You’d think living on the beautiful North Fork of Long Island would include the luxury of choosing among a large selection of waterfront dining choices. Surprisingly, not since the Mariners Inn closed about 20 years ago has Huntington had a good family friendly waterfront restaurant until now. Northport’s Whale’s Tale Café opened up this past May and has quickly been growing in popularity. We pulled up on Thursday night to a packed parking lot and people spilling out onto the front steps with cocktails in hand and lively conversations all around. In order to get to the dining area, we had to navigate our family through a rather boisterous 30 to 50-year-old crowd enjoying a great time at the outside bar.
I started to feel a little skeptical about bringing the kids but soon we were spotted by a waitress who greeted us with a friendly smile and found us a table inside the restaurant. All of the outside tables were taken and the small inside dining room was bright and quirky lending the impression that we were in a cabin of a boat looking out on the other docked boats. The Restaurant was clean, neat, buzzing with activity and humming like a clock thanks to the attentive and easygoing staff in t-shirts and jean shorts.
We started with a bucket of mussels served in a lemon butter wine sauce with some bread. A few of the mussels still had the beards attached but the flavor was good and they were nice and tender. We chose the fisherman’s stew, which is one of the house specialties. It was piled up with scallops, mussels, shrimp and clams all in a perfectly balanced tomato wine sauce that was particularly satisfying with bread for dunking. The soft shell crab sandwich was on a big fresh roll with lettuce, onions tomatoes, tartar sauce and cole slaw. The 13 year old who inhaled it gave the sandwich a thumbs up and proclaimed it to be “awesome”. The fries were mighty fine as well, creamy on the inside with an extra crispy exterior. Next we sampled the fish tacos which were every bit as good as you’d get in California. The fish was crispy but not oily on the outside but moist and flaky on the inside served with fresh salsa. The drunken Cajun shrimp with chili lime rice was a cacophony of flavors. It had a spunky Cajun spiciness that was mellowed by a sweet butter rum sauce. Without ever having to ask, the waitress refilled our sodas and ice teas numerous times with no extra charge. We limited our choices a bit because we arrived after 8:30; the fresh tuna was long gone and the only dessert left was carrot cake.
Pete Mazzeo performs every Thursday night from 6 until 8:00 and we were told that the bar and dining room fill up as people enjoy the buckets of specialty drinks and Coronas while listening to Pete and watching the sunset.
According to the menu, the Whales Tale was created by ”a laid back group of locals who love good friends, great food and their community”. This sensibility clearly shines through. The staff and menu celebrate our town by offering and preparing fresh caught local fish, locally harvested produce and making fresh sangrias and sauces daily. The menu has a range of selections including filet mignon and chicken choices. There is also a kid’s menu. Lucky for us, the owners have been overwhelmed with such a positive response to their place that they are going to enclose the outside with thick clear plastic walls and put in heaters so that we can hunker down and enjoy the Whales Tale all year long.
I highly recommend this for casual, fun and tasty seafood. The Whales Tale fills a much-needed place in our town. You can come with friends or family and have an equally good time. The only downside is that it has only one coed bathroom that had a continuous line in front of it. The menu is very affordable with everything priced under $18. Look for $14.95 lobster night’s on Tuesday and live music several nights a week .
We give it 4 1/2 stars out of 5
The Whales Tale Cafe is located in the Brittania Yachting Center at 81 Fort Salonga Rd Ste H, Northport, NY 11768. Phone # 631-651-8844**updated