When Richard Petry started a Wednesday night cookout at the Pridwin Hotel on Shelter Island in the 1960s, he didn’t have any idea it would become one of the East End’s most beloved recurring summer events.
It was actually just a way to give the chef one night off per week. Now, nearly 50 years later, the barbecues still get rolled out each Wednesday evening and the rest of the kitchen staff continues to grill up an all-you-can-eat sunset feast for a couple of hundred people each week.
The truly unique summertime event, which started out on the nearby beach but has long since moved to the hotel’s front lawn, takes advantage of one of the best waterfront views of Shelter Island and the North Fork.
It’s also one of the more social food and drink experiences around, as folks chat with strangers while waiting on line and sit with other visitors wherever they can find an open spot at a picnic table.
“A lot of people think that’s very special,” said second-generation Pridwin owner Glenn Petry. “People with kids make friends with other people there because the kids play together. You really have a chance to meet other people at the cookouts.”
The cost of the weekly cookout, which runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m., is $35 for adults. including draft beer refills. Children pay just $19.
The menu includes shrimp, clams, steak, ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, corn on the cob and salads. The most popular item is the grilled tuna, which Richard and Gregg Petry, Glenn’s brother, catch themselves in local waters from the Pridwin’s own fishing boat.
Live music has been a staple of the cookout for more than 25 years, and the bands usually play until 11 p.m. — long after the grills have cooled off. Local bands Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, Majic and The Realm frequently provide the entertainment.
On a good week, Glenn estimates more than 250 people attend the cookout. Some are hotel guests, many are Shelter Island residents and a good portion of the crowd comes over regularly from the North Fork.
Boaters are encouraged to bring their own boats to the Island and use the Pridwin dock at no charge.
“It’s just a friendly, community event,” Glenn said. “People docking their boats is another social phenomenon of it all. A lot of people tie off their boats themselves and share the dock with each other.”
Shannon Mohr of Southold said she goes to the cookouts because it feels like she’s on vacation.
“It’s like being away somewhere beautiful and remote,” she said.
“It’s simply awesome,” said Rene Giacobbe of Baiting Hollow.
The Wednesday night cookout at the Pridwin Hotel runs nine weeks from July 3 to Aug. 28. Visitors are encouraged to phone ahead at 631-749-0476 since a rough headcount helps the staff know how much food to grill up each week.