By Jaime Franchi
Southside Restaurant is a Bay Shore staple – and has been since the Prohibition era. This off the beaten path eatery can be found on Third Avenue, just off Main Street.
At the bar you’ll find Jacinta, the “fabric” not only of Southside, but of the community, according to Eric Helling, Southside’s general manager. This Irish woman with a Spanish name has her finger on the pulse of the comings and goings in Bay Shore. This is a place of history, an institution in this continuously renovated downtown. And Southside is no exception. When the Lessing’s restaurant group bought the restaurant in 2013, they updated not only the guts of the building, but the menu as well.
We began our meal with offerings from the bar. My companion tried Montauk Brewing Company’s Watermelon Session Ale, a light draft beer. Not too watermelon-y, but refreshing on a hot day. On this wine-down Wednesday with glasses and bottles of wine at half price, I tried the Sauvignon Blanc.
For appetizers, we tried bacon-wrapped shrimp, Bayou mussels and clams, and pretzel bites in Gruyere fondue. Sadly, they were out of baked clams, but we’ve visited Southside enough times in the past to know if they are offering them, order them!
Eric is brand new to the Bay Shore area, coming from Pete’s Tavern in Manhattan. He mentioned being struck by the close-knit character of our community, and just how far back the generational roots go. He told us about a young couple who entered the bar, telling him and Jacinta about how he’d been introduced to Southside by his grandparents. The ambiance matches the history: the 2013 renovation removed some of the old décor, including those familiar Rheingold beer signs. Lessing’s came in and removed the former drop ceiling, adding wood beams to maintain the historic building’s aesthetic integrity. Framed photos of old-time Bay Shore dot the dining room.
The bacon wrapped shrimp are hand-rolled, a salty sweet decadence with a bleu cheese horseradish dipping sauce. The Bayou mussels and clams arrived in a sweet, hearty garlic broth with toast points to dip. The pretzel bites were “the best thing” my 10-year-old claimed she “ever had.” Their Buffalo wings had the perfect amount of spice – crispy while staying meaty – just how I like them. My dining companion went so far as to call it “exceptional.”
Our server Linda was right there with the hand wipes. Attentive and affable while still giving us our privacy.
For main entrees, the Texas Smokehouse burger had Special sauce, bacon, and an onion ring on a perfectly cooked burger on a pretzel bun. The bacon was crispy and flavorful. It matched perfectly with the crisp lettuce, the beef and the BBQ sauce.
The rotisserie potpie was a piping hot bastion of comfort food goodness. This was no chicken concoction topped with a pastry square! It was an honest to goodness pie with a hearty but delicate crust, tender chicken mixed with green beans, carrots and potatoes in a thick, savory sauce that makes your mouth crave the next bite, even as you savor the first.
The fried shrimp Baja tacos were a fresh take on a west coast standard. The shrimp were firm and flavorful, while the mix of guacamole and Pico de Gallo acted as a spicy compliment to the soft flour tortilla. My chosen side was sweet potato fries that came in a metal cup. These wedges were sweet, salty and accompanied by a sweet maple dipping sauce. Divine.
Dessert was a house made New York cheesecake and a vanilla ice cream sundae. Eric presented us with an adult-only sundae: fresh blackberries over vanilla ice cream with Chambord poured over the top. Strong coffee topped our night. We left with happy, satisfied bellies.
Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m.
Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m.
Major credit card are accepted.
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