By Lorna Luniewski
61 West Main Street, Bay Shore, NY 11706
March 2016 marked the opening of Salt & Barrel Oyster and Craft Cocktail Bar in Bay Shore but the tradition of serving good food dates to 1937, and the Flynn family roots on Fire Island.
Morgan Flynn greeted us at the door on a recent Thursday night and showed us to our table. Danny was there in moments with a bottle of cold water and our server, Peter, was close behind. He explained that it was Happy Hour, and at Salt & Barrel it is extended throughout the restaurant, not just at the bar, a nice perk. My dining companion and I ordered the drink special, a Hemingway Daquiri: Silver Rum, Pink Grapefruit, Lime Juice, Pomplemousse and Maraschino Liqueur. It was a refreshing choice on a warm evening.
When in an oyster bar… On the table are cards and a pencil; just choose the type and number of oysters you desire. We opted for the Peconic Bay Oysters. They arrived on a tray of ice with three sauce selections, one cucumber-based with a bit of a kick. We also ordered a Boston Salad, Bibb lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, Asiago and lemon herb vinaigrette. It was presented beautifully with crisp, fresh lettuce and I could “taste” the red onion as soon as the plate was set on the table.
As we settled in, the dining room filled. Peter could be heard apologizing that they were short-handed that night and thanking everyone for their patience. There was no need as the service did not suffer at all. He took his time at each table answering questions and making suggestions, even mentioning to the people next to us that he remembered them from a previous visit.
After hearing the specials, the choice for my dining companion became harder. He was back and forth between the special, a soft-shell crab sandwich with fries or The Maine Pot. Peter made it easier saying his favorite dish on the menu was The Maine Pot: Prince Edward Island Mussels and Maine Lobster in a creamy lobster broth, served in, you guessed it, a pot.
My food tastes are a bit more basic so I was happy to see some burger choices on the menu. It was easy to pick the Salt & Barrel Burger, bacon, tomato aioli, red wine onion jam and Gruyere cheese, served with pickles and French fries. One thing I am particular about is how my burger is cooked – I like them well done, which is not always easy to get on the first round. The big, thick burger was cooked to perfection and deliciously juicy. The fries are really wedges, thick and crispy and served in a bowl with sprigs of rosemary, which I could taste on the fries. I could not finish the burger or the fries, so lucky me, I enjoyed it for lunch the next day.
There is always room for dessert however and Morgan insisted we try two and split them. The first recommendation was their number one seller since opening day, Butterscotch Pudding topped with chocolate pearls, toasted cashews and an incredibly light whipped cream. The second selection was the day’s special, Blueberry Bread Pudding with a white chocolate glaze, fresh blueberries and that whipped cream again. Both were delicious.
Other menu choices include starters such as Long Island Clam Chowder, Baked Clams, Deviled Eggs and Tuna Tartare. The Hook & Line section features Scottish Salmon, Spiced Ahi Tuna and Blackened Spiced Mahi Mahi to name a few, and for the Land Lover, a Seasonal Farm Plate, Marinated Skirt Steak, Berkshire Pork Chop and Organic Chicken.
Where did the name Salt & Barrel come from? Morgan (who is co-owner with his sister, Ryan; brother-in-law, Matt; and father, Tim; with husband and wife Danielle and Joe) explained the salt is for the oysters from the sea and the barrel represents the American whiskeys they serve at the bar. And they have a variety of both. The Oyster Bar includes Oyster Shooters, a selection of raw oysters, Littleneck clams, shrimp cocktail, cold poached lobster and more.
The drink menu is extensive, from a large selection of bourbon, scotch, tequila and rum to wine, a rotating list of craft beers and even barrel flights. During Happy Hour get $1.25 Buck Shucks and half price on select drinks, wines and taps. Salt & Barrel offers Sunday Brunch from 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. with live acoustic music; on Sunday night get a Burger and a Beer for $15; and Monday is Lobster Roll Night ($24).
The restaurant is divided into the bar area and the dining room and both are impressively decorated. The bar has a tin ceiling, large windows and interesting lighting. The dining area includes a fireplace, unusual artwork, and what looks like macramé walls separating it from the kitchen. It’s both contemporary and warm.
Great service, delicious food created by Chef Michael Ross and a fun atmosphere are the ingredients that make Salt & Barrel such a success.
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