The 20 most read northforker stories of the year

Long Island winery wine grapes harvest

A ripening vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

Two great breakfast spots opened in Jamesport and Aquebogue this year, but we lost a Greek takeout joint and one of the area’s largest peach farms.

The openings and closing of North Fork businesses once again topped our list of the most-read stories of 2016, as did reports of celebrity sightings.

It was a year when moonshine came to the region, the super popular bar and restaurant Phil’s opened an eastern outpost and John Oliver riffed on Long Island wine. And we at northforker were here chronicling all those NoFo foodie and lifestyle happenings.

Read on for our recap of the most popular stories of 2016.

20. Fiesta Mexicana comes to Wading River

Fiesta Mexicana restaurant is now open in Wading River. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

Fiesta Mexicana restaurant is now open in Wading River. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

The opening of Fiesta Mexicana in November added a third Mexican food eatery to Wading River. The restaurant operates next to Mesquite Tex-Mex, which specializes in unique tacos, and is only a short drive from the Tex-Mex joint Señor Taco.

The restaurant and bar can seat up to 80 people, while a separate party room can accommodate an additional 20 guests. Outdoor seating is planned for the spring.

19. Vogue magazine recommended an Island getaway — to the North Fork

Long Island winery wine grapes harvest

A ripening vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

It appears that Vogue’s fashionistas have a soft spot for the East End.

An article posted on the magazine’s website April 4 titled “7 Great Island Vacations — No Passport Required” extols the virtues of eastern Long Island  — especially those of the North Fork and Shelter Island. So naturally we shared the post with our readers.

“[F]or those who prefer a slightly quieter side of New York’s island getaway, there’s also Shelter Island and the North Fork to explore,” the article stated. “[M]ake your way to the North Fork, where in place of mega-mansions you’ll find rows of working farms (and farm stands) and local wineries to visit.”

18. Four family-friendly activities for a winter’s day

Grab a cup of Aldo's hot chocolate during a cold day this winter. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Grab a cup of Aldo’s hot chocolate during a cold day this winter. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Last January we suggested four ways to spend a winter’s day with the fam on the North Fork. Our recommendations included grabbing a cup of hot chocolate from Aldo’s in Greenport (the best) and visiting the Mitchell Park ice skating rink or loading up on a big meal from Erik’s Breakfast and Lunch in Southold and taking a hike through Sound View Dunes park.

It’s a good list to revisit with the colder weather setting in.

17. Hudson market opens in Wading River

Wading River's Hudson Market. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

Wading River’s Hudson Market. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

Wading River got a quality coffee shop with the opening of Hudson Market earlier this year.

The newish java spot serves up local goods, including muffins and breads.

However, it changed hands later this year when Martin and Karen Accardi of Ridge purchased the business from Tony Coates in the fall.

16. Hampton Coffee Company opens in Aquebogue

A small cup at Hampton Coffee Co. in Aquebogue. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

A small cup at Hampton Coffee Co. in Aquebogue. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

The North Fork seriously stepped up its coffee game in 2016 with the opening of a Hampton Coffee Company branch in Aquebogue.

The new coffee shop gave us another option for a fresh-brewed cup of morning java, which is essential in meeting deadlines. In fact there is a cup of Hamptons Breakfast Blend sitting on my desk as I type.

In addition to coffee, the store serves breakfast sandwiches, soup, paninis, oatmeal, muffins, croissants, scones and more.

15. Twin Stills Moonshine opened in Riverhead

Patty Joe Cunha

Patty and Joe Cunha of Twin Stills Moonshine with their sons Eric and Nicholas. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

With beer, wine, vodka and sake already established enterprises on the North Fork, it would seem that every alcoholic beverage had been tapped, right? Wrong.

Enter Twin Stills Moonshine, which opened in Riverhead in March. The spirit has become so popular that local liquor stores are now carrying it.

