A North Shore Ferry Town Goes Foodie: Eating around Port Jefferson, NY

Photo: Danford's Hotel
Port Jefferson has changed a lot over the years. When I was in high school, it was THE spot to hang out. We'd hit up the newly opened Starbucks, get a burrito at the now old school Salsa Salsa, and head up the hill to the Village Pub, now called Lulu's Live Music, to see The Reckoning rock out Grateful Dead tunes. Since moving back to the Three Village area near Port Jeff, I've come to appreciate it even more.

Port Jeff has retained a lot of its staples, Billie's, The Tigerlily Cafe, and Pasta Pasta haven't gone anywhere. There are still the touristy t-shirt shops and overpriced seafood joints. But emerging around these classics, new restaurants, artisan food and beer spots, and even a farmer's market (not to mention the Long Island Music Hall of Fame) have begun to create Port Jeff into a spot worth visiting...not just for the ferry, but also for the food.

In the following adventuring guide, I've marked some of my favorite spots I've frequented since moving back to the area. This is certainly not all the food spots in Port Jeff, but those I visit often and appreciate. You can craft these suggestions into whatever kind of food adventure suits you, tasting at some or eating at others. If you live in NYC, it may take you a bit longer to get out here, approx. 1.5 hrs. But you could always stay at Danford's, a beautiful waterside hotel, but a bit on the expensive side. It's a great jumping off point for a North Fork wine tasting as well. But for the intrepid food adventurer, it's not too far to spend the day and head back into the  city. So check it out, things are definitely beginning to happen out here on the North Shore of LI.

View A Food Adventurer's Guide To Port Jefferson in a larger map 

Toast Coffeehouse

We'll begin this adventure as any good adventure should start...with brunch. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner since around 2006, Toast is the perfect spot to start any day in Port Jeff. With homemade tasty pancakes, french toast, mimosas, omelets, sandwiches, you name it, you will not be going away hungry.

The atmosphere is young and funky with a rotation of local artists adorning their walls. They've recently expanded, so the wait line isn't as long as it was been in the past. But definitely expect to hang out for a bit on the weekend because it can get packed quickly. In the evening, the Coffeehouse serves tapas and fondue. I've never been in the evening and can't vouch for the experience, but I'm sure it's worth the adventure if you're in the mood for some melted cheese or chocolate.

All in all, this is my go-to breakfast spot in the area and I've never left disappointed.

Tigerlily Cafe

Photo: Tigerlily Cafe
One of the classics in Port Jeff, Tigerlily has been around since I was in high school, but they're still serving excellent vegetarian food to the masses. Vegetarian? For real? Yup...and it's good. But don't worry, even if your friends aren't veggie, Tigerlily has you covered as they also offer sandwiches and other bites for carnivores. They also have a solid menu of smoothies and health conscious drinks for the hippie in all of us. Try daring your friends to a shot of wheat grass...it's a good time.

The atmosphere is artistic and warm with a dose of Ani Difranco. Local musicians and artists are often highlighted with different events happening every so often. They recently have redone the balcony out back, which is a fantastic place to spend a warm summer day. So once you've had your fill of East Main's shops, pop in here for some carrot juice and a falafel...your body will thank you.


Shaved Porcetta Piada
eatPiada is the lunch offshoot of North Shore chef (and Chopped contestant) Johnathan Contes' restaurant, eatMosaic. "Piada" is the italian word for a tortilla-like flatbread used to wrap ingredients, and eaten mainly as street food in Italy. I doubt Contes makes his own flatbread, but the ingredients and different combinations of flavors are definitely created with care and intention.

The highlights of the menu include the Shaved Porcetta Piada (Herb roasted pork, brie, mustard-dried fruit chutney), Grilled Chicken Marsala Piada (Grilled chicken, roasted mushrooms and onions, brie, and a marsala sour cream), and lastly Roast Beef Tricolore Piada (Chicory, Fontina cheese, horseradish, and a balsamic bbq sauce). Inventive and tasty, these wraps are certainly worth the $8 bucks for their flavor alone.

If a wrap doesn't entice you here, then perhaps the homemade desserts will. Cookies, truffles, and other delicacies can also be tasted here. My personal favorite is the cookies and cream truffle...believe me, it's all kinds of goodness. Even if you're between meals, this cool, clean lunch spot is great for a snack on your food adventure and worth a stop to taste Contes' creations.

Port Jeff Brewing Company

Every port town needs a brewery and luckily, Port Jeff has a good one. Since October, Port Jeff Brewing has been serving a solid line up of beer and adding their voice to the quickly emerging Long Island craft beer scene. Tasting is free, but most likely after trying the different styles, you'll probably want to take a growler home with you.

Their flight of beers starts with their balanced and easy to drink, Schooner Ale. Technically, an English Pale Ale, it has a slight citrus flavor with a nice hoppy finish from a marriage of Kent Goldings and Columbus hops. Next on tap, they're currently pouring their seasonal Boo Brew, a pumpkin ale made from real, organic pumpkins. Not overly spiced with a hint of pumpkin, the beer has made me a believer in pumpkin ales once again. From there, we get into their darker brews, starting with their Low Tide Black IPA. I'm a huge fan of hops, and this is certainly a beer for the bitter at heart. A plethora of australian Galaxy hops create some interesting fruity notes that are accented by a roasted malt flavor and and extended bitter finish. And lastly, we come to their Port Jeff Porter. Traditionally brewed, the Porter has nice notes of coffee and chocolate with a balanced bitterness at the end. Sweetened slightly with local organic honey, the beer is perfect for a cool, fall day.

