I grew up here on the South Shore of Long Island. I always loved the excitement of NYC, but as I get older I realize how much I love these small towns. In short, here are some of the places I returned to during a recent visit.
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A few years ago, I went back not that long ago for a high school reunion. Interestingly enough, not much had changed except for the pizza toppings had become fancier and Sayville Junior High was now Sayville Middle School. Also the trees grew up on the street that I lived on and the new owners of my house had fixed it up a lot. However, Sunrise drive Elementary looked the same. One of my classmates told me that he still rides bikes with his kids and points out my house.
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South Shore Long Island: Sayville
I grew up in a small town on the south shore of Long Island where main street was filled with quaint shops with offices above. As teens we would hang out at the local movie theater which expanded to have 3 movies. In the summer we would walk to Carvel. I would always get a mint chocolate chip cone with colored sprinkles. Weekends you could find a crowd hanging out in the parking lot behind Sayville Pizza until someone called the cops and we would all disperse. Then it was off to bonfires at Lotus Lake or parties behind the bleachers.
Our town was an old fishing and resort village and was preserved by the Sayville Historical Society. No fast food restaurants were allowed and it was controversial when a Friendly’s Restaurant moved in. I worked there during my senior year of high school and then during college breaks. I started at the ice cream counter making endless Fribbles, Jim Dandy’s, and Heath Bar Sundaes. Then I got promoted to waitress when I turned18.
In addition, Sunday mornings we would head to Hot Bagels on Montauk Highway. They had the best cinnamon raisin cream cheese.
A little known fact, is that there are some amazing vineyards on Long Island. This time around, my husband and I made a stop at the Loughlin Vineyard. The entrance is a hidden driveway that winds back to the Roosevelt Estate that can’t be seen from the road so you will have to hunt for it. With that in mind, the tasting room is open Saturdays and Sundays between 1 and 4pm. The tasting room is a shed out back and the accompanying outdoor area. Consequently, closures are based on weather. In addition, families and their dogs are welcome to come and picnic on the grounds. However you will need to bring your own food.
Located near the Eastern part of town stood The Grange. I remember attending the bi-centennial celebration here with my dad as a kid. An old fashioned church and schoolhouse are among the old buildings standing here. Festivals always brought hayrides and apple cider. Now they host a farmer’s market on Sunday mornings.
Poppa Mia’s Ice House
As kids we would have to work in my dad’s garden, and if we got all the weeding done he would take us for Italian ice. My sister and I would make a bucket list of all the flavors we wanted to try during the summer and cross them out as we ate them. After getting the ice my dad would drive the car to the marina and we would walk along the dock picking out which yachts we wished we owned.
Every memorial day my friends and I would ride our bikes or walk to the ferries if we couldn’t get a ride and head the to the Fire Island Beaches. We usually rode over to Barret beach which was the teen hangout.
South Shore Long Island: Patchogue
When returning home for my reunion, I wanted to bring my teenage kids to see where I grew up. The hotel they reserved for the reunion didn’t seem feasible as the rates were still expensive and increased after the reunion weekend. So we hunted through Airbnb and found a three bedroom cottage on the south side of Montauk Highway in Patchogue. When I was growing up Patchogue was run down. However, it has drastically changed since I left. Main Street now boasts of quaint shops and trendy bistros.
The house we stayed at was a country oasis. The owner had inspirational sayings everywhere. There was an outdoor shower, however we didn’t get to the beach. At night my husband and I sat on the front porch drinking wine and watching the millions of fire flies. At one point we thought a big dog was running across the cul de sac. However, it turned out to be a deer. In the morning my daughter and I took a walk down by the beach. We spotted a deer through the trees and another galloped across the road ahead of us.
South Shore Long Island: Bayport/ Bluepoint
This town has no main street. The town consists of a bait &tackle and a deli. It is located between Sayville and Patchogue. There is a small town beach with a playground where my dad taught me to swim as a child.
Ironically located in Patchogue not Bluepoint, the Bluepoint Brewing Company is open to visitors. Munch on an appetizer of Buffalo Cauliflower Bites, Crab Baked Oysters, or good old fashioned chicken wings while you sip on local beers. Then dine on sandwiches such as Blue Crab Roll, Island Shrimp Tacos, or BBQ Pork Sandwich. During the warmer months live music plays while you enjoy enjoy your fare outdoors. Seasonal beers are available such as Summer Ale, Oktoberfest, or Pumpkin. The brewery also creates small batch brews such as Spectral Haze or Beach Plum Gose. Definitely worth a visit.
The Greek Festival
As a child my family would go to this festival every year. Each year St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church, located at 77 Montauk Highway in Bluepoint, hosts this festival which has free admission. Try authentic Greek cuisine such as spanakopita, pasticcio, moussaka, and of course gyros or souvlaki. Make sure to pair your meal with a bottle of Greek beer or a glass of reek wine. The ladies from the church make homemade baklava, and other delicious pastries for dessert. My favorite are the loukoumades which are fried dough with honey.
The festival usually takes place at the end of June. There are also rides and games. Vendors sell clothing, jewelry and Greek items. In addition enjoy live Greek music and dancing. Parking is scarce so make sure to come early.
JT’s on the Bay
During our visit we met up with my cousin Kathleen and her family for dinner. JT’s on the Bay is located at 1 Curtis Road in Bluepoint. We chose a table outside at the dock and got to watch boats travel back and forth in the bay. Long Island is known for local clams so I recommend ordering from the raw bar. Dinner choices include steak with lobster mac and cheese, blue Point Beer battered shrimp and chips, and seafood pasta. However, for landlubbers there are options such as Grilled Rib Eye or Chicken Milanese.
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Port Jefferson (OK, so this isn’t a South Shore Long Island town)
We were supposed to head to a local beach in Massapequa with my cousin, but plans changed and we headed to the north shore for a day trip to Port Jefferson. Port Jefferson is located on the north shore of Long Island on the Long Island Sound. Stroll streets lined with cute shops such as Amazing Olive, art galleries , and restaurants. We ate lunch at the Harbor Grill which was reasonably priced and kid friendly. Of course, we ate on the deck watching the marina. Then we explored the shops and did some souvenir shopping. We explored the Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery. Finally we ended up at Hour Escape for a fun family escape room experience.
Donna Emperador is a travel and food blogger and copywriter. Donna believes in learning about different cultures while sharing good food and cocktails. She has lived in South Florida for over 20 years and enjoys spending time exploring the road to find unique places to share with readers. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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