14. Christie Brinkley visited the North Fork

Credit: @christiebrinkley Instagram

Credit: @christiebrinkley Instagram

Supermodel Christie Brinkley, who lives in Sag Harbor and is frequently spotted around the South Fork, stopped in at Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue for a taste of some white wines. She also visited nearby Long Season Farms for some wood-roasted corn.

“On the menu, Honey Crisp Apples, Paumanok Chenin Blanc, Fresh Grilled Farmstand Corn #farmstands #winery #northfork,” she posted on her Instagram account under a photo of her and two friends biting into Long Season corn.

She also posed for a photo with Paumanok Vineyards owner Charles Massoud and his son, winemaker Kareem.

13. Maple Tree BBQ changes hands

maple tree BBQ Riverhead

Maple Tree BBQ in Riverhead (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Maple Tree BBQ, one of the best local barbecue joints, changed hands earlier this year.

Dennis O’Leary, 47, bought the business as his first foray into the restaurant industry. He previously worked as a finance executive for Viacom. His wife, Andrea Glick, is a culinary arts assistant professor at Suffolk Community College. Glick would add some expertise as a consultant chef, O’Leary  told us.

We’ve been to Maple Tree a few times since. It’s still very good.

12. Lucharitos is coming to Aquebogue

Lucharitos Greenport

A Luchador painting inside Lucharitos in Greenport. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Our favorite North Fork taco shop is opening a western outpost. Expect Little Lucharitos to open by April. Viva los tacos!

11. John Oliver poked fun at Long Island wine

John Oliver Long Island Wine

John Oliver drinks a bag of Long Island chardonnay.

British funnyman John Oliver turned his characteristic snark on the Long Island wine industry earlier this year, grimacing while chugging a bag of North Fork chardonnay on his HBO show.

In a piece lamenting the amount of time members of Congress spend fundraising every year, the “Last Week Tonight” host shared the bag of vino with outgoing Representative Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and poked fun at the congressman for hosting events centered around Long Island wine.

Israel held his own in defending the region, refusing to cave to Oliver’s jokes. And even though it takes a few jabs at an industry we on the North Fork are very proud of, it was still a hilarious piece.

10. Behind the bar with a ‘North Fork Legend’

Andy Harbin bartender Legends Sophies

Andy Harbin behind the bar at Legends. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

This summer we launched a series of videos on North Fork bartenders. And this story on Andy Harbin, who you can find taking sports at Sophie’s, mixing up cocktails at the Frisky Oyster or running around the big bar at Legends in New Suffolk, was a big hit with our readers.

Perhaps Legends owner Dennis Harkin summed it up best with his description of Harbin.

“Everybody knows him and everybody likes him,” he said.

Watch our video on Harbin here.

9. The New York Times best-reviewed North Fork restaurants

Clockwise from top left: Meals from Noah’s; The Frisky Oyster; Petulant Wino and Jamesport Manor Inn.

Clockwise from top left: Meals from Noah’s; The Frisky Oyster; Petulant Wino and Jamesport Manor Inn.

The New York Times quietly did away with its coverage of the Long Island restaurant scene this year.

It’s a sad fact for local restaurateurs who know a favorable write-up in the Times could lead to weeks, even months, of increased sales. The Grey Lady has visited the region on many occasions over the years, which was always exciting to see.

Here are some of her best local reviews.

8. Main Road Biscuit Co. opens

Marissa Drago

Main Road Biscuit Company co-owner Marissa Drago inside the Jamesport restaurant. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

Not only was this one of our most popular stories of the year, it’s also one of our favorite things to happen.

We were excited to learn that Main Road Biscuit Co. would open this year at the site of the former Jamesport Country Kitchen. Judging from the long waits at Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck on weekends, the region was aching for another solid breakfast and lunch spot serving quality coffee and farm fresh eggs.

Since MRBC opened in October it’s become a number one coffee and pastry stop for the northforker staff.

Some of our favorite offerings from the new eatery include the honey butter biscuit and the biscuit breakfast sandwich.

