When it comes to spots to enjoy a cool summer beverage, location, location … really.
Here we are on an Island, by definition surrounded by water, and should be able to have the pleasure of sipping a cocktail at the water’s edge. Surprisingly, we have few options to do so, but at the aptly named SALT, you’re right there on the briny. To get any closer to the water, you’d have to be on a boat, which you could be if you’d moored your craft at the Island Boatyard where SALT is situated.
When it comes to drinking and dining on the water, unless you’re a member of the yacht club, SALT is the only spot on the Island, and it offers you a few options.
You can sit at an outdoor table and safely order your food and drinks online and have them brought to you. Owners Ali and Keith Bavaro and General Manager Stacie Schadegg have opened in stages, with outdoor tables spaced safely and the staff wearing masks, as patrons are required to do whenever they’re not seated.
You can also gather, with social distancing, at the landmark Shipwreck Bar at the far end of the marina. Here, bartenders serve directly from an old sailboat that’s been a local favorite for years. You might run into a neighbor who’s on the Police or Fire departments and buy them a drink to thank them for the outstanding service our first responders have provided these last few months.
In fact, Tuesdays are raw bar nights and serve as fundraisers for Shelter Island Emergency Medical Services. Wednesdays are barbecue nights, to benefit the Shelter Island Fire Department (SIFD). With the chicken barbecue canceled this year, this is a great way to support the SIFD.
The bars open at 4 p.m. both days and feature live music. TV star Jimmy Fallon has been a Shipwreck regular in recent years; he may be still hunkered down in his Sagaponack place. On Tuesdays, the raw bar includes local oysters and clams, lobster salads and poke bowls. The Wednesday barbecue features chicken, burgers, hot dogs, local corn and potato salad.
And what to drink? Narragansett beer is a big seller, as are Montauk and Greenport ales. For fun cocktails, there’s the Harelegger Punch, a spicy rum drink; the Whale Killer, a rum and pineapple concoction; and a new addition, the Frozen Mudslide, described as: “Every bartender’s nightmare, a delicious blended drink with chocolate syrup that attracts bees but is totally worth it.”
There are refreshing summer wine selections, from prosecco and rosés to local and imported whites and reds. The menu offers some helpful notes: A pinot grigio is said to pair well with “a side of ice.” A sauvignon blanc “pairs well with Sunday afternoons.” And a rosé from Provence “pairs well with day drinking.”
When you’re imbibing at the Shipwreck, you can order food — appetizers or a full dinner — from the SALT kitchen. Full and proud disclosure here: SALT’s executive chef is Theodore Dempsey, my only son, in whom I am well pleased. I will share with you some of his top dishes, knowing I risk having them sell out. I love the Poke Bowl, built around cubed Ahi Tuna; pork kimchi dumplings are great. The lobster roll is insanely rich; burgers and gyros are perfect.
Check the website saltshelterisland.com for instructions on ordering to eat onsite or bringing your takeout food and cocktails home to enjoy, or pair well with whatever you’ve got well chilled in your fridge.