So what exactly is the "North Fork vibe?" Full disclosure up front: this perspective is provided by a transplant--the truth is I have only lived here for 30 years. To be considered a true local, you must span generations. I believe that my grandchildren, should they make their primary residence here, and if their parents shift their primary residence from DUMBO to the North Fork, could potentially qualify. Significant to making the North Fork such a special place to live, work, and play is the farm/water to table attitude of this farming and fishing community. I believe that we have Chef John Ross to thank for the region's culinary spotlight on this tradition on the North Fork. It ties to the disposition of its people, and the North Fork's "bounty." Other highlights include the bucolic landscape which is extraordinarily beautiful (although so flat), and we have learned a lot about the importance of keeping open spaces and preserving our agricultural heritage through zoning and creative governmental and environmental initiatives that serve as mechanisms for conservation. Water is pretty much everywhere on the North Fork, bordered on the north side by the Long Island Sound, on the south side by the Peconic Bays, and with inlets and navigable waterways and lakes and ponds plentiful. No one is more than a mile or mile and a half from the water, but most of us are lucky enough, if not waterfront to be a few houses or at most a few blocks away. North Forkers have a pretty laid back attitude overall. Summer people, can you please take note of this? When I was driving my grandson home from East End Arts Renaissance Camp--more about that later--a car honked at another vehicle that didn't move fast enough off the line when one of our few traffic lights turned from red to green. My grandson was taken aback, "No one honks in Jamesport," he said. "They must be from the City--everyone honks there." An observation of a 5-year-old--get with the program people! I have found that for the most part North Forkers take considerable pride in their work--carpenters, landscapers, farmers and chefs alike, and it shows in our products which are mainly of high quality. Because we use produce that is grown here and although we do have an oyster farm, and some of the markets buy farmed fish, most of the fish that we eat are wild from local and Atlantic Ocean waters, so our food has a head start on being incredibly fresh and delicious. Farm products include meats, eggs, chicken, milk. And it must be mentioned that the natural light at certain times of day through all of the seasons is nothing short of extraordinary, attracting many noteworthy artists and photographers to the region. We have great sights, wineries, "u-pick" from berries to apples and pumpkins, farm stands, baked goods, boating, fishing, beaches, some excellent restaurants, community theaters and cultural venues. We welcome you to visit and discover just what you love about the North Fork. Meanwhile, here are some ideas to get you started. Feel free to join this conversation! This section will be a continual work in progress as we add to our list as new places open and we discover other treasures to try. Please check back often! Let us know your favorite go-to places. We will check them out and feature them as well.
“Best of” on the North Fork
Of course the local vineyards. Our favorites are Castello di Borghese, Lenz, Bedell for reds; Bedell, Lieb Cellars, and McCall for whites; Croteaux for sparkling rose; and Sparkling Pointe for champagne—re: the champagne, I go for the best bottles--and also for Sparkling Pointe for overall ambiance if you want to spend an afternoon. You will enjoy a wonderful wine experience, including live music, food, and a lovely vista. I have friends that are members of the Sparkling Pointe wine club and they have access to bottles that are not for sale to the general public. A special shout out to Rich Olsen-Harbich, the talented wine maker at Bedell. Of course, it can be noted that it is worthwhile to try wines at all the vineyards. We have 35+ and counting. Most of the vineyards have live music on the weekends. Some have special events--art exhibits, competitions, food trucks. Last year a Cider House opened in Riverhead, and there is a potato vodka manufacturer with a tasting room in Riverhead as well. For beer aficionados, in addition to its Greenport Village location Greenport Brewing Company, a local favorite, opened a second location in Peconic. Additionally, hot off the presses, Jamesport Brewery, on the North Road (Sound Avenue) in Jamesport just opened in September 2017.
Michael’s in Riverhead has the best selection and great prices, hands down. The Vintage Mattituck also does a respectable job and has a discount program for “members.” Both stores feature local wines, but also do a great job on California, Italy, France, New Zealand. Michael’s selection is much more extensive and incorporates a broader range at price point.