I'm sure brewmaster Mike Philbrick has some more exciting recipes up his sleeve, so definitely keep checking in on the tap room for more brews. You can also find PJ beers at bars across the North Shore, but the brewery is definitely a "must-stop" for any beer loving food adventurer in this part of the world.

C'est Cheese Port Jeff

Another recent addition to Port Jeff is Joe Ciarullo's C'est Cheese, a gourmet cheese shop and tasting room. Huh, a tasting room? Cheese? That's right and it's probably a good way to describe it, because Joe goes beyond just selling cheese. Offering beer and wine pairing options, trying cheese at the shop is a culinary experience. Joe, who is a trained chef, and his staff offer their expertise in pairing their dozens of cheeses with different accompanying spreads, meats, nuts, and drinks. Found at the top of Main St., C'est Cheese is yet another exciting artisan addition to Port Jeff's food scene and is a great spot for a snack during your food adventure, for lunch, or a post-dinner wine and cheese dessert.

On our most recent stop, we tried three cheeses, our all-time favorite Cyprus Grove's Truffle Tremor, Cyprus Grove's Lambchopper, and an Italian truffle cheese, Soltocenere. The truffle cheeses were paired with a wonderful red pepper jam and a fig compote, which highlighted the truffle flavors and added a sweet aspect to the pairing. The Lambchopper, a bit more robust cheese, was accompanied by none other than salted corn nuts. An unconventional pairing that worked suprisingly well. To drink, My wife enjoyed Red Hook Winery's "Seneca Lake" Sparkling Riesling with our tasting, while I went with a Thomas Hooker's Hop Meadow IPA. Needless to say, it was all quite tasty.

Billie's 1890 Saloon

There's certainly no lack of dive bars in Port Jeff. But some are better than others. Tara's Inn up Rt. 25a is a classic, but in Port Jeff proper, Billie's is the place to hit up in my opinion. Whether it was founded in 1890 is up for debate, but as far as I know they've been serving booze and food since I was a kid. Hands down, they have one of the best happy hours on the North Shore. I mean you just can't beat good 15 cent wings (we always get BBQ with a side of hot sauce) and half priced drinks. Well unless you want to brave the college students on Tuesday night for 10 cent wings and $1 Millers. On the weekends, they spin the $2 wheel to give hourly specials throughout the sports games.

But even if you're not into the wings and beer, they have a pretty decent and affordable pub menu which even boasts local steamers in the summer time. Their burgers aren't anything special, but their big, juicy, and good. So if you're in the mood for bar food or need to catch a sports game, Billie's is the place.

Wave Seafood Kitchen at Danford's Hotel

Atlantic Cod w/ Lobster and Gnocchi
Photo: Wave Seafood
One of my wife's favorite spots to spend a warm sunny afternoon in Port Jeff is the dockside dining area of Wave Seafood Kitchen. One of few actual waterside restaurants on Long Island, Wave prides itself for being "an innovative restaurant concept pairing produce from local farms and fields, with the freshest seafood available from our nearby waters." Jaclyn's favorite dish is their Lobster Roll. While it may be a $25 sandwich, it's all lobster and whole lot of it.

For dinner, their seafood is served fresh off local boats and prepared expertly. For those not in the mood for fish, they do go beyond seafood. What's not to love about this little number for the fall season: "Brooklyn Pumpkin Ale Braised Pork Belly with a Faro Ragout, Dried Cherries, Pumpkin Seeds, and Brussel Sprouts." To drink, they also have an expansive drinks list with "Inspired Cocktails" (a bit too fruity and sweet looking for my palate though) and several local Long Island wines and beers.

While it's not a requirement that I eat local, I always appreciate it when restaurants make a strong attempt. Although I've only been a couple time to Wave, they do seem to be doing things right and one things for sure...It sure is nice to sip some local wine with local oysters down by the water.

The Fifth Season

Photo: Fifth Season
Just across the street from Wave is another "farm to table" restaurant sourcing from the land and waters of Long Island. At The Fifth Season, Chefs Orlowski and Urbanati have created a new american cuisine focused on keeping it sophisticated, local, and organic whenever possible. The restaurants atmosphere is modern and classic, and in the summertime they have a wonderful outside deck to enjoy drinks or a meal.

Committed to bringing the freshest local ingredients possible, the chefs change their menus every 12 weeks shifting their recipes to what is in season. Along with their menus, the restaurant also has a wonderful list of local wines and beers to pair with their food. They also host seasonal beer and winemaker dinners allowing diners to learn more about their craft and pairing food. This intentionality creates a wonderful experience for diners like myself, locavores who love to eat in relationship with the place where there food is created.

Some of my favorites are their Seared Long Island Duck Breast and the Long Island Scallops with Sauteed Lobster and Leeks, Roasted Long Island potatoes, in a Fennel Pollen Buerre Blanc. Both dishes are expertly created and highlight the local produce's flavors. If you're just looking for a quick bite, try their Duck Tacos at the bar (they may have shifted it off the menu recently, but if you're ever there when they're on it, definitely get them).

From start to finish, The Fifth Season is a great example of the locally focused trend emerging on Long Island and is definitely one of my favorite places to sample the harvest of Long Island produce.


That concludes my suggestions for adventuring in Port Jeff. As always, food adventuring is what you make of it...so have fun and happy eating!


  1. Looks like anyone could find something to enjoy for lunch or dinner around there, what a great variety. The fifth season restaurant is on to something there with the change up of the menu every 12 weeks. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Tina! Yeah, it's a pretty cool place to live near for a foodie :)

  3. All I can say is YUM - most people eat with their eyes!Great pics! So now I will go back & actually read the content - following you from Bloggers :)

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  5. Those boats really look awesome and the food as well. Thank you very much.


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