Breakfast, American, Diner
Lunch, Offbeat / Quirky, Outdoor Seating, Breakfast
The Shipwreck Diner is a neighborhood establishment serving a crowd of mostly locals where breakfast has always been a mainstay. The menu is classic diner, with familiar plates and sides available for any meal (including the always-complimented crispy fries). Regulars laud the large portions, while sitting among the wood benches. Another unique trait is the courtyard -- not typical of most diners, it allows patrons to take their meals outdoors when the weather is appropriate.
7 a.m.-late daily.
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Gracie the waitress calls you "sweetie" and "hon"; she fits so perfectly into the vintage dining-car setting of Tim's Shipwreck Diner in Northport that you wonder whether she's real or part of a Hollywood-generated scene. And while it's true the diner was the backdrop for a pivotal scene in the 1997 film "In and Out," Gracie -- kind, sincere and professional -- turns out to be 100 percent genuine.
As does the diner, which sits proudly on the same wheels that brought it from Worcester, Mass., to Northport in 1924. Known originally as the Northport Diner, the landmark became Otto's Shipwreck Diner during the early '70s. When former owner Otto Hess retired, he turned the place over to his son, Tim, a young man with a healthy respect for the past.
That past is evident in the quilted stainless-steel walls, cozy wood paneling, countless photographs of Northport, old and new, and the background music from the first half of the 1900s. But Hess has been looking ahead, too, improving and updating the diner's sturdy all-American fare.
Breakfast has always been a mainstay here. On weekdays, it's where local politicians gather; on weekends, the wait for a table can stretch up to an hour. Breakfast blackboard-special standouts include tart blackberry pancakes, wholesome and light oat bran pancakes, and marvelous banana pecan waffles. Old-fashioned biscuits with sausage cream gravy, beige and dull-looking, turned out to be a lush, peppery treat. But cream-cheese stuffed cinnamon-raisin French toast was cloyingly rich. While a broccoli and Cheddar omelet was overcooked, the accompanying home fries, made from unpeeled red potatoes, were superb.
At lunch, you can get a commendable hamburger or a buffalo burger, which is leaner and just about as good. Alas, its bun was cottony and the accompanying French fries not the homemade, hand-cut variety. Hess also needs to re-think the dry, unadorned grilled chicken sandwich. An afternoon special of macaroni and cheese was enjoyable, even if it did need a bit more cheese sauce. Best was a Reuben sandwich (corned beef, sauerkraut and cheese grilled on rye), a gooey, mellifluous indulgence.
Lately, dinner at Tim's has been nearly as popular as breakfast. Understandable, when you're eating two juicy, smoky grilled pork chops, accompanied by fine and fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy. Fish and chips, another special, featured snowy cod in a light, flawlessly fried batter that was so all-out satisfying, the from-the-freezer fries hardly mattered.
To conclude, get "Marion's homemade rice pudding." Scrape off the aerosol whipped cream and savor, in that pudding's cinnamony lushness, an American diner heritage that spans the centuries.