Goodfood in Mattituck (Pike Street) carries beautifully prepared foods and baked goods. They make several types of empanadas, and a changing lunch and dinner menu. Dinner is usually take out as they close early. 8 Hands Farm and Sang Lee Farms also do a good job of delicious, beautifully prepared special foods in addition to their main offerings. 8 Hands has a “charcuterie” (we will be featuring 8 Hands Farm in the future) as well as fresh lamb, pork, chickens and eggs. Sang Lee is an outstanding organic farm that has earned the reputation for high quality over time. I need to also note the lovely Lee family who own and work the property. Right now there are 3 generations represented, led by Fred and Karen Lee.
Braun’s in Cutchogue, no contest here. Braun’s also opened a “carry-out” a few years ago, which has some pretty tasty offerings for lunch and dinner. Southold Fish Market is also a local favorite.
Wayside Market in Southold, a mainstay for years and years. Also, 8 Hands Farm for pork, lamb, chicken and eggs, all grown on the property. It is a working farm located in Cutchogue. Recently Deep Roots Farm in Southold was highly recommended for chicken, pork and eggs.
The Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck, wonderful. This market was founded by Rosemary Batchellor more than 10 years ago, and sold to its current owner Michael Affatato about 2 years ago. Rose was on to something, preceding the market so to speak, as she introduced the North Fork to the highest quality cheeses from the U.S. and around the world. Her intuition paid off as locals loved her and her cheeses, and the demographics on the North Fork increasingly included second home owners who appreciated her offerings. Michael continues to build on Rosemary’s vision as the shop and café evolve with his unique perspective and palate. It continues to be excellent. Great stop also for day trippers before visiting local vineyards for the afternoon!
It is an embarrassment of riches to boast not one, but two goat farms on the North Fork that produce incredible goat cheese. First, is award winning Catapano Dairy Farm located in Peconic. I also enjoy the goat cheese produced at Goodale Farms in Aquebogue. Both of these dairies sell other fine products, and if you are out and about, their goat cheese is available at other North Fork locations as well, including the Village Cheese Shop, Sang Lee Farms, and Country View Farm Stand.
Also, for those inclined to travel "south"--which of course is encouraged--there is Mecox Bay Dairy in Bridgehampton, NY. As a note, there is no more relaxing way to appreciate the beauty of the area than to travel from the North Fork to South Fork by ferries. Off season, it is an easy and relaxing ride. By ferries (there are actually two short ferry rides) or driving around takes no more than an hour from Southold off season, usually less. Mecox Bay Dairy cheeses are outstanding and are carried at the Village Cheese Shop, as well as at the Farmer's Markets in Riverhead and Westhampton Beach, and Sang Lee Farms.
There are so many great ones! But if I have to choose, I go to Harbes for corn and peaches, and Sang Lee Farms for salad, greens, dressings, exquisite organic vegetables of every kind. Country View Farm Stand is a good place to pick up a wide variety of produce and other products as they carry crops, cheeses, and gourmet products produced on their family farms as well as from other local producers; Briermere Farms for pies, baked goods, and fruit. I encourage visitors (and locals) to try different farm stands. Many of the farm stands carry local products such as cheeses and fresh Long Island duck from Crescent Duck Farm. There are many farms here that are still owned by North Fork founding families including Latham's, Sep's, Wesnofske's, and Krupski's. There are also farmers markets in Greenport and Westhampton Beach through the fall, and from fall through the winter, there is a wonderful indoor farmer's market in Riverhead on East Main Street that features wines, cheeses, farm and gourmet products from producers from both the North and South Forks.
When we moved out here full time, nearly 30 years ago, there would have been one or two on this list. Today there are many to choose from with new ones opening each season. Standing the test of time, these are current favorites.
Frisky Oyster in Greenport
Consistently exceptional cuisine, year round, with a changing menu. Best drinks, great bar. We just ate there recently--to celebrate "hummingbird" actually, and it did not disappoint--even in the middle of August with a packed house!
Caci in Southold
Caci is one of the newer on this list, offering lovely, clean, innovative Italian dishes.
