Even though Chequit Inn owners James and Linda Eklund decided this year to close the bar and restaurant for the season, Shelter Islanders looking for a dinner out during the depths of winter still have some choices — and just about as many as they’ve always had in recent years.
Dory owner Jack Kiffer, who used to close up shop completely, has opted to keep the bar open this winter and is serving a limited menu daily beginning at 2 p.m. His kitchen is being redone; that’s why the food service is limited, he said.
“There was no place for the guys to drink,” he said about his decision to keep the bar open. He’s hoping to at least “break even” on the costs of staying open.
As for closing time, that varies, Mr. Kiffer said. “When you fire a cannon and don’t hit anyone, it’s time to go home,” he said.
A few more stalwarts are holding down the culinary fort and remaining open — some year-round and others taking relatively short breaks in the off-season.
Vine Street Café has been open winters for 10 years now.
“It’s not easy” to operate in the winter, admits chef and co-owner of Vine Street Café Terry Harwood. One advantage is that he doesn’t have to worry about hiring part-time help in the spring because his staff is employed year-round. “It’s good for the community,” he said about the ongoing operation.
Vine Street operates a dinner service in the winter months, serving from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays; from 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays; and from 5 to 11 p.m. Saturdays. Vine Street is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Sweet Tomato’s is also a veteran of the winter season. It offers dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 5 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. On Saturdays, it’s open for lunch at noon. Calls to Sweet Tomato’s for comment were not returned.
New owners of Pat & Steve’s Family Restaurant are experiencing their first winter season and “hoping to hold our own,” Ashley Knight said. She and Chris Chobor took over the restaurant from Pat and Steve Lenox last June and have been relying on locals who come in every day, Ms. Knight said. The restaurant recently added wine and beer to its offerings.
Pat & Steve’s operates seven days a week from 6 a.m. with dinner hours on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays until 9 p.m. with a special burger night on Mondays beginning at 4:30 p.m. Closing time is 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
For parka-wearing diners looking for something casual, there’s Bella Vita Pizza, Commander Cody’s and Stars.
“It’s very hard,” owner Anthony Riccobano of Bella Vita Pizza & Restaurant said about year-round operation. “But if we weren’t open, people wouldn’t have a place to eat,” he said. “They support me in the summer so I support them in the winter.”
He’s open on Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“It’s pretty slow right now,” said Jimmy Hayward, owner of Commander Cody’s. He will close for a month in February but remains open in January from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 or 9 p.m. seven days a week and will resume that schedule March 1.
Remaining open during the winter months “has to be done,” said Stars Cafe owner Pepe Martinez. He’s open during the week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., then on Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 7 or 8 p.m.
At 18 Bay, the doors have been closed in January, but they’re reopening for the season on February 2 with dinner.
Ram’s Head Inn and Pridwin are closed but they can still be booked for private parties. La Maison Blanche reopens on Presidents Day weekend in February. Fresh, which had its first season at the Shelter Island Country Club, is closed for the winter and will reopen April 1.