Hidden on Bootleg Alley in Greenport, an address also known as 37 Front Street, is a small business located in what used to be the wheelhouse of an old whaling ship. I welcome you to share my fantasy that the ship is buried just beneath it, because isn’t that more romantic? Inside this ship/shack is the home of Little Creek Oysters, known also as North Fork Oysters. Oysters are either fresh farmed or dive-caught. They have local beer and wine, and are happy to give you instruction on opening your oysters. The gear consists of a shucking knife, safety gloves, paper towels, and a mélange of local hot sauces and horseradish. They even have “training wheels”, a wooden device that holds the shell still as you work your knife. After the first two, it was clear that training wheels were no longer necessary. We debated with Ian the merits of draining your oyster versus keeping the brine in the shell – he prefers the salty brine to play off the sweet oyster inside. We asked him about the impact of farming oysters. Obviously farmed fish have a well-deserved stigma, what about farmed oysters? Ian explained that it’s less farming than it is managing. The oysters are kept in the bay in what amounts to a man-made floating reef designed to protect them from predation. They receive all their food and nutrients from the water, nothing is added, just like with traditional oysters. They are removed from the water every few months and tumbled – this mimics the natural tidal forces and causes the oysters to repair their shells resulting in stronger shells (making them easier to open) and more interior space for the oyster to hang out. Our bays are nearly devoid of the shell fragments and stones that would normally do the abrading as the tides came in and out due to the old ways of raking for oysters. This results in the dive-caught shells having a thinner profile with more decorative ridges, because the oysters can make them pretty rather than repairing them. It was an interesting conversation, and one that showed us that we can produce food from our local waters in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. Sitting outside on a fall night, shucking oysters, drinking local beer and wine, fifteen feet from the bay, was an amazing experience. When you add our fantasy that the old whaling boat was underfoot, silted over, well, we’d never shucked before, but you better believe we will be back again!
Popping over to Brix and Rye was like a trip in a time machine.
The Main Street entrance to this speak-easy styled bar leads to a small room and a set of stairs to the basement. There is no sign besides the etched glass on the door, you just have to know it’s here! Follow the stairs down to the bar. It’s actually below a pizzeria, so in addition to prohibition styling, one can order food from the future (I said it was like a trip in a time machine), to be brought down piping hot. Where else can you have pizza delivered to a bar without eliciting stares or Spicoli references? A few cocktails and a medium pie later. . . .
Did I mention that Aldos makes a wicked good affogato?
Italian for drowned, an affogato is made for those people who want an espresso with their ice cream, literally – a scoop of gelato swims in a shot of espresso. In our opinion, it’s the perfect way to combine coffee and dessert: hot and cold, bitter and sweet, just plain yummy. Aldos roasts their own coffee, making it a traditional coffee house that doesn’t have free-WiFi….
Because we didn’t have enough of Greenport, we returned for the Maritime Festival and street fair. The normally bucolic, small town Greenport was transformed into a wonderfully chaotic mass of sidewalk foods, vendors, beer and wine tastings, and music. After wandering the streets, a stop at First and South was in order to enjoy their made to order “street foods”: pretzels, hot dogs and hamburgers, sausages, sides, and wide selection of beer. They’re always a good stop, and we appreciated being able to utilize their outdoor seating to have a civilized meal amidst the excitement.
Blue Canoe is a bar and restaurant with outdoor seating that overlooks the bay. We stopped here for a glass of wine to enjoy the salt air breeze while we waited for our dinner reservation. While the weather is nice through the autumn months North-Forks intends on exploring this restaurant again. The atmosphere is casual, as can be expected by the location – it certainly has a vacation getaway feel – and the menu varies from oysters and sushi to pasta and burgers.
After walking that off, North-Forks had dinner at the Frisky Oyster. “Frisky” to those in the know is a fantastic restaurant and bar. The menu is varied and the food is excellent. Our waitress made certain that we were never lacking, their bottles of in-house filtered sparkling water were quickly replenished before we could empty them. If you haven’t been to Frisky, it’s absolutely a place to try. Greenport has so many truly exemplary restaurants that it’s impossible to make a recommendation of one over the other, but you can come here with the certainty that you will have a great meal.
Greenport is one of those places that is more than the sum of it’s parts. Amazing restaurants, fantastic shopping, scenery, water, the carousel, live performances, ice skating in the winter…. It’s only one town on the North Fork, but if you’re concerned about having enough to do when you come out, make Greenport a destination and you won’t be disappointed.