7. Blue Canoe closes

Blue Canoe Oyster Bar & Grill (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Blue Canoe Oyster Bar & Grill (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Greenport lost one of its seafood restaurants when Blue Canoe Oyster Bar & Grill quietly announced they were closed for good via their Facebook page on April 18. The Third Street eatery closed for the off-season and never reopened.

Blue Canoe Oyster Bar & Grill opened back in 2012 in the spot where the former Chowder Pot Pub had operated for several decades.

6. Our summer columnist visited the Broken Down Valise

broken down valise Mattituck

The Broken Down Valise is located across from the Long Island Rail Road platform on Pike Street. (Credit: Vera Chinese, 2011)

This summer we ran several columns by Amanda Lubin, a Connecticut school teacher spending her first summer on the North Fork.

Her essays were well received, but none as much as her piece on a visit to Mattituck’s favorite dive bar “The Broken Down Valise.” Perhaps it was because it contained this little tidbit local history:

“So how did it become known as the Valise? Regular patron and part-time Valise historian Jimmy Robdau informed me the original owner arrived in Mattituck with little else on him but a valise and decided to convert this once disregarded building into what it is today, all while living out of his dilapidated luggage.”

5. Greek Bites in Mattituck closes

Greek Bites Mattituck

Greek Bites Grill in Mattituck closed in August. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Mattituck residents once again have to leave their hamlet for souvlaki, falafel and rotisserie gyro.

Greek Bites owner Dimitra Laopodus cited problems finding staffers for the Main Road locale as a reason for shuttering the business earlier this year.

We were sad to see this Times/Review newsroom favorite go, but are looking forward to Boom Burger, which will open in its place. Fans of Greek Bites’ offerings can still get those items at the eatery’s Moriches locations.

4. Case’s Place opens

Case's Place New Suffolk

Case’s Place opened in New Suffolk in June. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

Yet another restaurant opening landed in a top spot. Case’s Place, the seafood café that replaced the former Galley Ho restaurant in New Suffolk, began serving customers in June. The restaurant seats 66, with space for another 22 at the bar, and offers seafood, sandwiches and sups.

But the standout feature is the three gigantic picture windows that look out onto the outdoor deck and beyond that, Robins Island

3. Davis Peach Farm Closes

Davis peach Farm Wading River

Davis Peach Farm in Wading River closed the operation in September. (Credit: Northforker file photo)

The third most-read story of the year focused on some sad news.

Davis Peach Farm, which operated a Wading River farmstand since 1992 and a Mount Sinai operation for many years before that, was shutting down the farm for good.

The news came about 14 months after a severe thunderstorm wiped out much of the farm’s crops, operator Christine Davis said. We will miss their peaches at the summer farmer’s markets.

2. Phil’s Waterfront Bar and Grille opens

Phil’s Waterfront Bar and Gril opened in Aquebogue this summer. (Credit: Lauren Lustgarten)

Phil’s Waterfront Bar and Gril opened in Aquebogue this summer. (Credit: Lauren Lustgarten)

Phil’s Waterfront Bar and Grille in Aquebogue was by far one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year. With stunning waterfront sunsets and solid bar food, it’s easy to see why this new North Fork eatery is usually packed. We were offered an exclusive first look in June and those photos were some of our most-viewed of the year.

1. Christina Ricci films in Wading River

Christina Ricci Z: Beginning of Everything Waiding River

Christina Ricci on the set of ‘Z: The Beginning of Everything” in Wading River. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Just like in 2014, our most-read story of the story is a local celebrity spotting.

Our executive editor noticed film set signs in Wading River one morning in August. He quickly figured out the cast of the new Amazon series “Z: The Beginning of Everything” was in town along with its star, Christina Ricci. He camped out hoping to get a shot of the Pan Am star who plays Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in the 1920s-set series.

As luck had it, he was close enough to snap the above photo of Ricci in costume and it became our most popular story of the year.

The show will stream in January. We can’t wait to see Wading River on the small screen!