When I first starting writing for a living on the East End, back in 2004, one of my first assignment opportunities was to write weekly about the North Fork for Dan’s Papers. It seemed no one wanted the assignment because it meant traveling there on weekends and missing the cool Hamptons parties in Southampton, Bridgehampton, and East Hampton. Younger folks moaned about the cost of taking ferries or driving an hour just to make $50. I was new and saw opportunity.
My introduction to the North Fork was mainly from doing New York Athletic Club sponsored 100-mile bikes rides that encompassed riding from Southampton Village to Riverhead then out to Orient Point State Park then circling back to Shelter Island. After crossing through Sag Harbor up to East Hampton Village, we would suffer through the last 10-15 miles going west on 27 until we arrived back in Southampton Village. Half the ride was through the North Fork in late September and except for the one time it rained, the others long bike rides were magical.
This last week, I spent Friday and Saturday attending the 4th Annual North Fork TV Festival in Greenport. I now live up-island in East Patchogue (37 miles east of Southampton Village), so I had to drive the whole North Fork two days in a row. I must admit it was like rediscovering something from my past that I always loved. As honky-tonk commercial as it has become in the last 25 years since I was annually doing the 100-mile bike rides, the old historic homes that line Route 25 (E-W) are still standing tall. Many are bed and breakfast deals and others are shops, but they still have that 1870’s Victorian feel.
The commercial farms and wine vineyards are both beautiful and a bit cheesy, but I love Americana and quite frankly they are what draws the tourist with money to the North Fork.
Rediscovering the individual charms of Laurel, Jamesport, Cutchogue, Mattituck, Southold, East Marion, and Orient was a most pleasant surprise, because the more things change, the more they remain the same.
When I easily parked in Greenport with no time limit and close to the Greenport Theater, it was a windy but sunny fall day with great sea air and lots of visual delights. Walking around Greenport in-between the multiple pilot TV show screenings and panel discussions was healthy fun. I just couldn’t believe the number of chic foodie restaurants Greenport now has. I also enjoyed the fact that unlike the Town of East Hampton, the Village of Greenport embraces live music in venues up and down the town to late hours. They get it, tourists and locals love live music and support places that have it.
The fun was walking about with my wife Cindi, who even though she is a Long Island born, raised, and life-long resident of the Island, she really hadn’t had the time from her busy work schedule to get to walk hours around Greenport. Usually she would see Greenport for an hour when we would sail from East Hampton across Gardiner’s Bay to dock at Preston’s on the Greenport wharf and run into Claudio’s for a lobster roll. Yes, I did have a Claudio’s lobster roll, but was disappointed the new owners have change the place quite a bit, not because they have done a bad job, but just because I loved it stayed basically the same for 100 years, something lost on the new owners. However, I am glad they stepped in and paid big money to save the iconic place that once was the longest continuously family owned restaurant in the U.S.A. open and operating.
Those in the know say the young hipster crowd has discovered Greenport as they did Montauk. I say eventually everyone discovers Montauk and Greenport. They are special geographical locations that have magic! Worth another visit.