fried calamari, boosted by hot cherry peppers and cilantro pesto. Or enjoy the oysters on the half-shell, nibble on a shrimp cocktail or king crab legs, and turn contemporary, or at least fairly recent, with blackened, seared roseate cuts of ahi tuna, with Asian slaw and pickled ginger. “Italian style baked clams” are ample, chopped and prepared modestly oreganata.
The seafood bisque is aromatic; a special of chicken-lentil soup, homey. Caesar salad arrives barely dressed, but the namesake house salad, threaded with frisee, materializes with roasted red peppers, red onion, cucumber, shaved carrots and grape tomatoes, perked up by a peppercorn-Parmesan dressing.
Seafood specials abound, with many satisfying finfish. A fine choice is the sauteed red snapper with Kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, lemon butter sauce, herbed risotto and spinach. Likewise, the lobster-and-crab crusted cod, finished with lobster sauce, saffron basmati rice and asparagus. Typically, at least five catches of the day are served, either fried, sauteed, grilled, blackened, Francaise or “scampied.”
Skip the timid seafood fra diavolo on limp linguine in favor of the substantial fried seafood platter of flounder, sea scallops and shrimp. The best of the seaside main courses, however, is the pristine steamed lobster, weighing in at 1 1/2 or 2 pounds. It’s sweet and flavorful enough to let you ignore either drawn butter or lemon.
Diners averse to fish can veer toward the respectable, boneless prime rib, a husky slab that you can imagine as the popular pick at a wedding reception. Same for the velvety, 8-ounce filet mignon. No need to have the former blackened or the latter au poivre. Au jus will do. And the 1/2-pound cheeseburger is available at lunch and dinner. Grilled asparagus and sauteed spinach are the preferable sides.
Desserts are led by a flourless chocolate torte, Häagen-Dazs ice cream or passion fruit sorbet, and an easygoing Granny Smith apple crumb number.
But The Snapper Inn could use something else.
A birthday cake.