Since opening as a retail store in 1974, Bruce’s Cheese Emporium and Café (208 Main Street, Greenport; 631/477-0023) has evolved into a full-service café that is the place to go for breakfast and lunch. The bustling local spot, within a historic downtown building, turns out omelets, French toast, and sandwiches (some named after Grateful Dead songs) in a crowded room where shelves are filled with groceries and old village photos cover the walls.
The Southhampton institution The Village Cheese Shop closed this year, but life goes on for the North Fork incarnation (105 Love Lane, Mattituck; 631/298-8556 or thevillagecheeseshop.com). Inside the brick storefront you’ll find a broad selection of gourmet products and cheeses. Perhaps an even better idea on a chilly afternoon is to sit at one of the café tables and choose from fondues, including traditional Swiss, Normandy, Italian, and Spanish, as well as a selection of North Fork wines by the glass.
The communal table at the center of Love Lane Kitchen (240 Love Lane, Mattituck; 631/298-8989 or lovelanekitchen.com) symbolizes what this restaurant is all about: community and good old-fashioned hospitality. The local favorite has a vintage-country look and an owner, Mike Avella, who scours area farms for the best they have to offer. The menu, written on a giant chalkboard, offers a mix of market-driven fare that includes duck tagine and weekly crespelle (savory crepes) specials and daily pasta specials.
No matter that it’s directly across the street from Starbucks, Aldo’s (103–105 Front Street, Greenport; 631/477-6300), has had a loyal following since the 1970s―and usually a line out the door. As stellar as the house-roasted coffee beans and artfully pulled espresso are here (and try the house-baked biscotti), for many Aldo’s devotees, the draw is equally for owner Aldo Maiorana, known for his wild shock of white hair, white bandana tied around his neck, and, let’s say, unpredictable temperament.
WHERE TO STAY
As the days get shorter and colder, the appeal of a place like the Jedediah Hawkins Inn (400 South Jamesport Avenue, Jamesport, rates from $250 per night; 631/722-2900 or jedediahhawkinsinn.com), in an 1860s Victorian mansion in Jamesport, becomes even greater. The stately inn was meticulously restored in 2004 and now has gas fireplaces and flat-screens in each room.
Smack in the middle of a vineyard, Shinn Estate Farmhouse (2000 Oregon Road, Mattituck, rates from $149 per night; 631/804-0367 or shinnfarmhouse.com), built in 1880, was also recently restored. After a peaceful night in one of the four guest rooms, each of which has miles-long views, awake to a breakfast of homemade duck sausage with a cream biscuit, tomato gravy, and soft scrambled eggs. You’ll never look at a B&B the same way again.
In 2001, the North Fork got its first boutique hotel, The Greenporter Hotel (326 Front Street, Greenport, rates from $109 per night; 631/477-0066 or thegreenporter.com), a 30-room, 1950s-era motor lodge redone in modern, minimalist style and offering such luxuries as Frette linens.
A sprawling 19th-century home on Peconic Bay with formal gardens and a private beach and dock, Harbor Knoll (424 Fourth Street, Greenport, rates from $200 per night; 631/477-2352 or harborknoll.com) is picture perfect. The B&B with four rooms plus freestanding cottage is a short walk to the center of Greenport. But with a Prohibition-era bar, communal library, and harbor views everywhere you turn, it’s hard to imagine you will ever want to leave.