North Fork Table in Southold
North Fork Table is the restaurant of North Fork Table and Inn. It is extraordinary and is the only restaurant in our region to have received a "30 points" rating from Zagat's. It features a two tier prix fixe, 3 course and 5 course with or without wine pairing. An a la carte menu is also available. Dishes are sourced locally and are farm to table with the menu changed up seasonally to spotlight our local produce and waters. I am lucky enough to live within a short walk from the North Fork Table, and I always feel like we live in a fabulous resort when we have guests and walk over for dinner on a lovely summer or fall night. This was my brother Jeff 's and sister-in-law Angela's favorite restaurant out here, and the food, service, wine (they have an eclectic wine list) and good company made memories I will treasure forever. They have a lovely bar, and guests comfortably eat there as well.
Noah’s in Greenport
Noah's is a bit more trendy, and is usually packed on the weekends. Visitors staying at the Harbor Front Inn or Greenport B&Bs walk over, as do boaters that dock at the Greenport Municipal Marina across the street. It has a great bar, and Chef Noah Schwartz definitely knows what he is doing in the kitchen.
Lucharitos in Greenport
I have to mention Lucharitos, not because it is the best Mexican restaurant I've ever eaten at, but because it attracts a great crowd of locals and visitors, it is welcoming and the staff is great, the food and drinks are good, and it's always a fun time. It has a constant following year-round. Little Lucharitos, with a more limited menu, and mainly carry-out versus dining, is scheduled to open this fall in Aquebogue. Everyone's waiting for it!
Grana Trattoria Antica in Jamesport
Known as "Grana's," calling it a pizzeria would be like calling Delmonico's a steak joint. But they do have outstanding wood fired pizza, featuring thin crust and creative combinations of flavors. They also have hand-made pastas, and special dishes each evening. I recall stopping there to pick up one of their pizzas to bring home for dinner after work on a cold winter evening, and a gentleman sitting next to me at the bar was eating a freshly made fettuccine with home made sausage and peas and a lovely cream sauce. I seriously had to contain myself from asking him to taste it. The bread and salads are always a treat. Grana's is casual delicious dining.
American Beech in Greenport
At American Beech, the food is creative and delicious, the service friendly and professional, the atmosphere casual and upbeat. American Beech has a nice, comfortable bar, where patrons enjoy drinks, and also dining at the bar and its nearby tables. We find that the back room is better for eating and talking as it is usually quieter there. There are a wide variety of appetizers and sides to share to start off with and entrees run the gamut including items such as pork schnitzel, sautéed tilapia, and buttermilk fried chicken, which is a specialty of the house—it’s that good. Other options include—skirt steak, burgers, pasta, great salads. Although not all local, their wine list features many local vineyards. Draft beers also get the thumbs up. Prices are reasonable to moderate.
Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue
Located in East Quogue, just west of Hampton Bays, we acknowledge that it is not on the North Fork. However, its proximity—only 30 minutes from Cutchogue, and its lack of pretense makes us count it among our local favorites. In fact it might be our favorite restaurant on the East End. Opened in 1996, and owned and operated by culinary couple Christian Mir and Elaine DiGiacomo, dining at Stone Creek is a top shelf experience, from the ambiance including a traditional style bar—big, heavy and friendly with top notch bar tending, to the table service. And of course, the food is delicious, innovative and beautiful. Seasonal local ingredients are featured. During the winter, Stone Creek has a prix fixe menu on Thursday and Sunday. Prices are moderate to expensive, but well worth the price. The prix fixe is a wonderful value. Favorite dishes include Long Island Duck Meatballs, Crispy Calamari Salad, Bouillabaisse, Scottish Salmon, Roasted Duck Breast, Veal Osso Buco Ragu—pretty much everything! Desserts also are wonderful.
Frisky Oyster in Greenport
Friendly, comfortable, great drinks. They seriously make the best cosmopolitan and dry martini (with the perfect olives) we've had on the East End.
Best Beaches + Special Spots
Goldsmith's Inlet in Peconic
Goldsmith's Inlet is one of my favorite beaches on the North Fork, a little secret hideaway really. The inlet meanders into a tidal pool which then opens up to the Long Island Sound. It is rarely crowded, there is no food concession. It is just quiet, serene and beautiful. It is a glorious spot to spend the afternoon.
