By Shoshanna McCollum
1 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach, NY
For visitor and resident alike, Fire Island’s local deli markets have long served as the unofficial welcoming ambassadors. They are there to offer refreshment for day-trippers, as well as essentials needed in a pinch by renters and homeowners. The Pantry on the west side of Ocean Beach stands out among them.
The space itself is very old. Prior to the incorporation of what we know today as Ocean Beach, there were actually two communities: Ocean Beach proper, between Surfview and Bungalow Walks; and Stay-a-While Estates, Ocean, Wilmot, and Surf Roads. The bend where The Pantry stands is evidence of where the two communities were ultimately sewn together. Back in the day it was known as Adie’s, then later as Whitney Market. With Island Mermaid Proprietor Scott Hirsch at the helm, its incarnation as The Pantry came to be in the summer of 2012, and the establishment continues to grow and refine itself.
Why include a market deli in the dining review section at all? Because sometimes us beach hermits want someone else to prepare the meal, but desire the solitude of dining in the comfort of our homes. Wonderful as our Fire Island restaurants are, they can quickly transform into minefields where neighbors feel it’s acceptable to interrupt that nice meal you and your guests are having with their business – sometimes that’s okay, but other times it isn’t. However that’s a topic for another day, let’s talk about the food!
The Pantry offers a tempting selection of sandwiches – and it is kind of clever how they named many of them after the Fire Island communities and landmarks. The Lighthouse is cracked pepper turkey, Swiss cheese and coleslaw on hero bread; the Club sandwich is buttermilk batter-cooked chicken with bacon, lettuce, and tomato on a ciabatta roll.
We went with the Kismet – roast beef, potato cake, horseradish cheddar, and lemon aioli on an artisan roll; as well as a combination that was dubbed the Phony Soprano – salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone, lettuce, onion, tomato, and Italian dressing on hero bread. And because one cannot dine on sandwiches alone, we also got a container of their homemade potato salad (always a quality barometer for any deli) as well as some beverages. The Pantry has an eclectic beverage selection along with the standards. We went with Herbert’s Lemonade, a brand we never heard of before, and a brew called Founder’s All Day IPA Session Ale.
If your month is watering already, the Kismet tasted just as good as it sounded – a true carnivore’s delight, with the horseradish bite to the cheese complementing the roast beef just right. All the deli meats are Boar’s Head, so you know the quality is there. The Phony Soprano is a classic New York style Italian grinder, and there were no false notes hit there! The potato salad was prepared with red potato, which gave it texture and body, with a generous helping of onion for favor. Herbert’s Lemonade was not too sweet, a plus in our book; and as micro-brew connoisseurs we were delightfully surprised with the IPA, which had a good nutty flavor and came in a generously sized 19.5-ounce can.
The sandwiches were so big that sharing one between us was meal enough. The Pantry wraps their food for traveling, so saving the other for later was no problem at all.
Of course there is always room for dessert. The Pantry offers beautiful breads and cakes, and cookies baked on premises. The brownies spoke to us, and yes they will quell even the most intense of chocolate cravings.
Fact is we enjoyed this feast for under $50, a square deal on Fire Island indeed.
The Pantry is a participant of Grubhub, so online ordering for pickup or delivery is supereasy. And let’s not forget they are also a grocery store with locally grown produce, fine cheeses, breakfast sandwiches, coffee on the go, gluten-free items, as well as soap, cat food, sunscreen, and all of those other things you may have left behind on the mainland but your stay on Fire Island would be impacted without.