Laid Back on the North Fork
For a low-key beach weekend, lifestyle editor Anna Balkrishna heads for a deck chair with a glass of local wine.
GREENPORT, New York – Having grown up on the neon-bright shores of California, I am unabashedly charmed by ramshackle beach towns on the Eastern seaboard. Cape Cod, Montauk, Ogunquit, Martha's Vineyard, Ocean Grove — if it has a decent lobster roll within 500 feet of the Atlantic, then I'll drive, train, fly, or Jitney out to get there.
One of my favorites is the village of Greenport, located at the dwindling end of Long Island's North Fork. Greenport is smaller, sleepier, and weirder than anything you'd find in the Hamptons. Which is exactly why I love it. Bronzed weekenders in Tory Burch flip-flops, grey-ponytailed hippies, bachelorette parties, kids' birthday parties, bikers of both the leather and spandex varieties — all jostle at Claudio's Clam Bar for a plastic seat on the pier and a plate of trashy-good baked clams.
The Journey Is the Destination
The best part about driving to Greenport is running the gantlet into town via Main Road, aka the North Fork Wine Trail. My boyfriend and I impose a limit of two tastings along the way (more and we'd have to leave the Zipcar in a ditch and hitchhike). Last time, we hit the low-key Paumanok Vineyards to pick up a bottle of their excellent $25 chenin blanc; it's the only chenin blanc produced in Long Island, they'll proudly tell you, from grapes that grow in the region as a happy accident. And then, my favorite: Croteaux Vineyards, an impossibly quaint establishment that only makes "rose on purpose!" (Exclamation point is theirs!) Everyone sets up in the shady backyard garden, though in the case of rain, there's an open-air lounge equipped with cushioned benches and a wooden swing.
The Destination Ain't Bad, Either
There are plenty of places to stay in town — Greenport is just lousy with charming B&Bs, thanks to its population of restored Victorians. But our go-to is a small waterfront rental known as The Cottage on Sunset Bluff. Located off Route 48 just five minutes from downtown, the pretty one-room cottage is a former family guesthouse on the property of Stephen and Donna Grzesik. The Grzesik's own house is situated just behind the cottage, and they're usually around if you need restaurant advice or a beach umbrella.
But mostly, the cottage feels like a private little hideaway. Stephen's dog Toby might pop by your lawn sometimes, but he's the only one watching if you're having a hot make-out session, and frankly Toby doesn't seem to care much. Mornings, we bring our coffees down to the beach and stuff beach stones in our pockets. (Okay fine, that sounds totally twee. But dude,
those stones would cost a fortune at a fancy gardening store in Brooklyn!) Evenings, we grill steaks and eat them sitting in the two Adirondack chairs on the deck, watching the cottage's namesake sunset over Long Island Sound and squinting for faraway fireworks. If the source of the magic isn't apparent yet: It's the view, dummy.
While You're There, Might As Well Eat
Of course, the biggest thing to do in Greenport, besides collect beach stones obviously, is to sit around and eat and drink the weekend away. During the day, we always end up back at D'Latte, a coffee shop where you can pick up salami-and-cheese baguette sandwiches and huge, buttery ginger cookies for a picnic lunch. D'Latte shares management and an adjacent space with Biere, a strange but wonderful little nook that's half tapas restaurant and half sushi counter, with enough jazz bar thrown in to entertain the owner, Frank. Down the way is Salamander General Store (414 1st St.; +631-477-3711), which is not so much an actual grocery but a hole-in-the-wall takeaway that sells the most amazing fried chicken anywhere (be prepared to wait for it).
Greenport doesn't offer too much in the way of fine dining, though if that's on your list, hop back on the road toward Southold, where the North Fork Table & Inn lies tucked away as inconspicuously as a roadside diner. Established by former New York chefs Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming, the North Fork Table is sort of a folksier version of Napa's French Laundry (though French Laundry never had a lunch truck hawking lobster rolls in the parking lot). Their reservation book is notoriously mobbed, so the trick is to show up when it opens at 5 p.m. to nab a seat at the bar. If the chorizo scallops or yellowtail crudo doesn't do it for you, then I give up — you best head back to Claudio's for another round of baked clams. Which, to be fair, sounds pretty good right now, too.
See the locations mentioned in this itinerary. (GoogleMap)