Iron Pier Beach in Jamesport
This is a favorite Sound beach among local North Fork residents and visitors alike. It is expansive, and with the lifeguards, a concession stand, showers, pavilion and playground, families love it. It's a great beach to spend the day, or hit the Sound for a late afternoon swim.
Founders Beach in Founders Landing, Southold
Founders Beach is an all time favorite bay beach where many local children and visitors alike learn to swim! There are two grassy play areas, and a nice beach area to spread out. Lifeguards are on duty all season, and there is a spacious roped off swim area. It's a long walk out toward a drop off for depth, so little ones have a large area to play in fairly shallow water. There is a playground, restrooms, and a "wharf house," with a full kitchen and patio style dance floor. The beach is well used by families during the day throughout the season, and can be reserved for special events in the evenings over the summer including weddings, community parties, and charitable events, most notably the Greenport-Southold Lobsterfest, a community fundraiser feast, where neighbors sit side by side at long tables overlooking beautiful Southold Bay. Local lore has it that it never rains for Lobsterfest which takes place on the last Saturday night in July (although I think I do remember rain one year!), and the summer breezes, reggae band, and delicious lobster and steak dinners never fail to disappoint.
McCabe’s Beach in Southold
McCabe's Beach is at the end of Horton's Lane. It is a sweet quiet Sound beach with lifeguards during the season. I have a particular fondness for McCabe's--for stopping by early in the morning, or late in the day--when the only other ones on the beach are fishermen surf casting, and towards evening when others like me stop by to see the spectacular sunsets. There are seriously spectacular sunsets over the Long Island Sound on the North Fork-- as in Key West spectacular. Worth waiting for one day for sure. Also, I must note two other nostalgic reasons for my fondness for McCabe's. First, I live over on the bay side, so considering the narrowness of the Island in Southold, it's the perfect distance for a bike ride with a lovely and peaceful destination; and second, its empty parking lot off season was where I taught our daughter how to drive when she was around 16--stick shift. Those were great times!
Nassau Point Causeway Beach, Cutchogue
The Nassau Point Causeway Beach is a special spot. First it is just so open, and so totally North Fork with it feeling like water is everywhere. You are beachfront on Little Peconic Bay, and behind you are wetlands leading to Broadwaters Cove. It is a delightful, breezy roadway over a very, very narrow strip of land. The beach itself has picnic tables and barbecues, a playground, a basketball court and a roped off swimming area with lifeguards on duty during the summer months. It is a place where the waves in the bay appear more "robust" than in other locations, and when the wind is whipping it's just a beautiful sight to see, driving or walking out onto the Point with the open bay to your left and the peaceful, quiet wetlands and cove to your right.
Dam Pond is one of those special places that are hard to imagine are right here where we live. There is a 36 acre conservation area that abuts the Pond, with hiking trails through magnificent preserved parcels of land that were conserved through the collaboration of Southold Town, Peconic Land Trust, and several individual land owners and conservation donors. The trails are beautiful, peaceful, and serene, and the vista over the pond, which is tranquil, over the barrier beach to the Long Island Sound and the Connecticut shoreline is breath taking. It is my understanding that the Dam Pond Conservation Reserve is accessible by foot--there are published Dam Pond Trail maps, and the Pond can be accessed by kayak, according to the tides, under the bridge that transverses the "causeway" between East Marion and Orient on the Main Road. And, there is a beach landing area near the causeway on the north side of the Main Road where kayaks can be launched. The Town of Southold, the North Fork Audubon Society and Peconic Land Trust can all provide further information about the Conservation Reserve. I noticed that the Trail Map provided online by the Town of Southold contains a cautionary note about checking for ticks after walking the trails, an unfortunate reality in natural settings in the region.
These are just a few highlights of what you will find here on the North Fork. Other great spots include Town Beach, on the Sound in Southold, with full facilities, public parking and where swimming classes are scheduled by the Town each summer; Cedar Beach in Southold and the beach in New Suffolk (Cutchogue) are others to check out. There are many more! It is worthwhile to take a look at the Towns of Southold and Riverhead websites for maps and complete lists of beaches. Also included is parking and day pass information for the Town and Park District Beaches. No passes or permits are required before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.