Southold native Jeni Raymond has been working in local kitchens since she was 12 years old. Her stepfather owned the former Chowder Pot Pub in Greenport — the current location of PORT Waterfront Bar and Grill — where she first discovered a love of food and, more specifically, feeding people.
Raymond enrolled at The Culinary Institute of American after graduating Southold High School and returned to her hometown to open Jeni’s Main Street Grill 12 years ago. The breakfast and lunch spot quickly became a staple for locals hungry for Raymond’s made-from-scratch meals. Recently, the restaurant began hosting pop-up dinners as well.
Loyal customers can expect more of the same this summer — just a little further east on Route 25. Jeni’s Main Street Grill is moving into the former location of Puerto Verde (perhaps, better recognized as the old Port Six Three One) across from Port of Egypt in Southold.
Raymond started eyeing new locations when her landlords at 54195 Main Road announced they were considering opening a new location for their Northport eatery, Maroni Cuisine, in the space. Raymond signed the lease on her new space Wednesday and she hopes to open for breakfast and lunch within a couple weeks after making minor cosmetic upgrades.
The current Jeni’s location will remain open until the new place is up and running, she said.
“The goal is to open here the day after we close [the original location],” Raymond said. “This place needs something in it and the timing was perfect.”
Jeni’s signature homemade pancakes and biscuits along with all the other menu mainstays like burgers and sandwiches are making the move east — as too are the familiar staffers and the decorative roosters.
There will be some changes. For starters, the new location has a bar that will allow Jeni’s to serve alcohol for the first time. Raymond is currently in the process of obtaining a liquor license and, once it is in hand, will open the restaurant for dinner at least four nights a week. The name “Jeni’s” will stay in the title, however, Raymond noted that she would likely lose the “Main Street Grill” portion of the moniker. A final name hasn’t yet been decided.
The new space also has 30 additional seats — a big plus for Raymond. “I love to feed people,” she said. “That is the biggest thing. We hope our customers will follow us to the new location … and I welcome more people.”
The 62375 Main Road building has housed a number of restaurants over the years. It was once the longtime Sea Shell before it was Port Six Three One and, most recently, Puerto Verde, which only lasted one season.
Whispers that the building is “cursed” don’t faze Raymond.
“I know we will make it work,” she said.